5 G can support accelerated battlefield functions, seamlessly connect multiple domains, provide commanders multiple options for response kinetic as well as non kinetic enhancing the potency of war fighting in a data dense environment.
The potential for exploitation of these attributes of 5 G by the Indian armed forces could be realized sooner than anticipated with Indian 5g Test Bed being established at Military College Of Telecommunication Engineering (MCTE), Mhow in collaboration with Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) as indicated on June 20 by a Ministry of Defence press release.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to facilitate the same was signed between MCTE & IIT-M in Chennai the dame day.
The test bed will facilitate Indian Army to utilise the 5G technology for its operational use, especially along its borders.
The MoU signed will give an impetus to induction of systems, devices & equipment using niche technology and also use of AI based algorithms for enhancing capabilities of Armed Forces said the release.
This is also expected to provide a testing facility for Tri-Service usage and thus act as a catalyst for synergy.
IIT Madras will provide consultancy, duly supported by research for feasibility studies and prototype development on 5G enabled future communications.
Indian Test Bed In Place
India has already established a 5G test bed through collaboration in 8 top technology institutes to speed up the launch of domestic 5G technology.
IIT Madras is one of the Institutes which is a part of the test bed experiment. Other institutes include IIT Kanpur, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Hyderabad and Indian Institute of Science, Banglore) and R&D (SAMEER and CEWiT) institutes of India.
The Rs 224.01 crore project was funded by the Department of Telecom, Government of India for a period of three and a half years. Several industry players and startups in India were project partners in this initiative.
The system is available in both the sub-6 GHz (FR1) and 26 GHz mm-wave (FR2) bands.
The 5G Test Bed also compromises of CPE, a state of art nBIoT ASIC chip, Advanced Use cases (IoT, Smart Meter, V2X), Advanced technology ( Lifi as a last mile high speed delivery mechanism, Multi-RAT Solution).
Given that IIT Madras has the experience in this field, lateral benefits to the military can be realized much faster through the test bed at the MCTE, Mhow which is a leading communications technology institute of the Army.
Availability of Spectrum
On June 15, Government of India has initiated spectrum auction to facilitate roll-out of 5G and to augment existing telecom services. Liberal terms and conditions for telecom operators have been set. How much spectrum will be free for the military is not clear so far despite this there are expectations that sufficient bandwidth will be available.
The Cabinet approval for release appears to have taken this into account and adequate availability of backhaul spectrum to enable the roll-out of 5G services has been catered for.
Cabinet has decided to provisionally allot 2 carriers of 250 MHz each in E-band to the Telecom Service Providers and also decided to double number of traditional Microwave backhaul carriers in the existing frequency bands of 13, 15, 18 and 21 GHz bands.
Importantly the Cabinet has allowed “development and setting up of Private Captive Networks (PCN) to spur a new wave of innovations in Industry 4.0 applications such as machine to machine communications, Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) across automotive, healthcare, agriculture, energy, and other sectors”.
PCN’s will facilitate setting out of 5 G networks for the military in a major way.
Advantages of 5 G for the Military
The military today is driven by data be it for reconnaissance, surveillance and detection, command and control, targeting and logistics amongst all applications.
5 G has the potential to create a new Internet of Things (IOT) environment which can connect devices faster, transmit higher volumes of data and also facilitate making sense of the same over the network.
High download speeds and latency means that video and image streaming from sensors on the battlefield to the pilot in a fighter aircraft, the tank man on the ground or the submarine operator will be near real time thus generating a full picture of the battlefield.
Augmented and Virtual Reality scenarios can be generated. Simultaneously use of Artificial Intelligence based systems can fuse the overall scenario at a much faster speed
Simply speaking the technology can connect millions of devices with high reliability creating a military internet of things which could be armed forces wide, theater wide or can be created for a base complex as well.
Imagine connectivity offered for full visibility logistics where every cog in the supply chain fitted with a chip can be tracked centrally while overall picture of the administrative details will be available across the board.
Connectivity of domains for full spectrum multi domain operations can be synthesized at a much faster and integrated manner with 5 G.
Importantly as the military is introducing Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) accelerating speed of these systems will exponentially enhance the efficiency that can be delivered by these.
The deployability and scalability that is afforded by 5 G means that “With 5G –[the military] can securely extend ultra-reliable and secure broadband wireless communications to support a wide range of mission-critical applications across all military activities”.
As per Nokia, “5G is the first wireless technology that delivers the capacity, reliability, control and network security solutions to replace wired networks”.
Possible Road Blocks
Technology introduction has many challenges including in the sphere of human transition from one level to another.
Hopefully the test bed in MCTE will attempt to overcome these in real time.
Creating an all arms and services team for this purpose will be essential for while the Corps of Signals will be able to take care of the communications backbone, requirement of the mechanized forces, the infantry, artillery including surveillance and target acquisition can be facilitated by members from these arms apart from the services.
Availability of spectrum for military operations is another challenge. Security is another factor. Interference from the enemy jammers and electronic warfare systems can be anticipated. More over ruggedization will be essential for all components. How this pans out remains to be seen?
As the nation is moving from 4 G to 5 G rapidly the military can benefit from development in communications architecture and capacities in the civilian speed by tailoring unique requirements to fit into this systemic. The MCTE IIT test bed should hopefully commence delivering the benefits ASAP.