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Biggest Nuclear Disassembly Plant in US to Test Private LTE Network

Mike Dano
10/31/2019

The Pantex Plant, near Amarillo, Texas, appears to be preparing to test a private LTE network that can be powered by drones.

According to a filing with the FCC, IT consulting and technology company Booz Allen Hamilton is setting up a test of Fenix Group's Banshee-branded portable, private LTE network equipment and Samsung Galaxy S7 smartphones operating in 3.6GHz spectrum at the US Department of Energy's Pantex facility. The plant -- which spans 2,000 acres, 650 buildings and 3,300 full-time personnel -- was built during World War II and in 1975 became the nation's primary nuclear weapons assembly facility. Since 1991 it has "safely dismantled thousands of weapons retired from the stockpile by the military and placed the resulting plutonium pits in interim storage," according to the DoE.

Representatives from Booz Allen Hamilton, Fenix Group and the Pantex Plant either declined to comment on the filing or did not return requests for comment. The FCC must approve all networking tests in spectrum bands such as the 3.6GHz band.

In the filing, Booz Allen Hamilton explained that the purpose of the effort is to "conduct short-term experimental testing and technical demonstration of the use of wireless LTE communications for communications within the Pantex Plant."

Why this matters
The news serves to underscore a growing and potentially significant trend in the wireless industry: That of private wireless networks. Such networks can be installed by entities ranging from manufacturing companies to colleges to technology enterprises for applications spanning industrial IoT to secure communications. Already a range of companies from Ericsson to Redline have laid out products for private wireless networks, and Nokia's CTO earlier this year mused that the private wireless networking opportunity could eventually be twice as large as the existing commercial wireless industry.

That Fenix is the vendor for the Pantex Plant's tests makes sense, given that the company touts a front office made up "special operations forces veterans, law enforcement and intelligence professionals" and that it specializes in "bespoke technology solutions to add value to existing systems, online training platforms, telecommunications."

Moreover, Fenix's Banshee offering is geared to provide soldiers and other emergency workers with a secure, reliable LTE network that can work independently of commercial providers' networks. Indeed, Fenix boasts that the product supports everything from ad hoc networking to satellite backhaul to drones that beam LTE signals down to users on the ground.

Mike Dano, Editorial Director, 5G & Mobile Strategies, Light Reading | @mikeddano

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