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DoD eyes 'challenge' designed to promote open source 5G

The US Department of Defense (DoD) announced it is considering a "5G Challenge" designed to "accelerate the development of an open source 5G ecosystem that can support DoD missions."

The federal agency said it would solicit commentary on the topic through a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) issued through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration's (NTIA) Institute for Telecommunication Sciences (ITS) in Boulder, Colorado.

The NOI seeks responses to a number of questions, including: "What are the incentives in open 5G stack ecosystem development that would maximize cooperation and collaboration, promote interoperability amongst varied open 5G stack components developed by different participants, and mature desired featured sets faster with greater stability? Could a Challenge be designed that addresses the issues raised in previous questions and also includes test and evaluation of the security of the components?"

It's no surprise that the Pentagon is looking for "open" approaches to 5G. Indeed, in the DoD's new "5G strategy implementation plan," issued in December, the agency wrote that it is "collaborating closely with industry to advance 5G open architecture efforts. This includes promoting open interfaces in both the RAN and 5G core that allow for more competition and innovation, and more robust security evaluations."

The DoD's new NOI follows the agency's Request for Information (RFI) issued in September that in part asked "How could DoD own and operate 5G networks for its domestic operations?" That language sparked concerns that the US government was planning some kind of "nationalized" 5G network, but a Pentagon spokesperson clarified that "DoD has no plans to own and operate a nationwide 5G network."

Perhaps not surprisingly, the RFI generated plenty of interest among potential vendors. For example, Dish Network said it would help the DoD build a 5G network in part using the agency's vast spectrum holdings.

More recently, the DoD announced a new spectrum-sharing initiative designed to share spectrum between soldiers and commercial interests on a widespread basis.

At the heart of the DoD's efforts in 5G is a desire by US military officials to develop a unified, comprehensive, interoperable wireless networking system based on 5G that would basically connect everything owned and operated by the Pentagon. Commanders envision the system connecting "sensors with shooters across all domains, commands and services." In military parlance, doing so would "increase lethality."

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

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