U.S. operator AT&T said it successfully completed its first milestone toward proving the functionalities of its 5G network platform for smart warehouse applications at the Department of Defense’s Coronado Naval Base in San Diego, California. AT&T’s 5G network platform demonstrated data throughput speeds greater than 4 Gbps with less than 10 milliseconds of latency using AT&T 5G spectrum and a private 5G Core and Radio Access Network (RAN). This performance was demonstrated with commercially available commodity mobile devices at a testbed facility in Richardson, Texas.
In October 2020, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) announced US $600 million in awards for 5G experimentation and testing at five U.S. military test sites. AT&T’s successful demonstration of its 5G networking functionalities allows the program to advance to its next stage—delivering 5G across the 120,000-square-foot Naval Base Coronado warehouse. The connectivity is intended to power autonomous mobile robots, video cameras, IoT, and AR/VR systems that will enable inventory tracking, transshipment and other elements of DoD’s objectives for the test. Following successful completion of that stage of the test, AT&T 5G is expected to integrate with official Navy systems to enable Smart Warehouse functionalities.
The Department of Defense selected AT&T as the primary 5G networking services provider for two of the four U.S. military test sites where it is testing 5G functionalities as part of its Tranche 1 experiments: 5G warehousing at Naval Base Coronado, San Diego (California), and an augmented reality/virtual reality training centre at Fort Hood, Killeen (Texas).
Major operators of the status of AT&T, with deep pockets for research and development, receive opportunities to create localized 5G platforms for governmental or enterprise customers. These bespoke networks not only bring in revenue; they allow the operator to demonstrate what it is capable of—and what the technology is capable of. They allow MNOs to stretch themselves beyond what would be economical for a consumer market.
Government contracts such as this one with the Department of Defense may not pay as much as private-sector contracts, but they allow MNO partners great latitude in terms of scope and ambition. Combining autonomous mobile robots, video cameras, other IoT devices, and AR/VR systems is a way to showcase and expand what the operator’s technology is able to accomplish. The fact that this is being done over networks that deliver extremely high speeds with low latency while at the same time being compatible with simple, easily available mobile devices is particularly impressive. It may also point the way toward certain applications, particularly the AR/VR, that could be viable in the consumer sector, eventually.
In addition, some of the functionalities being prepared and tested, such as warehouse inventory tracking and robotics, could be marketed in the enterprise or even SME sectors, and winning a DoD contract and achieving provable results at military installations would very likely be good selling points for such products.