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AMBIT Gambit Pays Off, Advances U.S. 5G Efforts

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Aug. 10, 2020) -- Thanks to efforts by the White House and the Defense Department, a newly devised spectrum-sharing plan will make 100 megahertz of mid-band spectrum currently used by the military available for sharing with the private sector for use in development of 5G technologies.

Earlier this year, the White House and DOD formed "America's Mid-Band Initiative Team," or AMBIT, with the goal of making a contiguous, 100 MHz segment of mid-band spectrum available for use in 5G development by the end of the summer.

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Today, after just 15 weeks of work, that effort has been realized. The AMBIT has identified a segment of spectrum from 3450-3550 MHz as available for sharing. Coupled with already available spectrum from 3550-3980 MHz, this creates a contiguous 530 MHz band for use by the U.S. technology sector.

5G networks require a mix of high-, mid- and low-band spectrum. The low band carries signals over long distances, whereas the high band travels shorter distances but is good for data intensive tasks. Mid-band spectrum is attractive for 5G because it can deliver high capacity and reliability over larger geographic areas.

The Defense Department uses the segment of spectrum from 3450-3550 MHz for such things as radar operations that support missile defense, countermortar capabilities, weapons control, electronic warfare, air defense and air traffic control. The spectrum-sharing solution proposed by AMBIT will ensure the spectrum band continues to be available to the department, while it also becomes available for use by the private sector in the lower 48 states.

As part of the U.S. military's participation, the department established a Mid-Band Spectrum Working Group that included experts in fields such as ship, ground, electronic warfare, test and training capabilities. All four services, as well as representatives from the Office of the Secretary of Defense, were represented.

The AMBIT also leveraged technical work performed by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to develop a spectrum-sharing solution that would allow 5G development to progress in the private sector, while at the same time, allow the U.S. military to continue to use that spectrum to meet national security requirements.

After additional work by the services, the Federal Communications Commission will auction off use of the newly available spectrum to the private sector to support 5G network deployments.

Advancement of 5G technology and networks, and having the United States be a leader in that development, isn't just of interest to the private sector. DOD also has an interest in 5G development. 5G networks are one the department's 11 modernization efforts, and 5G is key to departmental efforts to increase the lethality of the U.S. military, as spelled out in the National Defense Strategy.

Already, the department is or will be testing and evaluating 5G technologies at a dozen U.S. military installations around the country.

At Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and its associated Yakima Training Center, for example, the department has 5G evaluations underway for how to enhance augmented reality and virtual reality training. At Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany, Georgia, evaluations are underway for using 5G technology to enhance the warehousing of vehicles such as the Humvee.

Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows co-chaired the White House steering group that oversaw the AMBIT. They were supported in their efforts by Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council; DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy; and Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

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