The fifth-generation cellular wireless, better known as 5G, promises to take the former standard - 4G LTE - network performances to a whole new level. With its ultra-high data rates and virtually instantaneous transmissions, it will set in motion another digital revolution not only in commercial applications but on the battlefield too.
Critical IoT and digital immersion
With its lightning fast transmission speeds and the capacity to cope with the approaching tidal wave of data communications, 5G will open the floodgates to innumerable critical Internet of Things (IoT) applications where data is captured and acted upon virtually simultaneously. And with immersive technologies like virtual reality and augmented reality, it is also going to radically alter the way we communicate and interact with our environment.
This next generation of mobile internet connectivity will indeed disrupt the way people live and work as data exchange could be up to hundred times faster than with 4G. The latency will be dramatically reduced from tens of milliseconds to almost real time. Finally, 5G will bring connectivity everywhere and support a high connection density, up to 1 million connected devices per square kilometre.
There are plenty of possible use cases in the commercial or civil world. With 5G connectivity, for example, autonomous vehicles will be able to share data directly, so if one vehicle suddenly brakes, the vehicles behind it will be alerted immediately so they can slow down or stop to avoid an accident.
In the defence sector too, these new capabilities will open up new opportunities for units in the theatre of operations, where data management is becoming a key element of supremacy. It will support collaboration in an immersive digital space and help units stay protected in near-real time, especially when 5G is combined with other innovations like the defence cloud and artificial intelligence.
Making the difference
It's no easy task to develop trusted 5G solutions that are truly suited to the needs of critical systems in the toughest of environments including harsh weather conditions – such as intense heat, sand storms or heavy rain - where human lives are at stake. But Thales already has three key strengths that will make all the difference when it comes to military 5G networks.
As European leader in defence electronics and with more than 1,000 satellite communication stations and terminals in service across the world, Thales is able to quickly deploy compact solutions into the constrained environments encountered in the theatre of operations. Given its expertise in security and defence, the Group can also meet the demanding requirements of the military sector. Thales, which is also investing heavily in connectivity, can seamlessly integrate 5G with other defence communications solutions such as combat net radio, line-of-sight radio and satcom — because in high-intensity conflict situations, 5G won't replace protected tactical radio and longer-range transmission systems, which units in the field will still rely on for secure communications.
The next digital transformation
5G does much more than just boost the performance of existing 4G networks. It offers the military an opportunity to develop completely new use cases and benefit from another digital transformation that began in the civil world. Today, the defence sector needs to seize this opportunity and transform its communication systems and adapt the design of its information systems.