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Hughes Private Standalone 5G network increases efficiency to transform US Navy operations

Hughes Private Stand Alone 5G network to transform US Navy operations

The DoD continues to make strong progress implementing its 5G experiments. Users are testing the standalone 5G networks, leveraging greater access to reliable connectivity that delivers efficiency and speed, two critical elements that will enable the Department of Defense (DoD) to help the U.S. jump ahead in today’s 5G race. These private networks are funded by the DoD while being operated by commercial contractors. In addition, these new systems are built using American-made technology and run separately from commercial cellular networks, ensuring much-needed security. Hughes, an EchoStar company, is leading a team that is designing and deploying a private 5G network for the U.S. Navy at Whidbey Island Air Station and in Hawaii. DISH, another EchoStar company, is a key member of the Hughes team that is providing low -and mid-band spectrum, test facilities and engineering services based on their extensive experience with open RAN and cloud based 5G network.  This Hughes 5G team plays an important role as the DoD continues with these 5G implementations. The team is showing the advantages of private 5G networks that include providing much greater scalability and flexibility for users at both large and small installations, as well as enabling more efficient aircraft operations on these bases.

Hughes, an EchoStar Company, has provided the following tangible benefits to the U.S. Navy:

Building tactical, fully self-contained networks based on enterprise network

The DoD can now leverage 5G for both enterprise and tactical deployments. The Hughes 5G enterprise version can fulfill the broadband communications requirements of large installations like the base at Whidbey Island, where thousands of personnel need to have more reliable, high-bandwidth and high-performance connectivity. This now means users have reliable connectivity to security cameras, supporting intelligent review of people who access the flight line.

Based on this enterprise network, the Hughes team developed a smaller, tactical 5G network for the users in Hawaii. This tactical network is self-contained and transportable, making it ideal for smaller groups of warfighters who also need reliable, broadband connectivity at locations in the field. By deploying these diverse 5G solutions, the DoD can support a wide range of use cases and be mission-ready quickly, at the time that the users require communications, without wondering if they have enough bandwidth to complete their data-intensive tasks.

These tactical and enterprise configurations from Hughes Defense complement the pioneering 5G macro consumer network that DISH has deployed. This innovative 5G network utilizes O-RAN based components for the industry-first, cloud-based 5G implementation in the U.S. DISH also provided spectrum and engineering services for these two U.S. Navy sites which became operational in 2023.

RAN sharing further enhances private and public 5G interoperability and, in conjunction with LEO/GEO satellite networks, can be used to cover the whole spectrum of DoD connectivity needs within the US and around the world.

Expanding the network to support innovative applications

The Hughes 5G standalone network at Whidbey continues to grow so users can train for new use cases. The network is giving the U.S. government its first chance to use a private standalone 5G network that adheres to the open-standards set by O-RAN. These network standards are optimized for performance, security, and local management for specific use cases that require the highest levels of resilience and dependability. The network meets the gold-standard established by O-RAN, meaning it works with processors, cloud platforms and commercial off-the-shelf servers – and it can support any third-party radio. 

For example, this purpose-built network supports the flight line. Before the Hughes team delivered the 5G network, the flight line did not have reliable, high data rate connectivity. The new 5G system creates an optimized, data-enabled refueling system designed to ensure refueling staff is ready when each aircraft is available for fueling. This is boosting readiness for military aircraft operating on base – and readiness for those stopping for fuel on their way to other locations. With this expansion, more users like aviators, aircraft support staff and overall maintenance teams, can support increased mission readiness from the flight line. The 5G network is also supporting AI applications that can   provide speed and intelligence for real world functionality and military utility, according to the OUSD (R&E) 5G Accelerate Use Director.

Integrating AI/ML for faster aircraft maintenance and base operations

Soldiers must ensure that every aircraft operates smoothly, with as little downtime as possible. Until recently, soldiers needed to make time to access broadband connectivity off base, so they could download manuals and other maintenance materials. The new 5G standalone network at NAS Whidbey Island delivers connectivity with more than five times the speed so soldiers can stay on base to process and share pictures of an aircraft that is suffering from technical problems. Teams located across the base can examine the problem simultaneously and use AI/ML to tell them if the picture resembles an issue that has been resolved before. This automated investigation can happen at a base halfway around the world. This smart and automated process speeds up the repair work, letting the aircraft move back into full operation. The advanced AI/ML techniques from the Hughes team support the air base’s network, providing automated network maintenance to make the underlying base network smarter, more agile and reliable.

Leveraging 3GPP standards for 5G network interoperability between military and commercial networks—Because 5G is universally standardized, common applications and hardware are interoperable. More specifically, the trusted private network Core used by the DoD could be connected to a Mobile Network Operator (MNO) RAN so the spectrum that is already providing service to commercial customers can provide service to the DoD while on base without requiring complex spectrum planning.