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Surface Navy 2021: NAVWAR chief sees spectrum, bandwidth challenges

The US Navy is staring down looming challenges to a wide swath of service missions, as a result of changes in access to radio frequency (RF) spectrum and overall bandwidth availability for its fleet of networked systems and platforms.

The Pentagon and White House’s decision to set aside a wide range of mid-band spectrum bandwidths, set between the 3,450 MHz and 3,550 MHz band, to accelerate commercial and military 5G mobile communications efforts has put the navy and other services in a precarious position, said US Navy Rear Admiral Douglas Small, commanding officer for Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR).

“It is tough, it is really tough. It just means you cannot design anything just assuming you are going to have access to that spectrum in perpetuity,” he said during a briefing on current and future NAVWAR initiatives at the virtual Surface Navy Association 2021 National Symposium. “It is really a highly prized commodity,” he added.

The decision to set aside that specific stretch of the mid-band spectrum, which had traditionally been set aside for military-centric operations, such as advanced military radar, air defence, and battlefield management systems, was the result of recommendations by the White House America’s Mid-Band Initiative Team (AMBIT), made last August. A month later, Pentagon officials issued a request for information (RFI) for Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) options, which would allow 5G networks to operate in the same spectrum band as the US armed forces’ arsenal of high-powered radars and similar platforms.

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