Get Connected 2019

5G Technologies in Military Communications | Mr. Marcel van Sambeek (NLD Civ), TNO The Hague



Marcel van Sambeek has over 20 years’ experience in telecommunications. He started his carrier in ICT in 1997 at Unisource Business Networks (UBN) in the Netherlands. In 1999 he moved to KPN Research to work on research topics like VoIP, broadband networks and cloud services for the business market. In 2003 he moved to TNO. Today, Mr. van Sambeek has extensive experience in research and development in European research projects (e.g. 5G-Mobix, METAMORPHOSIS) and in projects for European telecom operators, the Dutch government (Ministry of Defence) and other (non-profit) organizations. He combines his in-depth technical knowledge of network and communication technologies (e.g. 5G, Tactical Networks, Internet of Things, connected and automated mobility, VoIP, Wi-Fi and critical communication infrastructure for public safety and emergency services) with his extensive hands-on experience in the market introduction of innovative services.



In the first half of his presentation, Mr. van Sambeek provided a detailed introduction to 5G technology. The mobile communication journey started with 1G Analog Voice in the 1980s. Today’s generation is the fourth (LTE), with its 10 Mbps digital data capability. 1 Gbps capability will be reached after 2020. 5G technology is needed to keep up with the pace of growth of mobile data traffic worldwide. It will also bring its own demand. At the introduction of 5G, mobile operators will have to handle 1000x more data traffic and connect 10x more devices compared to the introduction of 4G. New 5G technology is needed to deliver additional capacity without an equivalent growth in costs. 5G is not just faster mobile Internet.


The intention is also to provide solutions for the communication requirements of the digital society for vertical sectors (Automotive/Intelligent Traffic, Health, Industry, Agriculture, Logistics and Energy) and government (Smart Cities, Public Safety).


5G technology has three main use cases: Enhanced Mobile Broadband, Massive Machine-Type Communication and Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communication. Depending on the scenario, 5G Enhanced Mobile Broadband will most likely be used in very dense urban environments, stadiums and high speed trains for video-based applications like virtual reality or augmented reality. In terms of Ultra Reliable Low Latency Communications, remote medication and surgery would be a good example. Below 1 ms latency is the target for 5G, which will enable remote surgery. Another example is intelligent transport. Today, cars are getting smarter and smarter. Vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication will further improve road safety and traffic flow for automated and autonomous cars with in-car camera and radar systems. This requires direct communication between cars with low latency and high availability, all provided by 5G. The third use case is Massive Machine Type Communication, better known as the Internet of Things (IoT). 4G IoT technology already fulfils most of the requirements, so, with a little investment, this part of the technology is ready for the future. Smart cities can be taken as an example. 5G technology is planned to be released in three packages which are spread over time from 2019-2024. Initial 5G roll-out started in Switzerland in 2019. Other EU countries will follow in 2020-2021, with enhancement packages running until the end of 2020 (and beyond?).


In the second part of his presentation, Mr. van Sambeek elaborated on the military use of 5G. An initial study on using 5G technologies for military communications has been completed by working group IST-ET-096 of NATO’s Science and Technology Organization (STO). A technical report, “5G Technologies: A Defence Perspective”, was published. This working group was led by the USA, with participation from Germany, the Netherlands and Turkey. In the report, both civilian and military scenarios for 5G and 5G (radio) technology are assessed and potential 5G challenges are presented. The military scenarios discussed include wireless communications between command and control (C2) centres at battalion and brigade level, wireless communications between C2 centres at company and battalion level, wireless communications infrastructure inside a rapidly deployable command post, fixed infrastructure, and limited mobility company-level communications and full mobility company-level communications (with mobile ad hoc networks, MANET). The main recommendation of the group was to continue further detailed investigation into the possible military use of 5G within the following relevant areas: network sharing/slicing (using common infrastructure for different purposes, safely and effectively), extreme long-range coverage in low-density areas (with satellite integration) and various kinds of mobility management for network offloading in edge scenarios.


NATO’s STO working group aims to start another detailed study on the use of 5G and adaptations in 5G standards. Simultaneously, the European Defence Agency (EDA) is preparing a white paper on 5G. Pending the outcomes of current studies, initial ideas for the military use of 5G are as follows:

  • Deployed mobile networks (5G in tactical networks)
    • Dedicated vs shared (between coalition partners) vs public networks.
    • Commercial spectrum vs military spectrum for 5G.
    • Military use has stricter requirements regarding equipment vendors in the supply chain.
  • Mix of means
    • Military radios for robustness (electronic warfare).
    • VR/AR for information overlay via 5G networks.
  • High-volume sensors
    • Military sensors in and around compounds could benefit from IoT developments.
  • 5G beamforming: nulling of radio signals towards red-forces based on their GPS location.
  • Peer-to-peer communication: use for D2D communication among soldiers in areas with no network coverage.
  • Satellite 5G: exploit satellite communication in 5G for connectivity in remote areas.
  • Network slicing: MoD as an operator to provide military network slices to different forces, all over the same shared expeditionary 5G infrastructure.

The presentation concluded with observations regarding future work on the military use of 5G. After approval, a new NATO STO group will be established for a more detailed study on the benefits of 5G in military communication. The group will be tasked with describing military use cases and requirements and with producing a map of 5G technologies in relation to military communication. Involvement will be needed in future work for 5G standardization for missing capabilities such as disaster relief in war zones or natural disaster areas, network sharing options in 5G, SatCom, etc.


Key take-away

5G technology will bring an extremely high range and capacity to mobile communication. Military use of this technology may be a force multiplier for military C2.

NATO STO is preparing to further investigate the military use of 5G technology.

New ways of sharing radio frequency bands between the government and private sectors for mobile communication is an interesting concept for the near future, as usage of mobile communications is increasing exponentially while the radio spectrum is a limited resource. Examples of this concept are deployed today for public safety.


Download Powerpoint Presentation: 5G Technologies in Military Communications – Mr. Marcel van Sambeek

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