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Thursday, February 15, 2024

5G and the future of warfare in Pakistan

As the telecom industry’s market size has grown to $16.9 billion after attracting $1.2bn in foreign direct investments in the last three years, the Ministry of Information Technology and Telecom is aiming to roll out 5G in 2023.

The current era is witnessing a shift from 4G (4th Generation) networked communication to 5G (5th Generation) (5th Generation). This shift will have far-reaching consequences for all civil and defense communications. Future warfare is expected to evolve into an information environment, or ‘info-sphere,’ for sharing real-time intelligence via high-speed, low-latency, and increased bandwidth networks. 5G is expected to have a significant impact on the character and future of warfare. In integrated and all-domain warfare, it will enable a quick and agile data communication service to support the entire battlefield network.

This assistance will allow for the rapid transfer of all types of visual and textual data and information from one domain to another, thereby increasing the speed of war. Not only would 5G connect all domains of the battleground, but it would also connect disconnected networks via network slicing. This will allow for more private, secure, and restricted remote operations. Because of the super-fast speed of the 5G network, it can perform multiple isolated functions side by side.

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5G Enhances Operational Capacity Of Military Systems

5G would also improve the operational capability of autonomous military systems like drones and UAVs (UAVs). The capabilities of autonomous military systems are currently limited due to their limited onboard processing and data storage capacity; however, large sets of data, such as terrain maps stored on the cloud, can be downloaded in milliseconds with 5 G-enabled autonomous military systems.

Because of the accelerated networked response and action time, 5G is expected to kick-start the transition to fully autonomous systems. The improved real-time data collected by the autonomous military system’s independent system through various networked sources and sensors would be infused with AI and machine learning algorithms to identify, locate, and engage the target without human supervision. Due to such capability of 5G, many countries have shown progress in this arena.

US & China Take the Lead

The US and China have been competing to be the first to market with 5G technologies. The major 5G telecoms in the United States have begun to deploy their initial nationwide networks. China, on the other hand, has a 5G network in every city and 87% of its rural areas. To adapt to the demands of future warfare, the Chinese defence forces are now focusing on leveraging 6G communication technologies.

Read more: Huawei, ZTE banned in 5G industry of Canada

The United States is expected to deploy 5G on its Forward Operating Bases (FOBs), which are critical points for gathering intelligence for attack launches and defence. US troops can also use 5G-enabled Android Team Awareness Kits to view data on a tablet or smartphone. Similarly, Chinese troops have been outfitted with devices that will allow them to track troops, terrain, and intelligence on battlegrounds. China has also deployed 5G technology along the China-India border to monitor Indian military activity.

India Launched 5G India (5G)

India has launched the 5G India initiative (5Gi). Under this initiative, India has tasked research centers such as the Centre of Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) and the Society for Applied Microwave Electronics Engineering & Research (SAMEER), as well as technical universities such as the Indian Institute of Technology Madras, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kanpur, and Bombay, with the responsibility of establishing end-to-end 5G test beds. The country is taking the lead in the development of indigenous 5G communication networks.

It has provided competitive grants and established a 5G Alliance Fund to provide the necessary financial assistance for 5G evolution. The Indian Army is also developing and deploying 5G networks to improve communication for its frontline forces, which could have consequences for Pakistan.

Pakistan & 5G

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information Technology and Telecommunications has established a 5G roadmap. Pakistani telecom operators such as PTCL, Telenor, Zong, and Jazz have successfully tested 5G. 5G was supposed to go live in 2023, but progress has been slowed due to political unrest in the country. According to a study conducted by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), the exorbitant tax on phones and the scarcity of 5G-enabled phones in Pakistan may stymie the evolution of 5G. Pakistan has also worked with China to facilitate the deployment of 5G technology. China’s technological assistance and telecom industry efforts have been critical to Pakistan’s 5G success. A similar roadmap can be developed for other emerging technologies such as AI, cybersecurity, and space exploration.

Read more: Hybrid Warfare & 5GW: A Quandary for National Security of Pakistan

5G represents a significant advancement in complex communication networks. Although it will significantly increase communication speed, it will have no effect on the importance of 4G and 3G networks. 5G will instead support other emerging technologies such as cloud computing, quantum computing, the Internet of Things, and so on. Every decade, the world will upgrade its network generation, such as 6G and 7G. Given the growing demand for connectivity, the deployment of 5G networks is critical. As a result, this is a positive step, and Pakistan must also join in order to quickly establish 5G network towers in the country.

The writer has done Strategic & Nuclear Studies from National Defence University, Isd and Post-Grad in International Relations from Istanbul University, Turkey. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.