Apr 5, 2022 - Technology

Northrop Grumman announces 5G defense partnership with AT&T

Photo: Chuck Kennedy for Axios

Defense giant Northrop Grumman and AT&T are partnering to create what will be a "military Internet of Things" where sensors, weapons and data will all be connected by a 5G network.

Driving the news: Kathy Warden, Northrop Grumman CEO and president, announced the partnership Tuesday at the Axios What's Next summit in Washington, D.C.

  • The project is a "joint research and development framework" between AT&T and Northrop that will eventually be a 5G-connected network for the Department of Defense.

Why it matters: DoD capabilities linked by a 5G-powered "digital battle network" is a strong example for how the communications technology can be used in high-pressure situations.

  • Moving beyond connected home thermostats and connected factory processes, 5G is now being studied as an important part of the nation’s defense architecture.

What they're saying: "Technology is not the hard part," Warden said. "We have solved the technology challenge. It's the application of it that will move at the speed the government is ready to move along with the industry."

  • Warden compared the project to the Internet of Things people use in their regular lives, but for the military.

Details: Warden said Northrop plans to be prototyping technology within a year: "The limiting factor will be how quickly it gets adopted and brought into the command and control center."

Be smart: The U.S. is competing with China on development and deployment of 5G. Any Internet of Things system for the government will have to include the strongest possible cybersecurity protections to prevent hacking.

  • Warden said in light of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the prevalence of cyber attacks, information-sharing between the government and private sector is more important than ever, and cybersecurity needs to be baked in at every level of company planning.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Northrop Grumman.

Go deeper on 5G:

Go deeper