Verizon deploys networks at U.S. Navy installations in southern California
U.S. Navy personnel and others who frequent Naval Base Coronado in southern California are benefiting from better communications after Verizon was allowed to deploy small cells and macro sites on military installations that deliver 4G LTE today and can provide a foundation to 5G coverage in the future, according to Verizon officials.
Steve Lamb, Verizon director of engineering for southern California, said the Naval Base Coronado initiative includes five macro sites on San Clemente Island—a training base about 70 miles from San Diego—and extensive small-cell deployments at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) and the Naval Amphibious Base (NAB).
“On Coronado proper, we have all small cells and one macro,” Lamb said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “On Navy Base Coronado, there’s a total of 46 planned small cells, and we have five more to turn up. So, the majority of the network has been deployed; we just have five more small cells to complete the buildout.”
For carriers like Verizon, getting permission to install cell sites on military bases historically has proven to be a challenge, given the layers of federal-government approvals and heightened security at such locations, Lamb said.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy you have to go through to get onto bases—it can take years,” he said. “In fact, we’re working with a military installation now, and we’re on year seven to get some sites on there. It is just a struggle.”
But Navy officials were concerned about the inability for personnel to communicate with family and friends while on San Clemente Island, Lamb said.
“It’s an island that is about 70 miles offshore, and there are several agencies and several different functions that go on there,” Lamb said. “One of the most notable is that they actually do bombing from Navy ships, and it’s an impact area—they do bombing on the south side of the island.
“There’s Navy special warfare that’s out there training, Marines will deploy out there, and there are other agencies out there doing things. So, it’s a very important island to the United States Navy and other agencies.”
Captain Timothy Slentz, commanding officer for Naval Air Station North Island, cited the importance of the Verizon deployment.
“This is a great step in the evolution of mission-critical communications on-base,” Slentz said in prepared statement. “Through this partnership, we are building a more responsive, agile and secure network that will help meet our communications needs, even as technology continues to advance.”
When responding to the Navy’s request for communications support, Verizon asked if it also could establish sites for NASNI and NAB, and Navy officials agreed, Lamb said. While coverage on San Clemente Island is provided by five macro sites that use microwave backhaul links, the NASNI and NAB deployments use one macro cell site and a host of small cells, he said.
Typically, carriers deploy small cells only in high-capacity locations, but Verizon used small cells for coverage purposes at Naval Base Coronado because of the unique requirements associated with serving a military base, according to Lamb.
“The goal for this deployment was to feed and serve Navy Base Coronado,” Lamb said. “We didn’t want a lot of energy bleeding outside of the navy base proper, so the way to do it is to be low and tight [with cell-site coverage], and that’s small cells.”
This architecture not only eases the traffic burden on Verizon’s macro cells surrounding the Naval Base Coronado that tried to provide service to the base in the past, the new network infrastructure also improves communications security to the military installations, Lamb said.
“With small cells, to make them smaller, more nimble, more discreet and aesthetically more pleasing to the jurisdiction or to the Navy, the actual controller of that small cell is actually housed at a hub,” Lamb said. “So, all of the small cells on NASNI and NAB Coronado go back to a hub. What’s great is that, with our small cells—that’s the radio and antenna—the controller of those site is actually housed in a hub, and our hub is actually on Navy-base property. So, that’s even extra security from a standard commercial deployment, which is a benefit to the Navy.
“What really good about this is that now the Navy is comfortable with Verizon’s deployment of small cells. They understand how we deploy them, where we deploy them and our power requirements. They understand that we go on light standards.”
Mike Maiorana, senior vice president for Verizon’s public-sector unit, echoed this sentiment while noting the precedent that the Naval Base Coronado deployment has established.
“It proves that the Navy is very interested in working with Verizon,” Maiorana said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “We’re going to use this use case and this deployment at Naval Base Coronado as an example of what good looks like and certainly work not only with other Navy bases across the country, but Army, Air Force and Marine Corps bases to show them the pathway to doing this in their location.
“We’re really excited that Naval Base Coronado and the Verizon network team in the southwest region of America have developed a best practice that we’re excited to share with military bases all across the country, so their brave warriors that serve our country every day have the connectivity for both their personal and military operational needs.”
Maiorana noted that a military base is a “microcosm of a city,” so officials who are trying to implement a “smart base” vision are very interested in many of the same Internet of Things (IoT) applications that are driving smart-cities and smart-grid initiatives, as well as some solutions that are unique to the military.
“Overarching smart-communities and safe-cities connectivity, including autonomous vehicles, autonomous drones and video surveillance—those are some of the [applications] we’re excited about,” Maiorana said.
“The basic connectivity at the core now and the type of [network] densification we have—the coverage and capacity that we have with the small-cell technology—is going to enable just about any use case that can be run off of a high-bandwidth, highly reliable 4G LTE network … and we have the stepping stones to 5G in the future.”