BT and the British Army have agreed on a contract for networks that are poised to pave the way for smart bases across the UK. The five-years contract will provide a managed Wi-Fi service known as MOD Wi-Fi.
This agreement entails BT delivering managed secure Wi-Fi across 162 new army sites in the UK, with the potential to expand the contract to other defence customers, including the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. This expands on the telecoms’ already existing presence within the British military, as 200 Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites across the UK, Cyprus and Germany, have and are being managed by them following a decade of partnering on their Wi-Fi network requirements.
The scope of the delivery program encompasses all buildings within the equipped sites, including offices, hangars, training facilities, technical accommodation, and workshops. Additionally, soldiers stationed in remote base locations are subsequently set to benefit from their improved connectivity, enabling them to stay connected during their downtime via the free Internet services.
Another aspect the new deal addresses are the unique MoD’s bases’ Wi-Fi requirements. The nature of the sector demands extra degrees of care that consumers and even businesses have due to the nature of dealing with sensitive information and having to remain operation in the face of potential cyber security threats. Defence Business Internet (DBI) is highly secure, business-grade Wi-Fi technology and is already prevalent at a number of MoD sites BT administer. DBI gives military MoD personnel free access at official security level to Defence Gateway – the MoD central URL that is the entrypoint to a multitude of MoD systems. This new contract thus represents an additional digital infrastructure boost, offering a managed firewall for enhanced security.
Ed Stainton, Director of Major Government at BT, said: “The contract will also lay the foundation for frontline commands to introduce smarter ways of working, unlocking the benefits of new technologies on MOD Wi-Fi that will provide efficiencies, enhance productivity and increase security.”
The connectivity provided by BT will go on to serve as the foundation for the deployment of smart bases over the next 12 months. Smart military bases will incorporate advanced technologies and capabilities to enhance efficiency, security, and overall effectiveness. Using things like IoT, they will be able to do things like track occupancy levels, enhance surveillance and even grant specific soldiers different levels of access to sectors in the base via wearables.
Major General John Collyer, Director of Information and CIO of the British Army, commented: “This is another critical delivery under the ambitious British Army Digital Transformation Initiative – Programme THEIA.
This development comes amid a wider government push to modernise the military. In 2021, the British Government released the ‘Integrated Review’ strategy, that, among other things, promised to develop a ‘Future Soldier’ and a new National Cyber Force and Counter Terrorism Operations Centre to counter terrorism, organised crime and hostile state activity.
BT is already working with the British Army to establish a smart base in Larkhill, which incorporates a digital infrastructure that with fibre broadband and private 5G. The technology includes high-definition cameras, sensors, facial recognition systems, smart building entry and management solutions, digital signage for tailored messages, and secure printing.