One of the dynamics of modern warfare has meant the opportunities and threats posed by digital technology mean The British Army needs a network offering extremely high levels of reliability, and looking to deliver on these needs and pave the way for the roll-out of smart bases across the UK, the service has signed a multi-million-pound networks contract with the business unit of BT.
As part of a five-year project, BT Business will deliver to the British Army a secure managed Wi-Fi service, referred to as MOD Wi-Fi, across 162 new UK army sites, with the future potential to expand the contract to other Defence customers, including the RAF and Royal Navy.
The contract will expand on the existing 200 UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) sites that BT’s Defence team currently manage in the UK, Cyprus and Germany, following over a decade of partnering with the MoD for its Wi-Fi network requirements.
BT believes the network will deliver a huge digital infrastructure boost, with a managed firewall built in for enhanced security. The delivery programme covers all buildings in the sites being equipped, including offices, hangars, training facilities, technical accommodation and workshops. All recreation spaces, messes, sports and dining facilities will also be covered by the service.
Soldiers, who may currently struggle to receive connectivity in remote base locations, now stand to benefit from enhanced contact with loved ones and the ability to relax during their downtime through access to digital platforms thanks to free, fast and reliable internet.
The connectivity will also provide the foundation for smart bases to begin rolling out over the next 12 months, enabling sites to improve the digital experience for military personnel, enhancing security with smart surveillance and intelligent Building Entry Systems, and supporting net-zero ambitions by maximising building occupancy for more efficient energy consumption.
BT has already been working in partnership with the Army to establish a smart base in Larkhill, South West England, with a digital infrastructure that incorporates fibre broadband and private 5G. The base uses technology such as HD cameras and sensors, facial recognition, smart building entry and management, digital signage to relay tailored messages to different audiences, and secure printing.
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Ed Stainton, director of major government at BT, said the deployment was proud to be a trusted partner that could deliver for the Army. “This new managed Wi-Fi service from BT will provide important connectivity across areas of training, business and welfare,” he said.
“Crucially, the contract will also lay the foundation for Front-Line 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.”
John Collyer, British Army director of information, said: “This is another critical delivery under the ambitious British Army Digital Transformation Initiative – Programme THEIA.
“We are thrilled to partner with BT for the Army Estate Wide Internet work – which will deliver ubiquitous internet access across our estate – for business use, research, leisure, gaming, innovation, trials and more,” he added. “Another leap forward, and I thank the staff of BT and in Army HQ for their Herculean work getting us to this stage. It will make a huge difference for our people and our outputs.”