DARPA Tackles Poor Cell Signals In War Zones - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.


DARPA Tackles Poor Cell Signals In War Zones

Through new Fixed Wireless at a Distance program, military hopes to make connections over both commercial and traditional military mobile devices more reliable.

Government Innovators
Slideshow: Government Innovators
(clickimage for larger view and for full slideshow)
The military wants to build a new fixed-mobility infrastructure to connect currently limited-range warzone mobile networks to provide more reliable high-speed communications for both commercial and more traditional military devices.

Through the Fixed Wireless at a Distance program, the Defense Advanced Research Agency (DARPA)—the research network of the Department of Defense (DOD)--aims to create a mobile backbone with unlimited scalability so warfighters no longer experience the poor cellular service they've traditionally had to deal with during military engagements.

"Dropped calls are an annoyance in a major metropolitan area," according to DARPA. "But when you're conducting military patrols in a remote forward-operating location, a loss of data signal means no connectivity between you, reachback support, firepower and valuable intelligence."

[ Here's how the military is beefing up other IT areas to help support soldiers. See DOD Seeks Rugged Routers, Better Networks. ]

The system will support three types of client devices--enhanced-range communication devices, legacy military radio systems, and commercial 3G/4G mobile or Wi-Fi devices, according to DARPA.

Currently, the military can't guarantee reliable mobile operations in remote areas because the military ad hoc networks (MANETs) they use don't cover enough ground, and military radios that make up the networks have a relatively short range.

The infrastructure DARPA envisions will connect small MANETs of military radios in the same way commercial infrastructure connects multiple cellular base stations and Wi-Fi access points, according to the announcement about the program, which also provides detailed diagrams of how the network would work.

To create the network, fixed-transmission facilities will be placed in protected areas, such as a forward-operating base or on strategic high terrain, and signals from them will be combined to reach distant radios, according to DARPA.

To provide the same sort of scalability commercial networks provide, DARPA and contractors working on the system must consider two things, the agency said.

The first is that the system needs to maximize geographic coverage rather than limit interference; and the second is that the system must support mobility and expeditionary activities where infrastructure cannot always be installed in advance of military operations.

Ultimately, the goal of the program is to enable mobile communications similar to the daily experience of using commercial devices in an area with good mobile coverage.

Those interested in responding to the announcement have until March 9 to submit abstracts and until April 6 to submit proposals. DARPA will consider making multiple awards for the program.

The military has a number of projects in place to improve communications in warzones, including a plan by the Army to build a mobile battlefield network based on Google's Android platform.

How 10 federal agencies are tapping the power of cloud computing--without compromising security. Also in the new, all-digital InformationWeek Government supplement: To judge the success of the OMB's IT reform efforts, we need concrete numbers on cost savings and returns. Download our Cloud In Action issue of InformationWeek Government now. (Free registration required.)

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
IT Careers: 10 Industries with Job Openings Right Now
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  5/27/2020
How 5G Rollout May Benefit Businesses More than Consumers
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/21/2020
IT Leadership in Education: Getting Online School Right
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/20/2020
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
The State of IT & Cybersecurity Operations 2020
Download this report from InformationWeek, in partnership with Dark Reading, to learn more about how today's IT operations teams work with cybersecurity operations, what technologies they are using, and how they communicate and share responsibility--or create risk by failing to do so. Get it now!
Current Issue
Key to Cloud Success: The Right Management
This IT Trend highlights some of the steps IT teams can take to keep their cloud environments running in a safe, efficient manner.
Flash Poll