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    February 08, 2012

    Advanced fixed transmission capability to yield large area coverage for military radio networks

    Dropped calls are an annoyance in a major metropolitan area. 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.  DARPA’s Fixed Wireless at a Distance program seeks to enable pervasive, high-throughput military communications using a mobility backbone infrastructure that provides unlimited scalability for high-speed communication for warfighters.

    “Commercial cell systems are optimized to serve large population areas, where cell towers can be added as population grows. Such systems, however, are not optimized for remote geographic areas where our troops operate,” said Mark Rich, DARPA program manager. “The Fixed Wireless at a Distance program seeks innovative technologies for deploying and operating fixed-transmission facilities in forward operating bases that can support activities over large geographic areas. We are looking for technology to extend infrastructure range and simplify infrastructure operation. Unique networking technology is sought to support military mobile ad hoc networks (MANETs) from fixed infrastructure.”

    Current military communication systems have limited ability to support mobile, distributed operations in remote geographic areas due to the small size of networks and relatively short range of military radios. Today, MANETs are used to relay communications traffic and provide communications services beyond the range of a single radio. However, when MANETs grow, the traffic is divided into the number of users served by the networks, and the service data rate delivered to an individual in a MANET drops to a small fraction of the radio capability. The scaling limitations of a MANET—typically 10s to 100s of users—are reached when the traffic that can be delivered to an individual becomes unacceptably low. Much larger networks will be needed as operations become more distributed and increased numbers of autonomous sensors are deployed.

    The program envisions advanced fixed military transmission facilities and capabilities placed in protected areas, such as the confines of a forward operating base; on strategic high-terrain features; atop structures of opportunity; or on aerostats. Signals from these multiple, distributed sources are combined to reach a distant “client” radio or radios.

    Service delivery is expected to support three types of client radio systems – enhanced range communication devices, legacy military radio systems and commercial communications systems (such as 3G/4G cellular and WiFi) for operations in the vicinity of the forward operating base.

    Those in the advanced networking or communications infrastructure development communities wishing to learn more and potentially get involved in the Fixed Wireless at a Distance program should view the Broad Agency Announcement here.

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