Mobile Broadband for Roaming Troops: Pipe Dream or Reality?

By Sandra I. Erwin, National Defense – June 2008

In the world of high-tech military communications, troops fighting on the front lines are known as the “disadvantaged users.” The tech-deprived troops typically are driving around in humvees and patrolling on foot. They have little to no access to the Internet and their ability to communicate is largely limited to line-of-sight radios. In recent years, the Defense Department has spent billions of dollars on mobile satellite-based communications to bring connectivity to forward-deployed troops. But the available systems are scarce and too expensive for the military services to be able to field in large quantities.

… With the technology that is available today, the military could achieve multi-satellite communications “on the quick halt,” but not on fast-moving vehicles, says Richard Hitt, president and CEO of Hypres Corp., a supplier of superconducting microelectronics that are used in government and commercial communications networks. “On the quick halt” is military-speak for systems that can be set up relatively quickly, maybe in about 30 minutes, says Hitt. “That technology exists. It’s not elegant but it can do the job.” But consolidating a host of moving parts into a single piece of equipment that works from a moving vehicle would be almost impossible with current technology, Hitt says. The data-transmission speeds that the military wants demand large antennas that cannot realistically be operated from already overpacked humvees, he adds. “The commercial sector doesn’t have those requirements.”


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