WIDEBAND NETWORKING BRINGS REAL-TIME INFORMATION TO EVERY SOLDIER
By Joseph Hertline, Product Manager, Harris Corporation
Sensors detect activity around the perimeter of a suspected makeshift enemy weapons storage building, automatically notifying a forward-deployed surveillance team via the wideband network. Simultaneously, a request for UAV support is relayed to command. Decision-makers at the Tactical Operations Center analyze a combination of live UAV video, real-time ground reporting and human intelligence fed by the surveillance team, tracking movement to determine if intervening action is necessary.
This level of awareness is only made possible by wideband networking communications. Without it, mission-critical intelligence is not available in order to direct action against a threat when the opportunity arises—and the timeframes for such opportunities are typically only a matter of minutes.
It used to be that only the highest command levels had access to sophisticated data applications and intelligence resources, enabled by the fixed networking infrastructure in place. The bulk of tactical communications equipment in the field is still limited to narrowband voice and data, which means soldiers cannot easily collect or disseminate relevant information outside of the team. Without access to real-time reports about a mission, soldiers are not fully aware of the dangers that exist when entering an area, and may not be prepared with proper force protection and support. Soldiers on the move need real-time access to critical information in order to ensure the safety and success of the mission.
There is no doubt that combat net radio communications is still critical to military operations. Wideband networking not only preserves and provides the same critical communications elements as traditional methods—high-quality voice—but also provides high-speed access to the tactical network while on the move, all in a form factor that tactical users are accustomed to. Wideband communications has and will continue to change the way militaries around the world plan and execute their missions.
The Road to Wideband Networking
It was not all that long ago that narrowband tactical communications were the norm. Today, adoption of wideband is increasing as top militaries are identifying network-centric operations as the standard for the future. One of the key changes that contribute to this transition is the advent of C4ISR applications outside of the Tactical Operations Center, requiring sufficient bandwidth and range to extend information resources to users on the move. Wideband networking makes it possible for information collected at the tactical edge to be available to all users on the network. It is all about speed and awareness. In the past, a soldier could send reports or images of an adversary’s location, and it would take several seconds—or even minutes—to reach the person on the other end. By the time it was received and processed, the environment changed—often times making the intelligence outdated and less useful. The limitations of narrowband technology affected the success of reconnaissance missions, as there was uncertainty in the intelligence relayed back to units preparing for a mission. With real-time data services and access to information resources, soldiers have a clear understanding of the operational picture to maintain confidence as they engage in the mission.
The adaptation of commercial PC, tablets, and mobile media devices with the latest computing power for military use makes it possible to host and share applications across the mobile wideband network. Mobile computing devices that leverage the high-speed tactical network enable applications such as: live video surveillance; position/location ground reporting and blue force tracking enhanced with real-time intelligence; biometric data collection to track persons of interest; remote database access for retrieval of existing intel; and dis