Army, industry plan multimedia-over-ATM system

Army, industry plan multimedia-over-ATM system

'Ultimate object is to use as much as possible straight out of the box,' CECOM program manager says

By William Jackson

GCN Staff

The Army Communications-Electronics Command is joining forces with the private sector to develop a multimedia-over-asynchronous-transfer-mode delivery system for military as well as civilian use.

'We completely embrace the concept of commercial technology,' said Bill Sverapa, program director of the Warfighter Information Directorate in CECOM's Space and Terrestrial Communications Division at Fort Monmouth, N.J. 'The ultimate object is to use as much as possible straight out of the box.'

CECOM is partnering with Cisco Systems Inc. of San Jose, Calif., and nonprofit researcher SRI International of Menlo Park, Calif., in a two-year, dual-use test of voice telephony over ATM.

'We could reduce our infrastructure by 50 percent,' Sverapa said, cutting the cost and time to deploy a field system if voice, data and video could all travel on the same network.

'The problem is quality of service,' he said. 'We're doing voice over IP right now in the laboratory. But as soon as we stand up a videoconference, you'd get kicked off' trying a voice call.

Dynamic prioritization is essential to give each application the bandwidth it needs to stay up. Vendors are working on multimedia quality of service guarantees via various protocols, but 'we don't have the bandwidth' for a battlefield deployment, Sverapa said.

SRI will study ways to provide adequate service quality with limited bandwidth, and CECOM will develop an architecture for its use in the field. Cisco will focus on the commercial possibilities. All three together will work on an operational test bed.

'Being a R&D center, we don't field' systems, Sverapa said. Commercial development is necessary if the military wants to buy and use what CECOM tests.

Working together

'We don't want to do anything different' from what the commercial sector does, he said. 'That's why we're working with industry.'

For example, telephones on commercial private branch exchanges have phone numbers assigned depending on where they are physically plugged in. But soldiers in the field need to keep the same number regardless of where they are on the network.

'There are some modifications under way' on the standard PBXes that CECOM is testing, Sverapa said.

Because the dual-use program is for proof of concept rather than commercial development, the contract's two-year length will likely be adequate, Sverapa said. And because the work will build on standards, fast commercial development of any products ought to be possible if industry decides they are worthwhile, he said.

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