DARPA hopes to give field radio networks a BLAST of speed

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has kicked off a program to develop speedy ad hoc mobile radio networks for bandwidth-starved troops in the field.

DARPA awarded a one-year, $11.5 million contract to Lucent Technologies Inc. of Murray Hill, N.J., to demonstrate the agency's Mobile Networked Multiple-Input, Multiple-Output program.

MIMO uses multiple antennas to send and receive wireless signals at high speeds over existing radio frequency spectrum. The goal of the first phase is to increase spectral efficiency 20-fold for a mobile ad hoc network operating in multiple frequency bands.

Lucent will use a technology developed by Bell Labs, called Bell Labs Layered Space Time. BLAST uses the natural scattering common to RF signals to enhance transmission accuracy. Researchers already have found ways to let several transmissions occupy the same frequency band and to use multiple antennas to increase transmission rates.

Lucent will apply ad hoc networking protocols to create self-forming networks for vehicles on the move.

The company will develop and build the media access control and physical layers of the system and perform a 20-node mobile demonstration. In late fall, Lucent expects to deploy 20 sport utility vehicles at the Naval Air Engineering Station in Lakehurst, N.J., equipped with mobile communications gear incorporating BLAST.

Subcontractors for the program include BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass., a division of Verizon Communications Inc. of New York; Boeing Co.; Lockheed Martin Corp.; Rockwell-Collins Inc. of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, N.J.; and Stow Research LLC of Flanders, N.J.

DARPA plans to solicit industry participation for a follow-on phase if the first phase is successful.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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