New software could improve military radio communication

Designers of military radio systems who face the task of designing equipment that can communicate among the hodgepodge of gear that coalition forces bring to a battlefield could benefit from upgraded signal processing software for the transceivers, according to Spectrum Signal Processing, a unit of Vecina.

The company announced a product known as "waveform physical layer software" that plays a key role in military radio systems for both terrestrial communications and for MilSatCom, or links to and from satellite transceivers.

All major military operations over the past 50 years have involved coalition forces, who of necessity bring varying terrestrial radio gear to battlefields, a military radio specialist said. The forces' radio equipment varies not only across the various nations' military forces, but across each nation's army, navy, air force, marine and other services, the radio specialist said.

Meanwhile, military radios increasingly face the job of processing broadband communications from satellite links as well as the slower, unit-to-unit messages on the battlefield.

Military communications customers nowadays are demanding video telecommunications from the battlefield, the telecom specialist said. That task calls for especially challenging systems development work on software-defined radio equipment, he said.

Spectrum referred to its new software-defined radio offering as waveform physical layer software. That type of software plays a key role in widely deployed military radio systems such as the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

Software-defined radios in general have improved military and aerospace communications dramatically in recent years; many observers expect the technology gradually to dominate radio design. Software-defined radios are a step in the technological arc toward cognitive radio.

Cognitive-radio designers envision an intelligent "black box" radio unit or network node that monitors its internal functions and the external telecommunications environment and changes its operating parameters automatically to maintain peak performance.

Software-defined radios allow various internal functions, including the activities of tuning across spectrum bands and adjusting to new communications protocols, to be modified quickly by changing the software used by a general-purpose computer inside the equipment.

The company noted that the military's JTRS program defines a waveform as the entire set of radio and communications functions that occur from the user input to the radio frequency output and vice versa.

Spectrum's new product, called the waveform physical layer, sometimes called the air interface, is a layer within the system's wireless protocol stack. It carries out radio frequency, intermediate frequency and baseband signal processing functions.

The signal processing modules inside software-defined radios can comprise thousands of lines of code, Spectrum said.

The new waveform physical layer software Spectrum announced today will help radio designers by providing an off-the-shelf waveform module that is already ported to a platform, the company said. It also will help waveform designers, who may be seeking to customize an existing waveform.

"Spectrum is focused on accelerating our defense and satellite communications customers' programs, from development to deployment, with optimized radio technologies and end-to-end services. Waveforms are a key part of this strategy," said Mark Briggs, vice president of marketing at Spectrum, in a prepared statement. "By partnering with established waveform leaders in the military, satellite and commercial communication markets, Spectrum will be able to deliver highly optimized and high-value integrated radio solutions to its customers that can dramatically simplify and reduce development and implementation efforts."

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