Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What Ever Happened to Radio Interoperability???

After the 9/11 disaster, the government allocated significant funding for homeland security with a large amount allocated toward interoperable communications. It seemed like it took a a year or two but a good amount of the money eventually became available. Most critical communications companies offer interoperable solutions from simple patches to full IP-based systems. But I have not heard of any significant progress in deploying these systems especially at the federal level where solutions could offer interoperability nation wide. What ever happened to our priorities here?

New York was suppose to roll out a state wide system being supplied by M/A-COM (recently purchased by Harris Corp) but differences between the two parties seemed to have put this system on hold indefinitely. This would have been a step in the right direction in getting a very large state-wide system up and certainly the most critical location after 9/11. PA is using this type of system but they are one of the few.

Last month, the Air Force awarded Northrop Grumman a $280-million contract to install a range of electronic systems on various platforms which collectively are known as Battlefield Airborne Communications Node, or BACN (nicknamed “bacon”). BACN is an airborne communications relay that extends communications ranges, bridges between radio frequencies, and “translates” among incompatible communications systems. This could be the start of truly interoperable communications as it is a “universal translator” for the vast array of drones, jets and ground forces deployed by the U.S. and its allies. It is an IP-based communications system so it is able to translate any type of signal so different types of radios can talk directly with each other.

Using BACN, it would be possible for a soldier on the ground under attack could use a civilian cell phone to speak directly to a fighter pilot about their situation. BACN supports seamless movement of audio, video and data with support for waveforms that include SINCGARS, DAMA, EPLRS, SADL, Link 16, and IP-based networking connectivity using TTN, TCDL technology, CLIP, and 802.11b.

These types of solutions exist for first responders but there seems to be a lack of deployment of these systems even after making it a national priority. You here of incidents where counties or cities right next to each other cannot communicate directly and critical information is lost. Maybe this is another big issue the new administration can take up and "push" through the barriers that have impeded progress here. What do you think?