Latest contract brings to six the companies designing DARPA 100G wireless network

ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Sept. 2013. U.S. military researchers are looking to a total of six RF communications companies to develop a military wireless data link able to transmit data at speeds as fast as 100 gigabits per second within one radio frequency channel.

Posted by John Keller
Posted by John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 8 Sept. 2013. U.S. military researchers are looking to a total of six RF communications companies to develop a military wireless data link able to transmit data at speeds as fast as 100 gigabits per second within one radio frequency channel.

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., has added the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Systems segment in Redondo Beach, Calif., to the DARPA 100 Gb/s RF Backbone (100G) program.

The 100G program seeks to create an airborne communications link with fiber-optic-equivalent capacity and long reach that can propagate through clouds, rain, and fog, and provide high availability. Northrop Grumman won a $4.9 million contract for the 100G program on Thursday.

Northrop Grumman joins the Raytheon Co. Network Centric Systems segment in Tucson, Ariz.; Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio; Silvus Technologies Inc. in Los Angeles; Trex Enterprises Corp. in San Diego; and Applied Communication Sciences in Basking Ridge, N.J., on the 100G program.

The other five 100G contractors were selected last month. Raytheon won a $5.5 million contract; Battelle won a $2.3 million contract; Silvus won a $3.8 million contract; Trex Enterprises won a $492,797 contract; and Applied Communication won a $4.3 million contract.

Researchers at the six companies will develop approaches for blending high-order modulation with spatial multiplexing to achieve spectral efficiencies greater than 20 bits-per-second-per hertz, and provide 100-gigabit-per-second capacity at ranges of 125 miles for air-to-air links and 62 miles for air-to-ground links from an aircraft flying at about 60,000 feet.

The program's 100-gigabit-per-second airborne data links are to connect the major nodes of military networks, and to handle voice, video, Internet, and enterprise data flows.

Although the U.S. civil telecommunication infrastructure relies heavily on single-mode optical fiber as the data backbone, military communications cannot rely on a fixed infrastructure for deployed operations, DARPA experts explain. Instead, the military needs to project fiber-optic-equivalent capacity anywhere within its area of responsibility with a relative lack of communications infrastructure.

In the first phase of the DARPA 100G program, experts from the six companies will focus on developing technology for a 100-gigabit-per-second data communications prototype.

Later, the program will develop prototype 100G transceivers and integrate them into aircraft and fixed ground sites, and then build a final prototype for flight testing.

DARPA officials originally planned to split about $18.3 million among the 100G contractors for the program's first phase. Contracts to the six companies now exceed $21 million, so it is unlikely that more 100G phase-one contractors will be added.

The first phase will concentrate on high-order modulation at millimeter-wave frequencies, and developing ways to generate, transmit, receive, and process high-order modulation at millimeter-wave frequencies. Applied Communication Sciences will build a transmitter and receiver.

Other portions of the program involve spatial multiplexing at millimeter-wave frequencies to reduce transmit power, and proof-of-concept demonstrations for operating the 100G system.

For more information contact Northrop Grumman Aerospace online at www.northropgrumman.com; Raytheon at www.raytheon.com; Battelle at www.battelle.org; Silvus Technologies at www.silvustechnologies.com; Trex Enterprises at www.trexenterprises.com; Applied Communication Sciences at www.appcomsci.com; or DARPA at www.darpa.mil.

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