Enhancing the spectrum for next-generation wireless communications

Experts at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are choosing four contractors to look into new ways of using the RF spectrum for wireless communications.

by J.R. Wilson

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio — Experts at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are choosing four contractors to look into new ways of using the RF spectrum for wireless communications.

Sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the neXt Generation (XG) program is to demonstrate enabling technologies and system concepts for improving how military radio frequency emitters use the RF spectrum through the dynamic frequency access of available spectrum. DARPA officials say they hope to improve frequency utilization 20-fold.

The program focuses on developing appliquÈs that would reside in every communications system and possibly in other transmitters (such as radars sharing the same bands) to control system sense and characterize the RF environment and transmit and receive parameters.

The contractors working on the XG program are Raytheon Information and Advanced Systems of Falls Church, Va.; Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Md.; BBN Technologies of Cambridge, Mass.; and Shared Spectrum of Arlington, Va. Each company won a one-year, $1.32 million contract for this Phase 1 effort.

"XG provides a mechanism for providing assured access to military spectrum resources needed for rapid deployments worldwide, while producing efficient utilization of the shrinking military bandwidth in the dynamic environment of the 21st Century," according to a DARPA statement.

Phase I will characterize how military and non-military systems use the RF spectrum in their operating environments, and then begin developing such critical technologies as dynamic media access, control algorithms, and low-power spectrum monitoring sensors.

The first test and evaluation of the component technologies, scheduled for 2003, will verify potential improvements in spectrum access as measured in bandwidth, time and space. The goal is to demonstrate a factor of 10 improvement using the 2002 field measurement spectrum data.

"It is a critical issue in wireless communications that spectrum resources need to be more efficiently utilized than they currently are," notes Bob Berezdivin, chief scientist on the project at Raytheon.

The enhanced XG wireless capabilities resulting from the program will significantly improve the military's ability to conduct network centric operations in a wide range of environments, experts say.

"Shared spectrum techniques can also be a leap forward for commercial service providers, where capacities are being limited by spectrum availability," Berezdivin says.

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