By J.R. Wilson
CAMDEN, N.J. — Experts from the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) certified the OMNI voice and data security unit from L-3 Communications Systems-East in Camden, N.J., for U.S. military and other government uses.
The unit is for communications up to and including Top Secret transmissions. The certification supports the highest classification of government secure communications.
L-3 Systems-East president Gregor Roberts says the OMNI, part of the company's Secure Terminal Equipment (STE) product line, offers a portable, low-cost replacement to the government's STU-III secure telephones and a variety of link-encryptor and dial-up networking systems in use since the mid 1980s. A number of customers already have placed orders for thousands of the units, he adds.
The OMNI comes in three models, with only the OMNIxp — authorized for sensitive-but-unclassified (SBU) communications — approved for export. The original OMNI and the new OMNIxi — which extends Type-I secure communications to support high-speed data encryption, satellite communications, and a variety of other network applications — are available only to the U.S. military and government agencies.
L-3 officials claim all OMNIs also provide "toll quality" secure voice transmission, meaning the caller's voice is sharper, clearer and more natural than what is heard over old STU-III systems. All three versions support secure voice communication when used with a standard analog telephone, dial-up networking, e-mail, or data-related operations in conjunction with a personal computer or fax machine.
The OMNIxi and OMNIxp also support secure digital communications for satellite and next-generation network applications, such as Voice Over IP (VoIP), and high-speed data rates of 2 megabits per second over broadband networks. In addition, Future Narrow Band Digital Terminal (FNBDT) signaling ensures interoperability with STE, CONDOR wireless telephones, and other FNBDT devices.
FNBDT enables users with different but compatible systems to communicate using a secure overlay on a variety of digital networks. The FNBDT standard defines several modes of operation to enable interoperability between like and unlike devices, although not all FNBDT-capable terminals will implement all modes of operation; some will be data only, others voice only.