December 2005/January 2006
Volume 04, Issue 8
|Connexion By Boeing|
Set to go for 'on-the-move'
Connexion network would be part of a Boeing plan for military mobile communications system
BY JACK ARENDS
Years after Boeing began the military- and space-oriented research in broadband communication that led to the creation of Connexion by Boeing, interest in high-capacity mobile communications is coming full circle.
After entering service on nine airlines and in the commercial maritime communications market, Connexion by Boeing is attracting renewed interest from a longtime Boeing customer: the U.S. military. Connexion by Boeing is providing its global satellite network and ground terminals in support of Phantom Works and Integrated Defense Systems as the three business units cooperate on a proposal to provide an upgraded mobile communications system for U.S. ground forces.
The Network Centric Soldier Systems proposal, which includes a "communications-on-the-move" initiative, has only been featured in demonstrations so far. But if the U.S. government requests a proposal, the Boeing team is preparing to answer with a Connexion-enabled, commercial off-the-shelf system similar to the one that enables airline passengers, executives on business jets, and operators of ships to send and receive data in real time.
The dilemma faced by the U.S. Army and Marines is familiar: Satellites can feed great amounts of data to command-and-control centers on the ground. Those fixed locations have trouble relaying the information to and from mobile units on the battlefield, however, because of challenges posed by distance, signal blockage or the limited bandwidth of existing communications systems.
"Our system would allow the military to disseminate information to the troops in the field in real time. It literally could save lives by providing up-to-date locations of friendly forces, and it would enable commanders to deploy their troops more efficiently," said Gerald Hopp, director of government sales for Connexion by Boeing.
"Many military services are challenged when it comes to obtaining real-time situational awareness," said Mike Taylor, program manager for the Connexion by Boeing Network Centric Soldier Systems effort. "Our system can provide voice and data transmission in real time, including video across the Connexion network, to our customers' networks. These capabilities can greatly enhance force protection."
The system has been demonstrated at Fort Lewis, Wash., and Fort Campbell, Ky., using a pair of Phantom Works High-Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs, or Humvees) equipped with prototype communications-on-the-move terminals. The system uses the same global network of Ku-band satellite transponders that enable airline passengers to stay connected with their homes and offices.
Hopp said that in addition to the Army and Marines, commercial and government-operated emergency responders also have shown interest in the system. As an example of extending the network to the user, this system could eventually feature a Global Standard for Mobile base station that enables cellular telephones to operate during weather-related power interruption. Testing to date has featured transmission and reception on moving vehicles.
Depending on budgetary considerations, the U.S. government could decide to seek proposals in late 2005 or early 2006, Hopp said, with deployment scheduled for the summer of 2006.
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