Mobile broadband emerges as hot topic at MilCom forum

As MilCom conference gets underway, Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, discusses challenges of taking broadband communications mobile.

By Michael O’Connell
Web Editor
Federal News Radio

As military communications leaders descend on the annual MilCom conference in Baltimore Monday to discuss the latest technology, one topic that will be on their minds is secure broadband.

“There is an insatiable appetite for information that supports situation awareness at the commander level both in the air, on the battlefield and on the surface and subsurface Navy,” Roger Krone, president of Boeing Network and Space Systems, and industry chair of MilCom, “And that’s driving broadband technologies in all communications.”

“What we’re finding is we need to achieve this broadband communications in a secure network that is mobile,” Krone told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Amy Morris on Monday.

According to Krone, a new era of high-speed data processors has emerged. “Everything is now digital, and it’s all done in processing software instead of stringing together a series of old analog devices,” he said. “And that has increased the amount of capability and flexibility we have in the design of the radio.”

“We need to have a mobile network that moves with a brigade,” Krone said. “The idea of fixed infrastructure is great if you’re not a moving force, but what we have seen in the past couple of conflicts is the force moves rapidly across the terrain or in the air and you need a network that moves with the deployed army.”

Securing the network and operating in a secure way is of significant importance to these broadband mobile networks, Krone said, adding that there would be a panel at the MilCom conference addressing that topic.

Although the new mobile networks use an Internet protocol similar to that employed by programs on the commercial Internet, their security is related to that of other government networks. “By design, from the beginning, both the .mil space and these mobile ad hoc networks that we talk about at MilCom are designed with a much higher degree of security,” he said. “It’s really in three components. It’s in the authentication, the verification and the validation. In order to be on the network, you actually have to have certain capabilities in your radio. So, it’s unlike the Internet, where anyone with an IP address and a personal computer can play. On the military networks, it’s a very, very different architecture and it’s much, much more robust.”

Krone admitted that even though defense spending has entered one of its periodic cyclical downturns, moving into the mobile ad hoc networking secure radio platforms remains a priority across the service. “There are still significant programs of record that in each of the three services to buy this equipment and to equip their latest platforms with this software-defined capability,” he said. “There will be challenges.”

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