Cognitive-radio technology from xG Technology is a “potential game changer” in battlefield communications based on its flexible deployment model and ability to operate in spectral environments fraught with interference and targeted jamming.

“It uses something that’s radically different from other solutions that we’ve looked at, and it’s been exceptionally impressive,” said Mike McCarthy, director of operations for the Mission Command Complex at the Brigade Modernization Command at Fort Bliss, Texas. “Their combination of cognitive radio and frequency hopping — as opposed to a fixed-frequency base station — has shown tremendous operational capabilities.

“It’s still under development, and we recognize that, but it’s one of those things that I think we need to continue looking at.”

Known as xMax, the xG Technology solution operates on unlicensed spectrum and avoids interference by assessing the radio-frequency environment in a given location every 33 milliseconds and utilizing airwaves that are available, company officials have said. By connecting to a fixed or mobile xMax base station via Wi-Fi or a USB connection, soldiers could use inexpensive commercial mobile devices to access broadband military applications — an effort McCarthy is leading.

Key characteristics of the xG Technology system that are attractive is the fact that it is physically transportable and that its frequency agility means that little or no frequency coordination is needed, McCarthy said. In addition, the solution has proven to operate very reliably, even when confronted by intentional jamming, he said.

“I ran an excursion where we attempted to jam it with conventional military jamming systems, and we were unable to do it,” McCarthy said. “[The xG technology] was able to stay ahead of the jammers that were trying to attack it and kept the communications systems up and operational throughout the two weeks that I ran the jammers.

“Obviously, if you did full spectrum jamming, you could knock everything down. But, if that happens, we’ve got a bigger problem to worry about. When you used targeted jamming, because it’s always looking for unused frequency spectrum, as it detects something [like jamming or interference], it moves automatically to a new frequency in a prescribed spectrum.”

And the dynamic frequency hopping on the xMax system has not introduced any noticeable latency in tests thus far, McCarthy said.

“We haven’t noticed any latency,” he said. “We haven’t put a meter on it to measure how many milliseconds it is, but it’s not enough that it affects the voice or data that we’re transmitting over the system.”

In the spring, the military plans to expand its tests to include several hundred different phones in a limited geographic area, McCarthy said.

“I’m going to push that system as far as we can push it, because I want to know the limitations,” he said. “We’re doing the same for all of the systems that we’re looking at, but this system — if it proves out during our evaluation — is a potential game changer, in terms of how we can use smartphones on the battlefield.”

McCarthy said he considers the xG Technology system and other solutions being tested by the military to be “complementary” to the military’s own development of advanced communications that leverage cognitive radio and other information-assurance techniques. It is possible that the U.S. Army could make decision on at least some of these technologies soon, so the solutions could be used by soldiers on battlefields as early as next year, he said.

“Instead of being years away on that, I think we’re closer to months away to having a viable solution,” McCarthy said.

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