The U.S. Army has awarded Florida-based xG Technology a contract to conduct laboratory and field tests of its xMAX cognitive cellular network for potential use by military forces.

Officials for xG Technology have been touting xMAX for months as the first commercially available cognitive network, providing spectrum agility by assessing the radio-frequency environment in a given location every 33 milliseconds and utilizing airwaves that are free. The Army also has been interested in this capability, known as dynamic spectrum access, even sponsoring a next-generation radio project coincidentally known as XG — no relation to the Florida company — that has been integrated into its Wireless Network After Next (WNAN) platform.

"[xG Technology] brings a capability we have not seen in any other products available today, especially in a cellular form factor," said Lt. Col. John Moelter, chief of integrations, U.S. Army Signal Center of Excellence, Fort Gordon, Ga. "As we develop new technologies for the Army, one of our biggest challenges will always be spectrum availability. Dynamic spectrum access (DSA), like the xMax capability, appears to be an efficient means of solving these spectrum issues."

John Coleman, xG Technology’s COO and a retired Marine colonel, said he joined the startup in the spring after seeing the company’s xMAX solution and realizing that it had attributes ideally suited to meet the challenges faced by the military. When troops are deployed in foreign countries — particularly hostile environments — maintaining communications can be difficult with potential interference from normal commercial operations and especially from jamming efforts conducted by both friend and foe, he said.

This is particularly true in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, where improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that can be detonated remotely using RF signaling have become a key tool for enemy forces, Coleman said.

“As we have gone to ever-higher orders of electronic warfare to jam their firing chains, we’ve also created conflict and confusion within our own command-and-control system, because the things we’ve fielded interfere with the transport layers we’re trying to command and control our forces on,” Coleman said. “It’s an exceptional challenge just not to interfere with yourself.

“If you have a jammer going that happens to be jamming a potential firing chain on an IED, then this [xMAX] radio will automatically adjust and find you clean spectrum, so that you’re communications link stays sound. There’s nothing in the commercial market or in the hands of the military currently that has that potential or does that.”

Under the terms of the contract, xMAX equipment will be sent to Fort Monmouth, N.J., the lab facility for the Communications-Electronics Research, Development, and Engineering Center (CERDEC). In addition, a multisite xMAX system will be established in the desert training area of Fort Bliss, located in Texas and New Mexico.

“The great thing is that it will go to the places soldiers need it to go, they’ll really get an opportunity to check it out in an environment that really mimics their combat environment,” Coleman said. “And, it will give us an exceptional opportunity to tailor and tool to the specific requirement, because the current state of our equipment was focused strictly on commercial applications.”

To date, many of xG Technology’s claims regarding the capabilities of its commercial wireless network that operates on unlicensed spectrum have been criticized by numerous skeptics in the wireless industry. Having the military test the xMAX system could address many of those issues, according to Rick Rotondo, xG Technology’s vice president of marketing.

“If it comes out with the military as I hope it will, not only do I think we’ll get great opportunities in [the military], but that’s really going to help validate it for other market segments” Rotondo said. “It’s a very important deal to us. We’re paying a lot of attention to it and are giving it our utmost support, just because of what it portends going forward — whether it’s with the military, military and commercial or any combination thereof. It’s a tremendous opportunity.”