All aboard! US Navy plans deployment of LTE-like networks on board warships

May 28, 2012
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    Men and women in the Navy have to make a lot of sacrifices while out at sea, being cut out from land, their families and friends for months in a row. However, US sailors might enjoy a bit of extra comfort while on service soon, as plans of fitting Navy ships with LTE-like networks surfaced last week.

    While US Navy ships are already connected to the Internet in one way or another, the speed of the service is a huge problem for sailors. Wired.com reported a while back that dial-up speeds are common while out at sea, making communication via the web difficult, to say the least, for US seamen. This is because the Internet is accessed via satellite links, which quickly get overcrowded. However, the situation might be alleviated by the deployment of a new type of communication network on board of Navy ships.

    The U.S.S. Kearsarge assault ship, the U.S.S. San Antonio transport dock, and the U.S.S. Whidbey Island dock landing ship will be the first three ships to receive a brand-new microwave-based wireless wide area network (WWAN) by the end of the year. The ships will go through some tests and the WWAN network might then be deployed on several other ships in the US Navy. The main exercise designed to test the network will see the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit board a ship that was “hijacked” by pirates. Sailors will then attempt to use their smartphones to send video and data back to the ship.

    “What we’ve collectively developed is a ruggedized, ocean-going LTE network similar to what you’d find with telecom providers like Verizon or AT&T” said Phillip Cramer, one of the VPs at BATS Wireless. BATS, founded in 2008, will be the company behind the project, helped by Oceus and Cambium.

    According to official claims, the 4G LTE network will not be part of the ships’ communications systems, but will only help sailors easily communicate via smartphones and other gadgets. The ships’ personnel will most likely use regular Android devices with NSA-provided security systems and data encryption to access the new network.

    BATS’ LTE network should work from distances of up to 20 nautical miles and offer a 300 Mbps data transfer rate. “From a speed standpoint, our aggregate throughput of 300 Mb is much greater when within line of sight than the existing satellite communications” said Doug Abbots, a spokesman for the Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command. These excellent data transfer speeds ensure time that personnel will have no problems in sharing video files, text, and voice in a matter of seconds.

    Abbots has also told Wired.com that, if the test set to take place later this year (no date has been specified) will prove successful, “there are several agencies interested in the evaluation of the system in a Maritime environment”.

    Keep in touch with our website to find out more about the development of the system in the next months.

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