Parasitic Communications


One of the challenges of operating in built-up areas is communications, urban canyons make conventional HF communications difficult and satellite communications even more difficult. It is a very broad brush statement but the lower frequency the greater the range but higher attenuation and lower bandwidth.

This is why mobile telephone networks, especially 3G, with a requirement for many users in a small geographic area and high bandwidth use higher frequencies, GSM is typically 900MHZ for example, compared to 3 to 30MHZ for HF and 30 to 300MHZ for VHF. With a lower frequency also comes a higher wavelength and it is the wavelength that dictates antenna size.

The downside to a mobile network though is the need to have a fixed infrastructure of transmitters with a relatively small geographic footprint. This makes it wholly unsuitable to the needs of military communication. Military communications, therefore, must bring its infrastructure with it and with this comes cost, complexity, weight and the need for lots of power. That power is usually provided by vehicular or portable generators that need fuel, fuel needs transport, transport needs fuel, people and security, and they need feeding and well, you get the picture.

So anything that reduces power reduces the logistic tail and is ‘a good thing’

A story this week caught my eye on the subject of hijacking domestic wireless routers to create an ad-hoc network for emergency responders.

The paper describes an experiment to measure the density of wireless access routers and those with open access in a typical small town in Germany. It then discusses having a remote switch capability built-in that allows authorised first responders to utilise those devices in an ad-hoc peer to the peer mesh network. Once the network is established any type of traffic can be passed over it, encrypted voice or data for example.

WiFi has very low power requirements in comparison with HF or VHF for example, as I said above, low power is always a good thing.

Of course, this is not any form of solution on its own and there is the small issue of the absence of any form of first responder switch in current designs, no legislative or regulatory framework and the lack of WiFi hotspots in the Upper Gereshk Valley but the principle is nonetheless interesting.

The Future Character of Conflict recognises the increasing likelihood of operations in urban areas and urban areas are likely to have an increasing number of wireless routers, even those is non-western countries, whilst still being a problematical environment for communications as today.

In the future, communication devices may be able to hijack any number of networks to create an ad-hoc mesh, WiFi, GSM, 3G, Tetra and smart meter networks in addition to using traditional HF/VHF/UHF radios.

Click here to read the paper

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