U.S. Army shifts from radios to VoIP technology

  • 28-Aug-2015 02:32 EDT
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Internet Protocols will become more important as military planners track and direct military vehicles in the field.

The U.S. military is moving closer to its goal of letting disparate groups of warfighters communicate freely. The U.S. Army has adopted an Internet Protocol-based communications system that lets any radio transmissions be sent over broadband networks.

The Army recently inked a deal to deploy Motorola Solutions’ WAVE software technology across its portfolio. WAVE converts two-way radio communication into a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) so any authorized IP device can participate in voice communications, eliminating many of the silos that have made it difficult for various groups to communicate.

"This procurement establishes a standard solution across all Army units and the ability to link with other Department of Defense agencies including U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. Marine Corps," said Col. Michael Thurston, the Army’s Project Manager Mission Command.

The technology will also help military personnel communicate when they move into disaster areas, where they often work with international groups. WAVE provides seamless transitions between radios and IP-based systems. It will help vehicle drivers stay in touch over many types of communications networks.

“Radio is still the communication device of choice, but it’s impractical to have a single radio system that spans the entire world,” said James Mustarde, WAVE Broadband Product Marketing Manager at Motorola Solutions. “At some point, trucks will be beyond the range of radios. This lets them keep in touch using IP networks. We’re agnostic, it doesn’t matter whether someone has a radio or is connected to an IP network.”

The role of IP technologies in military branches is expanding rapidly. A number of DOD projects are exploring strategies for using smart phones and tablets to augment conventional communication technologies. WAVE is among the first to move from research to widespread deployment.

“If someone is using a cell phone, they can open an app that turns their smart phone into a radio handset,” Mustarde said. “Then they can basically push to talk and connect to anyone with a radio handset, including someone using a similar app on a phone or tablet.”

The Army’s WAVE contract highlights the DOD’s focus on network-centric warfare. Providing bandwidth for this changeover has been a critical focus for military planners in recent years.

“In the battlefield, bandwidth was a limiting factor,” Mustarde said. “But that’s changing rapidly, streaming video is becoming common in many zones.”

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