Tactical communications often benefit from thinking outside of the box. Whether dealing with civil emergency, act of God, or the fluidity of a combat environment, what we consider normal for voice and data unfortunately often fails when we most need it. xG Technology has recently teamed with the US Army to demonstrate an interesting communications alternative in the form of its xMax Cognitive Cellular Network solution.
For those not familiar with Fort Bliss, the Army does desert training at the sprawling Texas installation. With a landscape much like that found in the Middle East, Bliss is perfect for highly realistic combat simulations. And for the uninitiated, xG Technology is a communications manufacturer with a unique approach to IP-based voice and data communications. Mix it all up, and soon the stark terrain of Fort Bliss will feature an xMax proprietary wide area and tactical cellular system that will be evaluated for future suitability in the role of military communications, and potential civil applications. I spoke with xG's COO, retired USMC Col. John Coleman and VP of Marketing Rick Rotondo about the Fort Bliss initiative, and what the future might mean for the xMax product set.
Coleman's career as a communication-savvy infantry officer gives him a first-hand perspective of the challenges of military communications, whether the scenario is disaster relief or combat. Given that xMax uses the principles of cognitive radio (smart enough to use available frequency dynamically to avoid competing signals) in the unlicensed 900 MHz ISM band, Coleman believes the solution's cellular architecture is a good fit "down range" where service members work their various trades. xMax has a current product line that includes handsets, and required core hardware that is proprietary within its own borders, but compatible with industry-standard SIP environments beyond the xMax gateway. Coleman describes the long-range, interference-avoidance advantages of the xMax system, and Rotondo told of the product's ability to optimize SIP's functioning to reduce overhead.
Deployment of base stations in military or disaster scenarios might be aircraft-mounted for temporary needs, mounted on an aerostat for longer-term cell coverage, or vehicle-mounted. The Fort Bliss trials will help define what is possible as xMax and the Army get to know each other, and lessons learned should eventually carry to the civilian world.
xG Technology has had its share of critics through the years largely due to the company's exotic approaches to wireless, but Rotondo notes that anyone interested in trying the technology is welcome to come to theFlorida campus and try the company's test network. Other interesting aspects of xMax include the goal of an adaptive sleeve that would let smartphones like iPhone and Droid function in the proprietary 900 MHz world of xMax, and the ability for cognitive radio to leverage the promise of the newly available wireless white space frequencies.