Software Defined Radios Spur Waveform Innovation and Competition

{Editor’s note: This article was provided by Dr. Sungill Kim, Director of Product Management and Strategic Partnerships at TrellisWare Technologies. Dr. Kim explains how software-defined radios uniquely stimulate innovation in the form of waves and competition that amplify the need for military communications.}

Software-defined radio stations (SDRs) have been used for tactical communication for decades, but SDRs still allow innovations in tactical waveforms. The premise of SDR is to abstract the waveform as software so that SDR hardware can be programmed to support many different waveforms – including critical inherited waveforms (such as SINCGARS), current and emerging waves, future waveforms. and future improvements to waveforms.

SDRs differ from radios that have a waveform implementation fixed in application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs). In a radio architecture that uses ASIC waveform chips, waveform upgrades are not possible without changing the hardware. Due to this distinction, SDRs are common to the newest, most capable and most reliable radio stations. For example, the US military’s HMS portfolio has multiple vendors with largely consistent SDR architectures. SOCOM also uses SDR on manual and manpack.

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The widespread use of SDRs by the US military has many advantages. First, the fact that each SDR can support many waveforms encourages competition among commercial signal providers. In fact, the U.S. military uses the paradigm to test and introduce new capabilities every two years, fostering both opportunities and competition between wave suppliers and in turn stimulating innovation.

Another important example is the adoption of TSMTM waveform from the US military. Many of the U.S. Army’s Enrollment Program (PoR) was developed before the Army decided to adopt the TSM. TrellisWare Technologies, Inc. developed the TSM signal format as a commercial product without knowledge of vendor SDR designs. And yet, in short, the form of the TSM signal is transmitted to the platforms of the army package. The TSM waveform is a critical capability for the military, which scales up to hundreds of nodes in a single 1.2 MHz radio frequency channel, providing voice, data, and position location (PLI) information throughout the battalion. The U.S. military has confirmed in field trials that the TSM signal format is stable for the tactical environment.

TrellisWare continues to improve the waveform of TSM by innovating new features. SDRs that are already deployed with TSM can be easily upgraded, allowing the user to have the most up-to-date capabilities. Examples of new capabilities could be significant improvements in scope, scalability, and performance. These new innovations can only be delivered to the user quickly and cost-effectively as upgraded software if the user has an SDR.

SDRs allow early testing and field exercises of new abilities and technologies. This early field testing allows for feedback from combatants with sufficient time to modify or adjust the ability to ensure successful deployment. In short, innovation can also be shared with the consumer community, and this is in line with the military’s point of contact model.

SDRs also have the unique ability to support the introduction of technologies to combat emerging threats. The US military must prepare for imminent threats with complex electronic warfare (EW) capabilities. New sustainable waveforms such as Warrior Robust Enhanced Networking Narrowband (WREN NB) or new interference mitigation algorithms can be transferred to existing SDRs. This flexibility and adaptability cannot be achieved with ASIC-based radio architectures.

Another important advantage of the SDR paradigm is that the same waveform can be in many different vendor SDRs by waveform transfer. The presence of a common waveform promotes interoperability between radio stations from different radio providers. Interoperability allows the market to function effectively and expands the radio market. This can be seen in the market of army radio stations, as the adoption of the TSM signal form increases the demand for army radio stations. The interoperability of waveforms also encourages new demand for SDRs. For example, the US military was ready to create a new capability for single-channel SDRs that host the TSM signal format and were confident that there would be no interoperability issues. Many radio providers have been able to respond to this possibility with the confidence that the TSM waveform can be transmitted to their SDRs. In other words, there is a positive feedback between wave innovation and innovation in SDRs.

In conclusion, software-defined radios support the past, present, and future of tactical communications. They are a vital asset for the readiness of our troops and a strategic advantage over our opponents.