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Knowledge of wireless broadcast technology improves interference resistance

Military wireless technology is resistant to interference, but has low capacity. Civilian wireless technology has high capacity, but inferior interference resistance. An FOI report shows how the two technologies can learn from one another.

The military quarter sometimes looks with envy on civilian wireless technology. It is inexpensive, has a great deal of data capacity and is developing quickly. The deficiencies, however, are alarming. A disconnected telephone call while travelling on a train is not the end of the world; it is just a matter of calling back. However, if the connection between an operation commander and an individual soldier is lost, the situation can turn dire. Interference resistance, though, is expensive in terms of both capacity and money.

Civilian wireless technology works very well in many cases. Many users, however, are tempted to sacrifice interference resistance to save money or improve capacity.

- We see examples of how the industry uses disturbance sensitive technology for cranes, door openers and mobile robots, which can lead to serious incidents, says Peter Stenumgaard who was in charge of the FOI investigation.

There are also incidents of police and fire brigade communication being disrupted. Interference equipment can also cause home alarms, loop alarms and other alarms that transmit via the GSM network to dysfunction.

- We know that jammers have been used during armoured car robberies to block alarms sent via the mobile network. We know that the signal from remote car keys can be disrupted at large car parks so that the car doors do not lock, and that petty thieves with pocket jamming devices can leave shops with stolen goods without the alarm sounding, says Peter Stenumgaard.

In its report, FOI outlines several measures to balance interference resistance with capacity:

  • The industry must show greater willingness to invest in interference resistance technology for critical applications, even if doing so is expensive.
  • Civilian systems with functionality that must work in emergency situations need to take advantage of the military's knowledge in terms of interference resistant systems.
  • The military can learn about quick and flexible system development of wireless systems from the civilian sector.
  • Market participants, which now generally attempt to resolve radio interference problems on their own, need to learn more about interference risks.

One important factor when making a choice between robustness and capacity involves understanding how vulnerability can vary and what it entails.

- Wireless Internet reacts to interference by the connection slowing down, while the connection for mobile traffic disconnects completely. The question that has to be addressed is if it acceptable to use the technology even if it is slow. If so, technology to save money and increase capacity can be chosen, says Peter Stenumgaard.

He says that FOI has unique know-how in terms of performing investigations in the borderland between civilian and military security.

- FOI understands the robust systems used by the military, which is of interest to the industry since we also understand commercial radio traffic.

FOI, Swedish Defence Research Agency

Swedish Defence Research Agency
SE-164 90 Stockholm

Phone +46 8 555 030 00
Fax +46 8 555 031 00

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