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ISSN 1416-300X Volume 6, Issue 1,2&3 March 2003





by Major Ian Thomas of Australian Army and Mr Alec Umansky of Defence Communications Industry Pty Ltd


A portable three-channel (P3) communications system, which provides voice and data over copper cables, has proved integral to achieving a complete solution for out of barracks logistics and as a platform for diverse C4I applications.


An Australian company, Defence Communications Industry Pty Ltd, in collaboration with Australian Army Signallers and the Army Standard Defence Supply System (SDSS) project team, developed the P3. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) had a need to develop a solution that allowed its Land Local Area Network (LAN) Communications to be extended to field deployed logistics units. The resulting deployment of SDSS supported by a stand-alone version of SDSS called FLMS (Field Logistics Management System) provides seamless 'in and out of barracks' communications.


The extension of LAN communications was made possible with the use of P3 and having been operationally proven by ADF is now included in its new standard for field deployed communications.


P3 offers great flexibility with up to 8Mbit/s of bandwidth on each of its three independent transmission channels using the medium of plain or reinforced (WD1T 'DON10') copper cable. Each channel can be configured as Master or Slave to effectively manage the bandwidth in multiples of 8 Mbit/s over distances of up to 5Kms and beyond when configured as a repeater.


Another important issue addressed by ADF was the need to provide redundant links (backup) for downed fibre optic networks - a regular occurrence in the field. Signallers can easily and cheaply repair copper cable, in sharp contrast to fibre optic cable, resulting in significant cost savings with no loss of capability. Furthermore, P3 provides integrated telephony; analogue voice and VoIP; supports video conferencing, is scalable and robust yet remains easy to use. DMT modulation inherent in DSL technology means that P3 can withstand operation in a noisy environment and adverse climatic conditions.


Similarly, the British Army is seeking to improve the manner in which it delivers its out of barracks logistics and supply support. A recent successful trial by UNICOM OOB (Out Of Barracks) proved the P3's viability in a specific local environment. Importantly, P3's bandwidth and telephony capability were seen by the trial team as an important advantage in a wider Army tactical communications usage.


The Canadian Army is trialling the product for an innovative 'Fire Control' application where the device provides data as well as voice command extensions from a ballistics computer to individual gun positions. Again, the use of copper as the main communications medium is not only significantly cheaper but enhances functionality by providing seamless back up links by utlising spare P3 transmission channels.


Transmission Security
On the issue of secure networks, a high level of data integrity is achieved through P3's inherent DMT modulation technology. This transmission technology distributes data over 300 individual frequency carriers. During initialisation, each of the carriers is tested for its integrity and only those carriers that are not affected by interferences are activated. During this time, data packets are scrambled across active carriers. The effective result of the data transmission can be equated with that of a 'one time pad' - a unique transmission as data scrambling parameters exist between two directly connected P3s only. The greater the number of users on any given data link, the greater the scrambling effect. No external device would be capable of "listening in" to the setting up of the transmission parameters process, as the technology provides for two terminal devices only during the line initialisation. In the event of a copper line being cut, the transmission stops. Similarly, should an external 'listening' device be introduced, the initialised transmission parameters will alter and interrupt transmission.


Apart from Tactical C4I extensions, P3 can be used in variety of applications. It can function in a stand-alone mode with its own rechargeable power source, as well as being operated remotely. LAN interfaces allow connectivity of video cameras, sensors and other telemetry monitoring devices. Immediate applications are: rapid restoration of communications in road tunnels, when main network links are downed and as a viable backup to fibre optic networks. With independent voice telephony which operates even when no data links are established, the system provides an ideal disaster recovery communications tool for use by Emergency Services agencies worldwide.

The P3 technology offers significant benefits over fibre-optic systems for cost effective, scaleable, rugged yet soldier friendly communications in the tactical environment.

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