Mobile IP nets on the go

While work continues on the core mobile ad hoc network (MANET) routing protocols, other mobile networking methods are being deployed and tested, including mobile IP networking. In this approach, communication takes place between a home agent (a designated router housed at a fixed location) and a mobile router, which may be installed on a ship or a moving vehicle. The mobile router, in turn, may be linked to various mobile devices such as personal digital assistants or notebook computers.

"The home agent enables the identification of a roaming or moving entity in the network and ties [the entity] seamlessly into the fixed infrastructure," said Donna Rhode, director of product strategy and marketing for Cisco Systems Inc.'s Government Systems Unit.

Last year, NASA and Cisco collaborated with the Coast Guard on a mobile IP pilot. A mobile router was installed on the cutter Neah Bay. When close to its homeport on Lake Erie, the cutter was able to access the Coast Guard network via an 802.11 wireless connection. When crossing the Great Lakes, the cutter used "foreign agent" routers linked to the home agent and stationed along the shipping channels, according to a white paper authored by Will Ivancic, a senior research engineer at NASA's Glenn Research Center.

Since the Neah Bay demonstration, NASA has been working to make mobile IP more scalable and exploring the deployment of the networks across agency firewalls, according to Ivancic.

TeleCommunication Systems Inc., meanwhile, offers deployable communications systems. U.S. Special Operations units recently used the company's SwiftLink product in Iraq. SwiftLink consists of a laptop computer, an Integrated Services Digital Network terminal adapter, an Inmarsat terminal, dial-up connectivity, a voice router and an encryption device. The particular model used in Iraq weighs about 53 pounds and supports up to eight users.

TeleCommunication Systems officials said the company is beginning to approach the public safety market with its product.

Avaya Inc. offers its Mobile Communication Network, a preconfigured system for voice and data communications that is housed in a portable, ruggedized case. It integrates an IP-PBX for IP telephony with wired and wireless local-area network equipment. Avaya officials said the Marine Corps uses the solution for mobile command post applications.

Which mobile method will best solve first responders' challenges? That's an open question. In the meantime, the research and development continues.

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