UCLA spinoff to help DARPA increase network bandwidth

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has tapped a spinoff of the University of California at Los Angeles to advance mobile ad hoc network  technology (MANET).

DARPA awarded Los Angeles-based Silvus Communication Systems a $5.96 million contract in April to build and demonstrate multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) wireless communications technology for MANETs. MIMO uses multiple antennas in radio links. Multiple data streams are transmitted in parallel from different antennas, so each pair of antennas added to a communications system results in a linear increase in throughput, according to the company.

Consequently, MIMO increases throughput without increasing bandwidth, said Babak Daneshrad, Silvus Communication’s founder and chairman.

“Over time, people’s appetite for throughput has increased,” Daneshrad said. “You had voice, now you have video and imaging. Consequently, the links have to become fatter.”

For DARPA, Silvus aims to develop an eight-node MANET with MIMO-enabled links. If successful, additional installments of the project will follow, leading to a 20-node MANET demonstration.

Daneshrad said the DARPA project seeks to “take MIMO out of the realm of experimental platforms and into the realm of operational platforms.”

MIMO communication systems “have the potential to increase data rates by 10 to 20 times above current systems,” according to DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office.

Boosting throughput is one option, but network engineers deploying MANETs with MIMO-enabled links may decide to keep throughput constant and increase range and coverage. Or they could keep throughput, range and coverage constant and conserve battery life.

This flexibility will let mobile-network builders “optimize transmission and scheduling and topology to fit the mission need,” Daneshrad said.

Silvus Communication’s DARPA contract is the second awarded under the agency’s Mobile Networked MIMO project. In 2004, Lucent Technologies won a one-year, $11.5 million research and development contract. Daneshrad characterized his company’s Phase 2 contract as the largest the company, which was launched in July 2004, has won. The contract’s initial award value could increase depending on the tasks DARPA assigns.

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