R&D efforts on radio communications are being intensified as defense establishments have realized the need for empowering their personnel with the latest generation of tactical radios. Software-defined radio (SDR) is expected to evolve into cognitive radio (CR), which has the potential to transform the dynamics of communications in the future.
In the United States, SDR and CR technologies are poised to replace legacy hardware in the defense domain with the deployment of radio systems that support over-the-air (OTA) software.
New analysis from Frost & Sullivan (technicalinsights.frost.com), SDR & CR: Strategic Portfolio Management, finds that besides driving defense and public safety infrastructure, SDR systems are expected to assume importance in driving commercial wireless communications.
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"SDRs can ideally implement any waveform, tune into any frequency band, transmit/receive with any modulation and support various systems, protocols and interfaces," notes Technical Insights Research Analyst Archit Subramanian. "Furthermore, they support speeds of 100 Mbps, which is significantly higher than those supported by contemporary systems of 100 Mbps."
Size, weight, and power (SWaP) reduction continues to be a key challenge in the defense arena as progress has been relatively limited compared to the advancements in the consumer electronic space. While manufacturers have been actively attempting to reduce the size and footprint of radio systems, power regulation and robustness remain serious concerns. This has forced the miniaturization of radio systems into a standstill.
Fuel cells seemed the ideal solution for this issue; however, they are unable to match the performance levels attained by conventional high-density batteries. As a result, developers in this space have found it difficult to deal with thermal dissipation associated with the new breed of high-speed processor systems.
Cost is another factor constraining market progression. Although the development cost of SDRs continues to remain high, there is likely to be a decline after the initial spate of testing is carried out. Cost efficiency and economy are the new guiding philosophies in the acquisition community.
Increased packaging or bulk buys of equipment through indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity (IDIQ) contracts will be the norm for future procurements to ensure reduced unit costs. Products with demonstrable lower life cycle costs will score high with acquisition selection boards.
"Nearly 80 percent of the development cost of any new radio application is in the underlying software powering it. Ensuring that the software is portable from one platform to another is vital for the new lineup of radios," says Archit. "To meet this goal, military SDRs must support a standards-based communications infrastructure with standards-based hardware interfaces."
The obsolescence of communications electronics occurs at a faster rate than that allowed by the acquisition cycle, and therefore, war fighters are often left with outdated or outmoded devices in comparison with commercial developments. Delays in acquisition are often due to the rigorous standards and testing required to field new pieces of military hardware, especially items or programs deemed novel or with high risk, such as military SDR.
Due to the inherent risk associated with the acquisition community, incumbent programs of record, such as SINCGARS, are relied upon to deliver solutions quickly and efficiently. Such incumbency distorts the markets against new product offerings by participants.
SDR & CR: Strategic Portfolio Management, a part of the Technical Insights subscription, assesses the diverse factors influencing the developments in the SDR/CR space. The study provides an evaluation of key component technologies enabling the SDR and CR paradigms, with the goal of aiding research institutions and corporate developers in managing their respective R&D portfolios in this sector. Further, this research service includes detailed technology analysis and industry trends evaluated following extensive interviews with market participants.
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