The U.S. Navy’s first high-speed cell network will be put to use aboard its ships beginning in March.
The brand new 4G LTE network is a microwave-based wireless wide-area network (WWAN) that will augment the satellite-based communications on board the ships.
Up to 400 sailors and Marines who go through training on the 4G LTE network will be equipped with LG smartphones running Android.
The devices will facilitate calls, text, and data transfer between ships from up to 20 nautical miles’ distance; between decks on board the ships; and, critically, to relay data between Marine helicopters and the ships below.
“The air node will allow them to have a mobile air network. We want to test that for anti-piracy missions,” says Doug Abbotts, a spokesman for the Navy’s Naval Air Systems Command, which has been working on the network since 2009.
“The air node goes over the suspected pirate [via the helicopter] and the people who are advancing on the pirates, so they can shoot video through sensors on the helicopters and that video can be transferred to the ship via the network, or transmitted to a patrol boat” responding to a pirate attack.
If the network works as intended, then the situational awareness involved in a pirate attack can filter down to individual sailors and Marines practically in real time.
Indiana-based BATS Wireless, one of the companies hired to construct the network, said it should be able to provide 300 megabits per second’s worth of data.