ONR's 'game changing' research could greatly expand wireless network capacity

The limits on bandwidth are a reality of wireless networks, especially when they are carrying cloaked messages in order to keep communications secret. Research being done at the Office of Naval Research, however, could greatly increase a wireless network’s capacity by increasing its efficiency.

As ONR noted, one of the difficulties in covert communication is that transmissions must be cloaked or masked, which, while effectively hiding vital information, requires a substantial amount of bandwidth that ultimately limits the size of messages and the speed at which they’re transmitted. 

The research conducted by one of ONR scientist Dr. Syed Jafar – who won the 2015 Blavatnik National Award for Young Scientists for his research on this topic – could expand wireless network capability to allow for more users, more devices and more speed. 

This research “determines how much user capacity a wireless network (a series of signal transmitters and receivers) can hold. With the rapid growth of—and need for—civilian and military wireless networks, this knowledge quest has taken on unprecedented urgency,” according to an ONR release.

Jafar explained that previous efforts to ameliorate bandwidth problems were inefficient. Typically, he said, wireless providers will divide the available bandwidth up into slices, which, as more users are added to a network, creates smaller rations for each. 

Jafar discovered that different mathematical formulas and algorithms designed for wireless signals can potentially filter out undesired signals, making interference less intrusive and allowing each user to access half the total bandwidth without interference. This method also has supplemental benefits secondary to ameliorating bandwidth issues; it naturally jams undesired signals ensuring secure communication because only desired signals are visible at individual receivers the ONR release stated.

“This means that, in a network of 20 users, each person’s available bandwidth can increase by a factor of 10,” Jafar said. “In theory, everyone gets half the cake instead of one-twentieth. This principle can apply to networks of varying sizes.”

Jafar’s work, however, is still at the theoretical stage and must be developed further, but it would have wide-ranging ramifications if successfully brought to initial operational capability.

“Dr. Jafar has conducted game-changing research in the study of wireless network capacity,” said Program Officer Dr. Satanu Das. “This has helped us explore new frontiers in bandwidth efficiency for military communication networks.”

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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