“Network in a Box”
Wireless Mobile Ad-hoc Networks (MANETs) are rapidly gaining popularity as a situational awareness communications technology due to their rapidly deployable, self-configuring characteristics. MANETs also excel in the field for both voice and data communication due to their ability to function without the assistance of an existing wireless infrastructure. MANETs can be set up as standalone networks or can be connected to external networks, such as the Internet.
“MANET applications and deployments present drastically different network connection topologies and, therefore, place different stresses on network designs,” said Jeff Harris, vice president of wireless systems for MANET system developer TrellisWare Technologies, based in San Diego.
Conventional network operation in caves or mines, for example, typically creates a line network or “string-of-pearls” topology. Within mountains or below the earth, a single link failure will instantly silence multi-hop communications, leaving users without situational awareness. This is a problem that can be solved by using a self-healing MANET.
Meanwhile, in urban settings, network nodes are often either sparsely distributed or clustered near each other. In dense node distributions, conventional network approaches often fail because they require constant registration and tracking of the network connection topology, such as neighbor tables, routing tables and link state information. Because a MANET has no need for such data, it can provide rapid self-forming and self-healing capabilities with even large numbers or nodes clumped closely together.
“With a MANET that’s scalable, I can put 10, 20, 50, 100 or 500 [users] all on that same network,” Harris said. “They’re all now connected automatically and transparently, no matter how they move around, and that blanket coverage creates a carrier between all those users, and on that carrier you can move a lot of different kinds of data.”