Wanted: Secure mobile ad-hoc network with 5,000 nodes

Never shy about being on the cutting edge, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) issued a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input on what it would take to scale a mobile ad-hoc network (MANET) to serve up to 5,000 nodes, on the fly and securely.

Current MANETs used by troops tend to fizzle out after about 50 nodes. "For the past 20 years, researchers have unsuccessfully used Internet-based concepts in attempts to significantly scale MANETs," said DARPA.

So, the agency is seeking revolutionary ideas unencumbered by Internet protocols because, it said, "in this technology area the Internet may be the roadblock."

"A MANET of a thousand nodes could support an entire battalion without the need for manual network setup, management and maintenance that comes from 'switchboard'-era communications," said Mark Rich, DARPA program manager. "This could provide more troops with robust services such as real-time video imagery, enhanced situational awareness and other services that we have not yet imagined."

Though the MANET project is aimed at improving communications for troops, DARPA's research projects have laid the groundwork for numerous commercial IT and high-tech products over the years. In a recent speech, covered by Virtual-Strategy Magazine, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar described "a virtuous cycle (of) defense needs and commercial opportunity."

For more:
- see this DARPA release
- see this Network World article

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DARPA wants secure military wireless networks