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December 8, 2021updated 22 Dec 2021 9:53am

Secure communications in any conditions

By Juliet Martin

As military forces increase and upgrade their fleets, effective and reliable communications are more essential than ever.

The ability to share situational and environmental information and coordinate between units can provide a huge strategic advantage in combat – and even make the difference between life and death. For example, an emergency medevac request, known as a 9-line, provides essential information including pickup location and types of injuries to enable safe and timely medevac rescue.

The software underlying a communications system is fundamental, providing the stability, security and reliability which is essential in conflict zones – but many existing options struggle to cope with challenging conditions and limited bandwidth.

Enter XMPP, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol. Originally designed for stable, high bitrate networks, military communications expert Isode has adapted XMPP to function on constrained and unreliable networks to provide an ideal communications solution for challenging environments.

Already a common open standard for instant messaging, XMPP has been widely adopted in the western military communications market.

Communication is key

This constant relay of information between units and base stations is fundamental to military operations.

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This demands high-performance communications systems. The global tactical communication market is enormous and growing, estimated to be worth USD 147.8bn by 2029. Demand for communications equipment with ever more sophisticated capabilities is surging, and this trend is forecast to continue over the next ten years.

Overall, military IT and C4ISR contracts are estimated to be worth USD 100bn, with almost 75% of these contracts focusing on cyber security and military networks and secure communications networks being a focal point and clear strategic driver.

Introducing XMPP

In the face of the challenging environmental conditions, cyber security risks and bandwidth limitations that come with operating in denied and degraded communications environments, these communications systems must be bolstered by secure, reliable, ruggedised protocols. Beneath the surface of essential person-to-person communications lies the vital plumbing of communications software.

Many operators in both academia and industry, including the military, already use XMPP as a powerful tool for communications, as it offers numerous advantages including real-time capabilities, efficient data distribution, service discovery and inter-domain communications.

Instant messaging capabilities are increasingly important for military communications. Compared to alternatives like voice, video, or formal messaging, XMPP is far more practical, less cumbersome, and enables communication between a much greater number of users than traditional messaging systems of a similar scope.

As a result, it is now widely used for military deployments.

Isode provides XMPP server, gateway and client products specifically designed to suit military deployments. Available off-the-shelf, Isode’s XMPP products facilitate instant messaging and multi-user chat in the most challenging conditions.

Reliability where it matters

Military communications networks must be reliable and secure in any conditions, including in degraded and denied network environments, meaning vital information can be shared when it really matters. They must be able to operate even where connectivity infrastructure is lacking, since satellite network bandwidths are often constrained in combat areas, with high latency and difficult operational characteristics threatening communication integrity.

Isode has adapted XMPP to enable military communications that remain reliable in unstable environments and over low bitrate networks, making it a prime candidate for these applications. It is able to operate over any network, even low bitrate HF radio networks.

Importance of interoperability

Countries often have several national military networks, along with separate networks for specific missions. An effective communications solution must be able to operate across these networks to allow different teams to share information.

XMPP is well-suited for standardisation, allowing the interconnection of heterogeneous components and the integration of partner networks. This opens the door for the development of a rich protocol family with high functionality and security capabilities.

XMPP is the current NATO open standard for chat and presence. Widely used by military organisations in different countries, this makes interoperability far easier to achieve. Isode staff members are deeply involved in the development of open standards across the industry, having participated in standards setting bodies such as the IETF and the XMPP Standards Foundation (XSF).

Isode’s cross-domain XMPP product M-Link Edge allows inter-domain communication while maintaining any required information flow restrictions for security.

Built for success

As military operations demand ever more sophisticated communications capabilities, the reliability, integrity, and interoperability of the underlying software is increasingly crucial.

Organisations that select the most powerful, robust, and scalable options will benefit from secure, reliable communications in any conditions. In this critical environment, effective information exchange can be the cornerstone of an operation’s success.

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