This Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) Phase I project will develop leap-ahead improvement to public safety radio networks (PSRN). The problems associated with communication during a catastrophic event are well documented. One area of particular concern is the unreliability of PSRN. Generally speaking the PSRN performance is worst when the system is needed most; in the early stages of a disaster response. For example, the 9-11 Commission Recommendation Card released on Sept. 1, 2011, specifically identified the PSRN for first responders as a major weakness in disaster preparedness. Further, the simple allocation of additional spectrum in public safety radio bands will not fully address the problem. Taking into account the unique restrictions attached to PSRN, this project will provide leap-ahead improvement in efficiency of wireless communication bandwidth by minimizing the harmful effects of interference and allowing graceful degradation of wireless systems. The program will utilize recently developed RF interference cancellation technologies and apply them to commercial wireless communication applications. Further new resource allocation algorithms will be developed. The initial focus will be on public safety radio networks, but can be applied a wide range of wireless systems.
The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to address the demand for RF bandwidth which has been growing exponentially. This demand is driven by almost unlimited consumer demand for wireless communication services. Though broadband wireless access networks appear to be ubiquitous, we are rapidly running out of bandwidth as the radio spectrum becomes more crowded. By 2015, the demand for data traffic is expected to increase by over 3000%, according to Bernstein Research. To accommodate such an increase in usage, cell towers are being located closer together, thus increasing their interference. In addition, the Federal Communication Commission regulates bandwidth usage with a very static allocation approach. As a result, large amounts of spectrum are underutilized while other parts of the spectrum are saturated, creating unnecessary bottlenecks. The proposed program will demonstrate technology that will substantially improve the efficiency of spectrum usage.
When a natural disaster or other major emergency occurs, first responders need to coordinate a quick response over wireless communications networks. During emergency situations, however, these public safety radio systems often get overloaded, which poses a serious threat to the quality of communication among first responders. To solve this problem, Bascom Hunter has introduced two technologies. Each technology independently can improve the performance of public safety radio networks, but when combined they provide revolutionary improvement in network performance, stability, and capacity at a low total cost. The first technology is an active interference cancellation system that effectively removes interference over a broad frequency range. Bascom Hunter has demonstrated that the system can reduce the interference power to ten-thousandth of its original power level for multiple communication channels simultaneously. Bascom Hunter has also characterized the quality of communication improvement using the system with existing public safety radios. The team measured how many bits of data received over a channel had been altered by interference, noise, distortion or other errors, often finding a high rate of error. Using the interference cancellation system, the team was able to obtain the number of erroneous bits that was the same as when no interference was present. In other words, the radio could communicate error free when the cancellation system was activated in the presence of interference. The second technology is resource optimization software. To alleviate the problem of overloaded public safety radio systems, Bascom Hunter has specially designed intelligent, bandwidth-efficient channel allocation schemes. Specifically, the software is able to prioritize certain users when assigning available channels; it drops inactive "eavesdroppers" and increases available spectrum for active users. In addition, using data from the Louisiana public safety radio networks in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac (2012), Bascom Hunter has prepared guidelines to help network administrators to properly prioritize the users. The result is a dramatic and sustainable increase in spectrum availability. These tools—the interference cancellation system and the resource optimization software—will thus allow network operators to diagnose and resolve capacity problems, network health, and interference. By relieving the currently overloaded public safety radio networks, Bascom Hunterâ€™s system facilitates clear communication for first responders as they serve and protect threatened communities.