Army

Network Planning and Optimization

Cellular networks, especially those used in the test and training domain, are often required to satisfy stringent performance requirements of coverage and throughput, while meeting resource constraints. These networks often operate in an environment where interference from transmissions in other networks operating in the same or neighboring areas may cause conflicts. To ensure that the network can reliably provide the service required of it, such conflicts must be identified and mitigated prior to deployment.

Integrated Planning of Tactical, Test Support, and Tactical Engagement Networks (IPT3N) is a network planning capability being developed under a project funded by the Science & Technology (S&T) Program of the Test Resource Management Center (TRMC). The primary objective of IPT3N is to aid in the planning of range networks, including those used in Operational Tests (OTs) or training events. OTs are expensive and cannot be rerun easily. Hence, it is critical that the laydown of the range network, typically referred to as the Test Support Network (TSN), that is used to collect relevant metrics on the operation of the Networked System Under Test (NSUT) be such that that it can reliably provide the required communication services for the Exercise Controller (ExCon).

Existing network planning tools are limited in their capabilities. Current tools that use coverage maps only account for received signal strength at the physical layer from a specific network but do not consider the dynamic impact on the application layer traffic volume and Quality of Service (QoS). Similarly, the existing software tools for determining cell tower or access point placement are insufficient as they typically handle range and capacity issues separately.

To address these gaps, SCALABLE is developing IPT3N to provide a capability for planning, optimizing, and visualizing cellular networks used on test and training ranges. IPT3N is a simulation-based framework that provides a suite of semi-automated tools to reduce the complexity of network planning for test and training ranges, thereby reducing costs and increasing realism of the Operational Test and Training events.

IPT3N employs simulation and optimization techniques to provide a planning capability that can propose an optimized network layout (base station locations) and network configuration (e.g., antenna height, slot allocation/transmission schedules) that can provide the required coverage and network capacity. The recommendations are based on the terrain and other features of the geographical area where the network is to be deployed and mobility patterns of the communication devices in the NSUT or network. IPT3N can also assess the energy requirements of the various components to determine whether the battery/energy resources are adequate for the required duration (e.g., the duration of a test or training event).

A central requirement in test and training events is that the Test Support Network (TSN) provide sufficient coverage and bandwidth to ensure:

  • Personnel and platforms participating in the event can be monitored
  • All traffic needed to monitor the participants, both live and constructive, is delivered to the Exercise Control (ExCon) in a timely manner for accurate computation of Real Time Casualty Assessment (RTCA)
  • The energy requirements of the various transmitters and other mobile equipment deployed as part of the TSN do not exceed battery capacity during the course of the Operational Test (OT). (Tower locations have a direct impact on the power required for satisfactory network service quality.)

For a successful test or training event, the access points or towers of the TSN must be located such that they can meet the preceding requirements. On most ranges, towers are an expensive asset to deploy and monitor during the test, and as such they must be managed optimally: using more towers than needed will drive up the cost of the event, and having insufficient coverage may raise concerns on the validity of the data collected during the test. The primary goals of IPT3N is to provide an automated capability for planning and optimizing range network laydowns to meet specified coverage, bandwidth, and power consumption requirements.

Network Planning Framework to Support Mobile Communications

IPT3N, an integrated simulation-based network planning framework with a set of semi-automated tools reduces the complexity of network planning. For example, it can be used to determine the tower locations for a LTE network layout in Yosemite National Park. The park has numerous and varied terrain features that create a challenging and complex wireless environment. We are going to show how IPT3N can be used to automatically determine suitable tower locations based on the terrain and channel characteristics to create a LTE network layout to provide coverage to the area of interest while minimizing the amount of interference. Watch the webinar to learn:

  • Setting up test networks cost-effectively and efficiently using Integrated Planning of Tactical, Test Support, and Tactical Engagement Networks (IPT3N)
  • Using IPT3N to determine the tower locations for a LTE network layout in Yosemite National Park
  • How IPT3N can be used to automatically determine suitable tower locations based on the terrain and channel characteristics

IPT3N Impact

A central requirement in test and training events is that the Test Support Network (TSN) provide sufficient coverage and bandwidth to ensure:

  • Personnel and platforms participating in the event can be monitored
  • All traffic needed to monitor the participants, both live and constructive, is delivered to the Exercise Control (ExCon) in a timely manner for accurate computation of Real-Time Casualty Assessment (RTCA)
  • The energy requirements of the various transmitters and other mobile equipment deployed as part of the TSN do not exceed battery capacity during the course of the Operational Test (OT)

 

U.S. Army – Airborne Router Evaluation and Problem Identification

A global defense contractor was developing an implementation of the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link (MR-TCDL) specification for an airborne router application. Field trials for evaluating the technologyArmy Airborne were planned using a fixed ground node, an on-the-move (OTM) software test environment (a modified HMWV), and NASA WB-57 high altitude research aircraft. The trials were to be conducted at the Mountain Home AFB in Idaho.

The US Army wanted thorough validation of the MR-TCDL implementation but also wanted to minimize the expense of live flight tests. The contract allowed for a maximum of seven flight test days to identify the problems during the initial flight tests. During the first day of the live flight testing, the system experienced unexpected intermittent link drops.

EXata was used to create a high-fidelity virtual network model of the test environment. The model incorporated the actual Inter-Platform Communications Manager (IPCM) software used in the live routers. The model also included real code to emulate aircraft attitude (yaw, pitch and roll) and antenna behavior (both directional and omni). The model was overlaid on accurate DTED 1 terrain.

Before the first flight tests, a series of network simulation scenarios were run to establish a networking system performance envelope. A range of parameter variations were analyzed to identify different predicted sensitivity levels, enabling the engineers to optimize the live flight experiments. In particular, the virtual network model allowed for detailed analysis of antenna/weather/terrain effects on signal strength and link quality. When the intermittent link drops were discovered, the model was used to explore potential causes.

After the first day of flight tests where the intermittent link drop issue was observed, additional use of the virtual network model enabled engineers to quickly narrow the cause down to wing shadowing of the primary antenna as the aircraft executed its flight patterns. This shadowing lowered the signal strength below the keep-alive threshold level.

Subsequent flight tests confirmed both this predicted behavior and the effectiveness of the system modifications that mitigated the issue. Leveraging the EXata simulation model with system-in-the-loop emulation, the entire validation exercise for the Multi-Role Tactical Common Data Link was completed successfully in only three live flight test days.

Related Resources

Adaptive Planning for Test and Training Networks

Planning and optimizing range network laydowns to meet specified coverage, bandwidth, and power consumption requirements using Integrated Planning of Tactical, Test Support, and Tactical Engagement Network (IPT3N).

Optimizing Network Laydown for Mobile Communications

Network digital twins create a digital simulation model of the network, along with the operating environment and traffic load, to compute relevant performance metrics and cost.

Design, Test, Analyze & Assess Cyber Resilience

SCALABLE’s Joint Network Emulator (JNE) library is a live-virtual-constructive (LVC) simulation platform for the development, test, and evaluation of battlefield communications networks, applications, and net-enabled systems.

Key Features of EXata

Real Time Emulator

Seamlessly interface with other live equipment and applications

Cyber Testing

Test the resiliency of your network to Cyber Attacks

Network Digital Twin

Test your network in a low-cost, zero-risk environment

Scalability

Model thousands of nodes with parallel execution

Model Fidelity

Models simulate accurate real-world behavior

Commercial enterprises, educational institutions, and governmental organizations around the world all depend on reliable, effective networks to deliver business-critical, mission-critical communications, and information. SCALABLE maintains a highly experienced group of technical professionals to support customers and projects of any scale and solve challenging problems with our advanced network digital twin technology.

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