The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is beginning work to develop a wireless communications system capable of transmitting data at speeds of 100 gigabits per second, rivaling high-speed fiber optic systems.

The technology is also intended to get around one of the biggest hurdles facing tactical military communications: the effects of weather degrading high-bandwidth transmissions between aircraft and ground stations and vehicles. Cloud cover is one of the big challenges facing high-bandwidth air-to-ground data communications, DARPA officials said.

The goal of the 100G program is to provide high-speed wireless transmissions in a way that can overcome weather-related interference in a system that can be deployed globally.

Systems that rely on optical links, using lasers or infrared spectrum, are blocked by clouds, making radio frequency the only option. The 100G program is likely to take advantage of developments in millimeter-wave technology to create a system that can transmit data through clouds, wind, rain and fog.

Providing fiber-optic grade communications wirelessly will require very efficient use of the RF spectrum, said DARPA program manager Dick Ridgway in a statement.

“100G plans to demonstrate how high-order modulation and spatial multiplexing can be synergistically combined to achieve 100 Gigabits per second with the size, weight and power needed for a deployable system. We believe that to achieve the program’s goals requires the convergence of telecommunications system providers and the defense communications tech base,” he said.

A major goal for the project is to develop the operational capability of transmitting high-speed data across distances in excess of 200 kilometers between aircraft, and greater than 100 kilometers between an airborne platform at 60,000 feet and a ground vehicle. The program must also meet weight and power requirements for the existing common data link now in use with U.S. forces

DARPA officials will be reaching out to commercial industry for technology submissions, with plans to host a proposers’ day on Jan. 9, 2013, in Arlington, Va. For details, visit: