Nomadic Networks: Wireless Connectivity for Defense and Public Safety Field Operations

By Jeremy Ladner 14 min read

Use cases such as military operations, emergency response, and transportation systems where traditional infrastructure-based networks may be impractical or unavailable require a different network architecture than the fixed communication network. The challenge with those use cases is ensuring efficient routing, robustness to node mobility, and effective management of network resources in dynamic environments. This concept is defined as a Nomadic network. 

Nomadic networks typically refer to communication or information networks that are designed to be highly mobile or adaptable, allowing them to function effectively in dynamic or changing environments such as a fire dept requiring a comprehensive aerial view of a disaster area where the common network infrastructure is not available. These networks are often associated with nomadic or mobile computing, where devices move frequently and need to maintain connectivity as they do so. For that purpose, various technologies are required, such as mobile ad hoc networks, where devices communicate directly with each other without relying on fixed infrastructure like base stations creating wireless mesh networks for high network reliability. 

When Are Nomadic Networks Necessary?  

Nomadic networks can be deployed in various use cases such as disaster-stricken areas, to aid in communication among first responders and affected populations when traditional infrastructure is damaged or unavailable. For example, after natural disasters like earthquakes or hurricanes, mobile ad hoc networks have been used to establish communication between rescue teams and survivors, enabling coordination of rescue efforts and delivery of essential services. These networks support services like ticketing, security monitoring, public announcements, and crowd management. By enabling reliable communication and information exchange in crowded and temporary settings, nomadic networks enhance the overall experience and safety of event participants.

In the 2010 Haiti earthquake, a nonprofit organization called Inveneo deployed mesh networking technology to establish communication networks in areas where traditional infrastructure was severely damaged. Mesh networking allowed relief workers to set up communication hubs using solar-powered equipment, providing connectivity for coordinating rescue efforts, delivering medical assistance, and facilitating communication between survivors and their families.  

Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks (VANETs) are deployed in smart transportation systems to improve road safety and traffic management. For example, in Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) has implemented a VANET-based system called the Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (CITS). This system enables vehicles to communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure to exchange information about traffic conditions, road hazards, and optimal routes, thereby reducing accidents and congestion.  

On February 6th, 2023, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck south-central Turkey near the town of Gaziantep. It was the strongest quake to hit Turkey since 1939, and the damage was devastating. The earthquakes caused significant damage to telecommunications networks, making it difficult to communicate with search and rescue groups and with affected residents in the region. Due to base station tower damage, standard communications did not work the day after the earthquake but worked in limited areas on the second and third days. The local rescue team’s communication was also disrupted. Rescue teams from outside the earthquake areas brought satellite telephones with them to initiate rescue operations, but in limited quantities and exclusively for the use of the teams that brought them. Drones captured aerial images of the area, revealing the extent of the damage, and were used in damage assessment efforts.  

Communication and Connectivity On-The-Go 

Nomadic networks enable communication and connectivity in situations where traditional fixed networks are impractical or unavailable. These use cases require that nomadic networks be resilient to failures, which is accomplished by decentralized architecture that avoids reliance on any single device that might be prone to malfunction. 

Nodes in the network can dynamically establish connections with other nearby nodes, ensuring that communication can continue even if some nodes are unavailable or disconnected. Nomadic networks are designed to operate in dynamic environments where conditions may change rapidly. They can adapt to variations in network topology, node mobility, and environmental conditions, ensuring reliable communication even in challenging situations.  

These networks can scale efficiently. As new nodes join or leave the network, connectivity continues seamlessly without any noticeable disruption to network operation. This scalability is particularly useful in scenarios where the number of devices or users fluctuates frequently. Nomadic networks can utilize resources more efficiently compared to traditional infrastructure-based networks. For example, they can dynamically allocate bandwidth and adjust routing paths based on network conditions and user demand.  

When High Latency Leaves You Lacking 

Enabling communication with nomadic nodes
requires reliable communication links. At first glance, satellite links can be highly relevant for nomadic networks, especially in scenarios where terrestrial infrastructure is scarce or impractical. Satellites provide global coverage, allowing nomadic networks to maintain connectivity even in remote or isolated areas where terrestrial infrastructure is unavailable. Satellite-based nomadic networks can quickly establish communication links to support rescue efforts, medical assistance, and coordination of relief activities.  

However, satellite links often suffer from high latency due to the long distance that signals must travel between Earth and the satellite, which can impact real-time applications such as voice or video communication. Satellite links have limited bandwidth when compared to terrestrial wireless networks. Satellite link bandwidth is typically around 100 Mbps with per-month capacity limits. Terrestrial wireless networks provide the peace of mind that comes with a consistent dedicated bandwidth of 2 Gbps. In addition, since satellite links use joined RF resources, increasing the density of nodes decreases each link’s capacity. There is also the issue of OPEX, some satellite communication equipment and services can be expensive when compared to terrestrial alternatives, making them less affordable for some applications or users.  

Overall, while satellite links offer significant advantages for nomadic networks, such as global coverage and mobility support, they also come with challenges such as latency, bandwidth limitations, and high costs that need to be carefully considered when planning deployment and operation. 

The Limitations of Unlicensed Networks

Using an unlicensed wireless nomadic network offers consistent communication links without expensive licensing fees. This option can reduce the initial cost of deployment and operation compared to licensed spectrum options. Unlicensed spectrum allows for more flexibility in deploying and managing networks, as users do not need to obtain specific licenses or adhere to stringent regulatory requirements.  

However, unlicensed spectrum is shared among multiple users and devices, leading to potential interference and congestion, especially in densely populated areas or in environments with high wireless activity and it does not guarantee quality of service (QoS) or reliability, as network performance can be affected by interference, congestion, and environmental factors. In addition, unlicensed spectrum typically operates at lower power levels and may have restrictions on transmission range, limiting the coverage area and range of nomadic networks deployed in unlicensed bands.  

Overall, while unlicensed spectrum offers cost-effective and flexible options for deploying nomadic networks, it also comes with challenges such as interference, limited QoS, regulatory constraints, security risks, and coverage limitations that need to be carefully addressed to ensure reliable and efficient operation. 

The Pros and Cons of Licensed Nomadic Networks  

Licensed spectrum provides defense and emergency services personnel exclusive access to specific frequency bands, minimizing the risk of interference and ensuring reliable communication for nomadic networks. As a result, it offers predictable performance and Quality of Service (QoS), as users have control over the allocated bandwidth and can prioritize traffic according to their needs. 

Licensed spectrum often allows for higher transmit power and longer transmission ranges with greater capacity compared to unlicensed spectrum. This enables improved coverage and reach for nomadic networks deployed in licensed bands. However, licensed spectrum typically requires significant upfront investment in licensing fees and ongoing operational costs, making it more expensive to deploy and maintain nomadic networks compared to unlicensed alternatives.  

New regulation concepts allow service providers to manage their frequency range across a specific geographic location, reducing regulatory complexity. Overall, licensed spectrum offers advantages such as spectrum exclusivity, predictable performance, low latency, high capacity, and long-distance coverage. 

The Resilience and Flexibility of Nomadic MESH Networks  

Mesh networks are highly relevant for nomadic applications due to their ability to provide decentralized and self-organizing communication infrastructure that is well-suited for dynamic environments. Nomadic Mesh networks are flexible and adaptable, making them ideal for applications where network topology and connectivity requirements may change frequently. Nodes in a mesh network can join or leave the network dynamically, allowing for seamless integration of new devices or nodes as they move within the network. 

An additional benefit of nomadic Mesh networks is their inherent robustness and resilience to failures. Thanks to their decentralized configuration, nomadic Mesh networks protect against any single point of failure disrupting connectivity. If one node fails or becomes unreachable, neighboring nodes can reroute traffic through alternative paths, guaranteeing continuous communication and connectivity for mission-critical in-field operations.  

Mesh networks can also scale efficiently to accommodate many nodes or devices. This makes them suitable for nomadic network applications with varying numbers of users or participants. As the number of nodes increases, the mesh network can dynamically adjust its topology and routing paths to maintain optimal performance and scalability. Mesh networks also provide enormous flexibility, easily extending their coverage area by relaying data between distant nodes or devices.  

Nodes at the edge of the network can serve as relays, forwarding data packets to nodes further away, effectively extending the reach of the network and providing connectivity in areas where direct communication is not possible. 

Nomadic Network Management  

Managing nomadic networks requires addressing several key requirements to ensure efficient operation, seamless connectivity, and optimal performance. Nomadic networks, by definition, involve nodes that move frequently, leading to changes in network topology. Efficient resource allocation is crucial for managing bandwidth, power, and other network resources in nomadic networks. 

Nomadic network management systems need to be able to dynamically allocate resources based on network conditions, user requirements, and application priorities to provide optimized performance while ensuring fair access for all users. Dynamic routing protocols are essential for adapting to these changes and establishing optimal communication paths between nodes.  

Routing protocols should be capable of quickly recalculating routes and avoiding network partitions caused by node mobility. Nomadic networks often support diverse applications with varying QoS requirements, including real-time communication, multimedia streaming, and data transfer. Network management systems should prioritize traffic, enforce QoS policies, and allocate resources to meet application-specific requirements while optimizing overall network performance.  

Fault management capabilities are essential for detecting, isolating, and resolving network faults or failures in nomadic networks. Network management systems should monitor network health, perform fault diagnosis, and initiate recovery mechanisms to minimize downtime and service disruptions for nomadic users. 

The Full Nomadic Network Picture 

For optimal performance and reliability, Nomadic networks should be designed such that several layers work seamlessly as a whole system to accommodate network complexity. Both the dynamic communication links and the dynamic rerouting should work in tandem to help ensure a healthy and reliable network. 

As described above, licensed wireless links can serve as a sound solution for the dynamic communication links layer. For that purpose, the point-to-point links should support dynamically tracking and connecting nodes to enable automatic network construction and self-healing. In addition, a dynamic rerouting algorithm should configure the network routing based on the current communication links status and the current user demands ideally based on machine learning solutions. 

Want to learn more about Ceragon’s Nomadic Network solutions for Public Safety and Defense? 


Read Next