LONDON: Despite the economic downturn, the European tactical communications market will remain stable and is poised to earn [annual] revenues of $1.58 billion by 2018. The regional defence communication market will grow steadily because many European Ministries of Defence (MODs), increasingly cognizant of networked communication as a force multiplier, have been actively upgrading tactical communication (TACCOM) capability.

New analysis from Frost & Sullivan, “European Tactical Communication Market Assessment,” finds that market earned revenues of $1.06 billion in 2008 and estimates this to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.1 per cent between 2008 and 2018, to reach $1.58 billion. This significant increase in revenue can be attributed to rising demand for networked communication largely driven by software-defined radio (SDR) technology that enables radios to integrate with more capable satellite communications (SATCOM) terminals.

“Radio technology closes in towards networked communication capability through high capacity data radio (HCDR),” says Frost & Sullivan Research Analyst Maj. Sabbir Ahmed (retd.) “Products such as high band networking radio, software defined personal role radio, and tactical network (TacNet) solutions are likely to drive a transformational shift in the TACCOM landscape.”

These products set up TacNet architecture in the theatre of operation, where all radio sets including vehicular and airborne as well as SATCOM terminals are used as nodes. The network also integrates existing command and control (C2)/battle management systems (BMS), and air defence communication systems into a single IP environment enabling seamless transmission of voice, data, and video contents from decision centres to the last tactical mile.

SDR technology is enabling the integration of tactical communication and elements of situational awareness at the soldier level. This means that navigation, imagery, and identification sensors are increasingly incorporated into soldier communication gear, blurring the boundary between tactical communication, navigation, and sensors at the frontline. Such integration will enable war fighters down to section level to be well-informed, and reduce sensors to decision-makers to shooters lag through a continuous feed of battle intelligence.

However, the integration of varied legacy radio systems is a challenge for this market. Market participants are looking at projects like the joint tactical radio system (JTRS) in the United States for a solution and to act as a universal standard by using software-defined architectures, although this is yet to materialise. The issue of interoperability and integration depends on uniform standards, specifications and procurement regulations, which have yet to be implemented across the European MODs.

“Various radio waveforms are still evolving and a process of systems integration solutions has yet to become fully effective,” explains Ahmed. “MODs are increasingly pushing the onus of their equipment management (from initial purchase decisions to routine maintenance, and end-user training to interim capability upgrades) onto the supplier companies,” concludes Ahmed. “Several European countries have resorted to the ‘wait-and-see approach’ for clarity on the direction and pace of changes in the communication technology in one hand and the evolving through-life communication network management in the other.”

It is therefore imperative for the defence companies to understand the nuances of through-life capability management (TLCM) of nodes and networks as the technology evolves if they are to remain competitive going forward. Effectively managing project risks through proper understanding of cost implications related to services delivery at various stages of the equipment life cycle would certainly help them remain profitable along the journey.

Frost & Sullivan leverages over 45 years of experience in partnering with Global 1000 companies, emerging businesses and the investment community from 40 offices on six continents.