Tatas developing ‘Blackberry’ for army

Tags: News
The $110-billion Tata group may shortly be ready with desi version of technology-rich Blackberry phones to handle security communication in Indian defence forces.

Tata Power’s strategic engineering division (SED) is working on a highly-secure android phone on a unique platform with versatile applications referred to as “desi Blackberry” internally. This is for exclusive use by three defence forces and security establishment.

Tata Power SED that’s involved in R&D of high-end technology products for the defence sector has roped in engineers from the IITs to solve technology puzzles in the process.

These “desi phones” with capability to handle highly encrypted coded conversations would be 100 per cent “made in India” without possible ‘malware from Chinese manufacturers’, a person clued into the development said without wanting to be identified in person.

He said, “If everything goes well, we would be able produce these high end phone instruments that could surpass the best in Blackberry range or the likes.”

These instruments would not be for commercial sale in the retail market, nor would they compete with any of the mobile handsets available in the country.

“These phones are being developed with a specific purpose and would exclusively cater to Indian defence forces,” the person said.

The mobile instruments would be part of the country’s tactical communications system (TCS) being put up across army, air force and navy apart from the central command for these forces to handle “highly secure communication that cannot be intercepted”.

Apart from Tata Power SED, state-owned defence PSU Bharat Electronics (BEL) and L&T are also reported to have been given the mandate to develop a large high security communications network with frontend “Blackberry-like” fancy features.

These phones being developed by Tata Power SED would be capable of operating on “frequency hopping spectrum spread over different bands” to ensure virtually uninterrupted communication. These phones will be deployed from battle formations to command structures as a new generation meshed network.

The network servers would themselves be based on lightweight high mobility vehicles that form nodes connected as a grid and carry the communication.

The secure phones will work on high bandwidth networks with voice, video, data, high capacity point-to-point radio backbone, point to multipoint wireless access at the user end, robust and survivable trunk and access radios. The communication can be scaled up based on bandwidth on dedicated satellites.

Phone instruments and the networks would be developed with inbuilt protection against cyber and electronic attacks using firewalls and frequency hopping spread spectrum techniques, the person quoted earlier said.

The handset will bring in new technology for encryption – euphemism for coded conversations and data transfers — besides multilevel network security, real time management of spectrum, integration with legacy systems and strategic networks, national defence communication systems and interoperability within the army and other services during joint operations; light weight user terminal with integration in operating information systems.

While the source of this report was unwilling to divulge the cost of the project, he said 80 per cent of the development cost would be borne by the government, while 20 per cent would have to be invested by private companies like Tata Power SED.

Warfighter information network in the US and Falcon trunk communication programme in the British army seem to have provided useful insights for this project.


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