4 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Software Defined Radios for Military Communications

Software Defined Radios

As modernization across the military remains a focus to enable warfighters to keep pace with threats, there has been a clear emphasis on communications technologies. As such, many military services are moving away from purpose-built radios, for specific concepts of operations, to more flexible, agile, software defined radios. In fact, the software defined radio (SDR) global market is expected to reach $39.6b by 2027. Yet, as software defined radios continue to evolve, the technology implemented differs across the industry. So, what should procurement officers consider before investing in this technical solution?

This is one topic that The Modern Battlespace continues to cover, and in an effort to provide guidance, we have gathered insights from the field. The following are four questions that should be top of mind:

What are the capabilities of the software defined radio?

One of the reasons why the military has turned to SDRs is the ability to transmit and receive more voice and data across a wider part of the radio spectrum – addressing many of the spectrum and wireless limitations. Modern SDRs can host a variety of waveforms that a warfighter may need in battle, and can be quickly upgraded with new capabilities as they become available.  That ability to port new waveforms is one of the critical capabilities of an SDR that allows it to keep pace with changing enemy threats. The ease with which that can be accomplished should be one of the key concerns of any perspective SDR customer.

When considering capabilities, it’s critical to understand power, performance, waveform integrations, and security. Additionally, it’s important to consider the tradeoffs that may come with particular specifications.

What is the total cost of ownership of the software defined radio solution?

While it is important to consider the price of the solution when comparing vendors, it is important to take a holistic approach to costs. At times, the Lowest Price Technically Acceptable (LPTA) doesn’t consider hidden costs associated with ownership. For example, hardware costs could be the lowest on the market, yet to keep the hardware operational, the associated costs are hidden and have a significant impact on total costs. To avoid this pitfall, it is important to weigh the lifecycle of the product and ask vendors the right questions to identify any hidden costs associated with the solution.

Does the solution embrace an Open Systems Architecture Approach?

There is no doubt that an Open Systems Architecture approach allows for flexibility, agility, and modernization. Yet, not everyone defines Open Systems the same way. Some aspects of the solution may be open while there may be hidden elements of the solution that could result in vendor lock. Does the solution have open APIs? How does it integrate with other capabilities that are being developed? Does the current crypto solution manifest itself in a hardware-based solution or a software-based solution? How often will the hardware need to be updated? These are just a few of the questions that need to be asked to determine if the SDR is truly an open system that can integrate today and into the future.

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Does the solution integrate into existing and future modernization efforts?

The Defense Department’s Digital Modernization Strategy is at the core of how warfighter capabilities and solutions will connect and integrate into the future battlespace. Innovation, optimization, integration, and resiliency are the pillars of this framework. To this end, software defined networking, and the SDRs that connect into the network, must be easy to integrate, optimize, and secure in today’s environment and into the modernized environments of the future.


Stayed tuned to The Modern Battlespace as our editorial team connects with industry experts to examine these four questions and offer new insights and resources on each one, Through this series, we’ll help our readers to better understand how SDRs will evolve and transform communications on the future battlefield.