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German Firm Aims Antennas At Security Communications

August 1999
By Robert K. Ackerman
E-mail About the Author

Global government customers, both civil and military, increasingly demand reliable network infrastructures.

German technologists are employing commercial off-the-shelf components to develop communication systems for security agencies. Under a single umbrella organization, they are combining networking services and the secure links mandated by government organizations that are potential targets of hostile cyberspace intruders.

This venture exploits rapid advances in commercial digital communications technology to provide both voice and data over increasingly flexible networks. The establishment of a single umbrella organization reflects the interrelated nature of requirements and enabling technologies.

The focus of this effort, underway since last year in Germany’s Siemens AG, is the company’s new business enterprise. Translated literally, it is sales international, security agencies organization. This entity resides under the Munich-based company’s information communication networks, known as ICN. The parent group’s business units, which have a revenue volume of DM23 billion ($12 billion), are responsible for narrowband, broadband, wireline, wireless and data communications.

The new security agencies organization covers international communications sales to civil government agencies, armed forces, embassies, national police organizations and intelligence agencies. While having different requirements, these groups share two similar concerns: Their communication networks must be able to incorporate new commercial capabilities; and they are likely targets for mischievous or malicious hackers that can disrupt or disable their operations.

“We are not hardware sellers—we are solution providers,” says Thomas Münnicke, president, sales international, security agencies. While the group will tap Siemens communications hardware, it is free to employ hardware from the parent company’s competitors to implement its solutions, he emphasizes. It seeks to employ only commercial off-the-shelf technology, even for military customers. It can, however, incorporate military-unique features where needed.

Münnicke emphasizes that the company can develop and deliver both voice and data communications networking in a single thrust. Its annual revenues are approximately $150 million. He adds that company officials hope this will increase over the next five years to more than $500 million.

Münnicke explains that the new organization comprises five departments. The first, located in Bremen, is responsible for the German armed forces. Last year, the department was awarded a contract to install an integrated services digital network (ISDN) narrowband network for the German forces. This five-year program involves roughly 200,000 subscriber lines.

The second department, located in Mannheim, serves U.S. Forces Europe. The 5th Signal Command is based in Mannheim, while the European Command is headquartered in nearby Stuttgart. This office is in charge of the new program to replace the U.S. forces’ European telephone system, which is not ISDN. The contract for the new system, known as the defense information switched network-Europe (DISN-E), was awarded in April. The system features 200,000 subscriber lines and 115 switch locations throughout Europe.

The third department is located in Herentals, Belgium, between North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters and Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE). This department is responsible for the NATO CONAD project, which is a voice CONET network for Europe. Awarded last year, the program features approximately 20 private branch exchange, or PBX, switches and will be located in all 19 NATO countries.

The fourth is a U.S. office located in Vienna, Virginia. It is responsible for U.S. Army, Air Force and Navy forces as well as civil government organizations such as the Department of Justice, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. It also handles U.S. embassy projects such as the new embassy in Berlin.

The fifth department is based in Munich and basically covers all projects worldwide that do not fall under the purview of the other four departments. Münnicke notes that it currently is involved in turnkey projects in the Middle East, India, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Thailand. Last year, this office began work on a communication network for Hungary’s armed forces.

Münnicke describes the U.S. forces Europe DISN-E program as his organization’s major effort. This project will be built using public switches employing electronic dialing system digital technology, which is known by its German acronym as EWSD. These switches will feature custom-designed software for military-unique features.

Siemens had worked previously with U.S. forces, and this experience provided the company with knowledge about the forces’ network design. As a result, the firm is able to deliver communications systems that can run with U.S. and European protocols. U.S. forces can change their switches from Europe to U.S. communications and vice versa.

Münnicke compares this program to the continental United States communications project, known as CONUS, and notes that his company hopes to have a role in this large effort. He cites the firm’s significant U.S. presence in research and development, with 100 development departments scattered throughout several states. For example, the EWSD switches for U.S. forces in Europe were developed in the company’s largest U.S. research center, located in Boca Raton, Florida. The switches are also manufactured in Florida.

The company’s work with NATO includes replacing the alliance’s analog voice network with a digital communication network by the end of 2000. This will provide ISDN connectivity to about 30,000 NATO users. The system can incorporate a variety of communications equipment such as personal computers or local area network gateways for computer telephony. Videoconferencing will be a major application, officials say.

A primary element will be the system’s Hicom communication servers. Embedded security modules provide protection against eavesdropping, and the Hicom domain management service logs all hacking attempts. Narrowband secure voice terminals connected to the digital ports provide speech encryption. In addition, special interfaces under development will allow the NATO communication network to link with screened networks belonging to individual nations’ armed forces. This will help facilitate an integrated communication network.

This project is a current example of the company’s commercial approach to government needs. To provide a baseline for security organization networks for other potential projects, the company has designed a communications configuration for barracks networking that provides connectivity across a host of applications and users. This configuration is built around a structured cabling system that allows a range of analog or digital services to be added in subsequent increments.

At the core of this setup is a site distributor that features both asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) and ISDN hubs connected with an ATM link. The ATM hub maintains connectivity with the outside world, while the ISDN hub provides connectivity with other network sites. This hub also links with outside sources through the local public switched telecommunications network.

In a theoretical configuration, the site distributor would connect with several different locations through specific building distributors. The guard site, for example, would connect its administration station and video surveillance through its building distributor. A training facility would link all of its learning computers and its classrooms through its distributor. The central theme is to link all information systems at a specific site through the site’s distributor, through which they would be accessible throughout the network.

At a large staff center, all staff functions—deployment/training, logistics, data/information, security and personnel—would connect through individual servers to the distributor. Facilities at this site such as the communications center, a videoconference room and an operations center would connect in the same manner.

The firm’s Hicom 300 E communication servers provide connectivity to both data and radio networks. These servers can be interconnected using ATM and Internet protocol (IP) networks as well as provide communication between the networks. Users in an existing ATM infrastructure can access the system through its ATM hub.

An integrated multicell digital enhanced cordless telecommunications (DECT) telephone system serves mobile subscribers within the property site. The network also can be equipped with a radio services link.

Mobile radio capabilities can be built around the company’s S-Pro digital trunked radio system. This is a mobile cellular system that can be used in both single sites and regional networks. It features end-to-end encryption and employs military-standard (MIL-STD) 810 handsets. The system can create user groups that communicate independently, and it can generate a direct-mode operation if the area’s wireline infrastructure fails.

For large- or wide-area networks, an EWSD digital switching system can serve in either a local trunk exchange or combined local/transit/gateway exchange. This switching system also can provide intelligent network functions, integrated IP access and ATM core network interface.

A digital alarm and conference server uses the telephone network infrastructure for automatic, high-capacity information, warning and alarm signaling. This process can be configured for options ranging from emergency telephone calling or automatic sensor broadcast.

The company’s integrated communication cabling system serves as the basis for voice, data and imagery communications. This permits ISDN, token ring, 10/100/1000 Base-T, fiber distributed data interface (FDDI), ATM and analog telephony. Using shielded copper wire components provides a degree of protection against electromagnetic interference, data loss and intrusion.

The network’s varied elements allow a range of security options. These include controlled facility access, voice and data encryption, controlled access to data and telecommunications systems, critical component redundancy, secure access to and data exchange within networks, access rights authorization, access denial following several unsuccessful entries, security action logging, and mutual source authentication.

Münnicke emphasizes that this commercial hardware approach draws from traditional company strengths. One of its major selling points, he says, is that the new business organization draws from expertise established among many of the firm’s potential customers.