Ashburn firm to build portable WiFi systems for Army

Originally posted at 2:24PM April 8; updated at 10:07AM April 21

(UPDATED) The Army has hired Telos to build a next-generation WiFi communications system that Army personnel can lug with them and set up anywhere around the world to get logistics support.

The Ashburn company won the $43.5 million contract to make wireless network units that are sturdy enough to stand up to harsh field conditions, easy to transport and meet the military's stringent security requirements. The units are designed so they can be set up without the assistance of specialized personnel.

Such requirements set apart this work from more traditional WiFi deployments in campuses or building complexes, said Tom Badders, Telos's director of wireless networking. The new systems most likely will be deployed overseas, he said.

The project, known as the Combat Service Support Automated Information System Interface, builds on previous efforts to provide the Army with the best and latest in WiFi technology, Badders said.

Telos provided the design for the system as part of the competition, so the contract will primarily consist of making and integrating the components at its Ashburn facilities before they are transported to the field. The government will test and set up the equipment itself, Badders said.

The devices are designed to allow Army personnel in the field to get a wireless connection up to 32 miles from a wired network at a base or headquarters.

"This wireless connection provides the reach back to that network, so that it appears that the deployed environment is directly connected to their network like they never left home," Badders said.

Depending on the Army's needs, Telos might build as many as 13,000 modules over the three-year contract, which also has two option years.

Telos, which specializes in building and supporting secure computer networks, has about 500 employees and has been in business for more than 30 years.

While the company has more than a decade of experience providing secure network systems and services to the Defense Department, most of that work has been with the Air Force, Badders said.

The company's previous wireless work with the Army involved deploying wireless intrusion-detection systems at military installations, he said.

With this award, the company hopes to become an established provider of secure wireless networks to the Army, Badders said. "It's a great opportunity for us," he said.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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