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Underwater communication has the potential to benefit a myriad of fields. Oil companies are constantly looking to extract oil from offshore wells in deeper and deeper water. Scientists are attempting to study vast areas of water to extract information on the effects of global climate change and the health of the Earth's ecosystem. The Navy also has a vested interest for obvious tactical reasons.

The underwater environment presents numerous interesting challenges, however. The shear size of the ocean makes wired networking prohibitively expensive in most areas of interest, and the need for mobility in many applications makes wires too restrictive. The standard medium of communication in terrestrial wireless networks, RF, is inefficient and extremely limited in range underwater. Optical communications has also been found to be restricted in range and inefficient. Acoustic waves propagate well in water and are more efficient than either the RF or optical options. As such, acoustic communications are the best choice for underwater networks.


Acoustic communications are characterized by extremely long propagation delays and large multipath interference. Frequency selective attenuation, variable sound speed, and Doppler spreading combine to result in a challenging medium. Accepted terrestrial networking technologies are not suited to the underwater environment. New models need to be developed that accurately portray the wide range of variables effecting acoustic communication, and new networking protocols must be developed from the ground up to account for the unique environment in which they will operate.

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