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Prototyping-to-production kit accelerates software-defined radio

Posted: 24 Apr 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:JTRS SDR Kit? Joint Tactical Radio System? software-defined radio? modem? Xilinx?

FPGA maker Xilinx Inc. and Canadian developer ISR Technologies announce the availability of a jointly-developed, off-the-shelf prototyping-to-production kit that accelerates implementation of software-defined radio (SDR) modems. These modems are for programs such as the U.S. Department of Defense's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program.

The goal of the JTRS program is to provide the military with software-programmable radios for voice, data and video communications. These radios must address current interoperability between allied forces, as well as bandwidth challenges.

JTRS includes radios that will be deployed in vehicles, airplanes, unmanned aerial vehicles, helicopters and naval ships, as well as handheld and man-pack radios. All these environments have strict power budgets and cost targets. JTRS uses the power of SDR for flexible and on-the-fly reprogrammable communications for a variety of applications and waveforms.

First to support partial reconfiguration
This offering is also billed as the industry's first SDR kit to support partial reconfiguration and SCA-enabled (Software Communications Architecture) SoC. The JTRS SDR Kit consists of reconfigurable hardware and software elements compliant with JTRS-mandated specs, including the SCA.

The SCA set of specifications describe the interaction between different software and hardware components of a radio, and provide software commands for their control. Adherence to the SCA ensures interoperability of products within the JTRS program.

Communications Research Centre collaboration
For this kit, Xilinx and ISR closely collaborated with the Communications Research Centre (CRC). It's been intimately involved in driving the evolution and adoption of the SCA. Indeed, the kit includes CRC's SCA Core Framework v2.2, which is the current version mandated for JTRS.

DSP power
The kit leverages the low-power DSP features of Xilinx's Virtex-4 Platform FPGAs, along with their partial reconfiguration capabilities. Together, it provides a programmable approach that meets JTRS requirements and can lower overall dissipation. It can also lower manufacturing cost through more efficient usage of processing resources.

"Lowering power and cost are two of the biggest technical problems facing developers of SDRs today," avows Manuel Uhm, senior DSP marketing manager at Xilinx.

"This prototyping-to-production kit permits developers to address these issues with two novel technologies available in Virtex-4 Platform FPGAs, namely partial reconfiguration and an embedded processor capable of running the complete JTRS operating environment." Uhm expects developers using this kit to realize significant time-to-market and cost savings.

Partial reconfiguration enables shared resources
The JTRS SDR Kit leverages the partial reconfiguration capabilities of the Virtex-4 silicon, Xilinx ISE and the PlanAhead 8.1 design tool suites. Together, these tools enable efficient shared-resources SDR implementations through time-sharing of available processing resources.

Using partial re-configuration, multiple applications or waveforms can be supported on a single set of processing resources, letting one or more waveforms be dynamically changed within the Virtex-4 device while other waveforms continue to be processed without interruption. In the kit, partial reconfiguration is controlled by the SCA running on an embedded PowerPC 405 microprocessor.

Using Xilinx-supplied software tools, you can then analyze trade-offs and adapt hardware algorithms to further increase resource utilization. This approach is claimed to significantly lower the cost, power, and size of an SDR.

SCA-enabled SoC
The JTRS SDR Kit leverages the SoC features of the Virtex-4, removing the need for a discrete general-purpose processor. The kit uses the embedded PowerPC 405 processor to host the infrastructure required to manage the modem, consisting of the SCA Core Framework, an RTOS and a CORBA ORB.

In addition, the processor is used for control functions and network processing. At the same time, the programmable fabric and DSP resources are used for waveform processing.

The kit includes two modems that can instantiate a wideband waveform in the Virtex-4 device to transmit video data to the other modem. While maintaining transmission of the wideband waveform, the modem can then initiate a narrowband waveform to also transmit voice data to the other modem.

Price and availability
The JTRS SDR Kit is priced at $75,000.

The JTRS SDR Kit includes documentation, including a QuickStart guide, in addition to free on-site installation and training on SCA-controlled partial reconfiguration by ISR Technologies.

- Alex Mendelsohn

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