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Designing a universal SDR platform

Posted: 03 Apr 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:software defined radio? FPGA? processor?

Nowadays the software defined radio (SDR) technology enjoys a status quite different from what it had back in 1984 when the term software radio (software defined radio) was first coined in the E-Systems laboratory. Until recently this technology was reserved mostly for enthusiasts and the military.

Today, however, SDR is one of the priorities in the development of wireless communications and it is supported by international and national programs and associations such as Wireless Innovation Forum, French CONTACT Programme, Italy's Forza NEC Battlefield Command System, ESSOR, EULER, US military's Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

Many experts believe that this technology will become a new standard for the telecommunications market. A number of successful commercial projects using SDR-based and cognitive radio equipment have already been implemented. Examples include projects by the communications equipment manufacturers Harris and Alcatel Lucent; Firetide, a developer and integrator of hardware mesh networking; xG Technology (a successful start-up that implements cognitive radio in wireless networks); Promwad Innovation Company (an independent electronics design centre), the developer of a universal SDR platform.

This rapid change is explained by several factors. The primary factor is the interest of the major manufacturers and consumers of telecommunications equipment since the introduction of devices with SDR support helps improve efficiency, reduce upgrade costs and reduce the cost and the time of introducing new communication standards. Another factor is the development of a modern element base: ADCs / DACs providing high speed and good dynamic performance, multi-standard broadband transceivers with programmable features, high-performance communication processors with integrated specialised accelerators, etc.

Unfortunately, the Russian market of SDR-based products is closed due to its specificity. Engineers and technology experts have difficulty finding new information on this topic, which is the reason why any data on new developments are of special interest. For instance, Promwad Innovation Company has had some experience in this field. In 2011, Promwad experts started a project for designing a product for the Russian market, an open SDR platform for the development of multi-standard wireless communication devices. This article will discuss this particular product.

What is so unique about this project? First of all, it is uniquely open for developers. It is a platform which companies can build their products on, using both supplied software and their own developments. This platform can be used for developing transmitters for standards such as DVB-T, DVB-T2 (470每862MHz); access points and base stations for the standards 802.22 (470每862MHz), LTE (791每862MHz, 1710每1880MHz, 1710?1880MHz and 2.5每2.7GHz); radar stations, debug and laboratory stands in educational institutions and more.

From the developer's perspective, a state-of-the-art SDR platform is basically a fully configurable system including an antenna, a digital processing unit with a minimum number of analogue high-frequency components, low power consumption and, ideally, an unlimited frequency range. This architectural solution allows the developer to adapt and customise the device according to the problem to be solved, eliminating unnecessary elements and adding necessary ones. In this case all efforts will focus on improving the software, while the hardware remains unchanged.

From the customer's perspective, an SDR platform is a multi-standard device which is capable of working in any network with minimal settings, without the user's help. The developer's and customer's interests meet in a multi-standard device which works in different communication networks and helps programmatically change a variety of features, from RF parameters to supported communications standards and protocols.

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