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Low-cost software-defined radio soon to make waves

Posted: 12 Feb 2015 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Cambridge Consultants? software-defined radio? radio transmitter? FPGA? WiGig?

Cambridge Consultants, based in UK, has come up with a core and software for an all-digital radio transmitter that could cost less than $1. The software-defined radio, Pizzicato, geared to conserve spectrum, runs on a Xilinx FPGA and manipulates radio signals at high frequency. The design also allows frequency-agile radios in MHz or GHz bands without interference between adjacent transmitters, added the company.

Software radio will open up new opportunities, said Monty Barlow, director of wireless technology at the company. "We see a future where you can build more of a radio out of fairly common technology, letting it dynamically change standards, change frequencies and change behaviour. Also we see it as an opportunity for others to play in this space beyond the Qualcomm by making radios out of something that more of the world can manufacture and understand."

Cambridge Consultants leveraged its experience developing custom ASICs to estimate Pizzicato's technical feasibility, using the radio design and parameters for a 28nm digital ASIC process. A complete Pizzicato core, from baseband samples through to digital bitstream output, would result in a less than 1mm2 chip.

Monty Barlow

Monty Barlow

The company will demo its design, which uses an FPGA rather than an ASIC, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, March 2-5. Pizzicato can achieve 3Gb/s digital output at up to 1.5GHz while consuming less than 300mW and delivering up to 1mW to the antenna. The demonstrator is able to emulate 14 base stations with a single signal, running at 900MHz for 2G technology and test equipment, and able to cover 100MHz of spectrum.

The company thinks it can hit rates beyond 100Gb/s. "As Pizzicato scales to faster bit rates, we can not only target higher carrier frequencies and greater signal fidelity, but also a wider signal bandwidth," Barlow added.

"One of the things driving software-defined radio is that different frequencies are restricted and some are licensed," Barlow said. "A cell phone switching on somewhere in world has increasing number of frequencies it has to work with, and that is difficult with analogue."

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