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Software Defined Radios

The future of wireless technology

By Zac Lessard
Software Defined Radios what are
A radio in which some or all of the
physical layer functions are software
This is contrasted with older radios where
all of their functionality is determined by
Five Tiers of SDR technology
Tier 0 Pure hardware radios
Tier 1 Software controlled radios
Tier 2 - modulation methods, band
selection between wide or narrow,
security mechanisms and controls such as
hopping pattern management, and wave
form selection are all handled by software
Four Tiers Cont.
Tier 3 fully programmable radios.
Tier 4 - radios are the absolute model of
perfection, and they exist only on paper. They
are the absolute pinnacle of anything wireless
technology could ever even begin to approach.
These radios are capable of anything a user can
imagine, from storing money transfer
information on smart cards, to receiving satellite
transmissions in real time.
The history of SDR
SPEAKeasy phase I
A government program with the following goals:
to develop a radio that could function anywhere
between 2 Mhz and 2 Ghz,
to be able to communicate with the radios used by ground
forces as well as air force and naval radios in addition to
to develop a new signal format within 2 weeks with no
prior preparation
To use parts and software from multiple contractors at
SPEAKeasy Phase I
When the project was tested at TF-XXI
Advanced Warfighting Exercise it was
deemed a success.
One problem was that the cryptography
engine could not keep up well enough to
maintain several connections at once.
SPEAKEasy Phase II
Phase II made use of an open architecture
known as Software communication architecture.
This phase of the project was focused on
refining the phase one project for use in the
field, minimizing the device form factor and
getting the system ready for use in the field.
15 months since the start of the project a fully
functioning radio was produced.
It was so successful that no further development
was needed.
Phase II Cont
This radio only had a range between 4
MHz and 400 MHz
data rates between 75 bps and 10 Mbps.
22 different wave forms in addition to GPS
and cellular communications.
four channels programmed into it at once
as well as cellular and GPS at the same
A final contributor Joint Tactical
Radio System
Unlike the other projects that ran from 1992-
1995, JTRS was started in 1998.
Goals: to create a radio that will work in
harmony with many different other radios,
both civilian and military, built in encryption, and
wideband networking software to allow the
system to form ad hoc wireless networks.
The key architecture used in this projected is the
Software Communications Architecture(SCA).
Software Communications
SDR What does it take to make
Software Defined Radios are made up of:
programmable gate arrays
Digital Signal processors
General processors
An antenna
A digital to analog converter and an
analog to digital converter
How do they work?
In the case of a receiver
The antenna receives a signal and passes it
through the analog to digital converter.
The result from the converter is passed to the
digital signal processors.
The software is left in charge of every other
function for establishing and maintaining a
connection, such as modulation/demodulation,
frequency selection, and encryption.
A transmitter simply works opposite to the way
a receiver does.
One Example
SDR, Why Use It?
Can be updated on the fly
Easier to upgrade by a non-technician
using an update bundle.
Minimal infrastructure requirements for
use in the field
Effective for setting up ad-hoc networks
SDR the downsides
SDR is often referred to as a silver bullet to
many networking problems without any
attention being paid to the effort involved.
For example, the problem with trying to set up a
single unifying network.
The competitors paradox.
The potential for knocking out other networks
with accidental misconfiguration by a user.
Problems with multiple service levels, and fraud.
Downside Cont
Security Issues in:
Verification of validity of software updates
Downsides Cont
Implementation and switchover costs:
The upfront unit costs are higher than
with ordinary hardware radios.
Sometimes customers pay for more
flexibility than they actually need.
The sunk cost associated with legacy
equipment that is no longer used
Limited advancement
Even with Software Defined Radio
technology advancing rapidly, many of the
technologies it is built upon are not
advancing nearly as quickly.
Moores law has helped immensely with
processing and memory.
Limits on front-end technologies and RF
Where could SDR technology
The ultimate potential of SDR technology is realized within adaptive
array antennas.
These intelligent antennas first must detect which direction a signal
is coming from, and then adapt its radiation pattern to allow for
optimum communication conditions through the use of beam
Beam forming is using several antennas together to utilize
constructive interference to generate an approprate radiation
SDR technology allows a radio to be controlled entirely by software,
from this point, system learning and algorithms can be introduced
into the radios using methods already applied in artificial intelligence
Multiple Input Multiple Output devices.
These are a class of intelligent antenna.
This type of device uses an array of
intelligent antennas at both ends of the
link. This will allow both the sender and
the receiver to adapt to changing
environmental conditions and ultimately to
create the optimum communication
In Conclusion
Software Defined Radios employ a technology that will ultimately
bring a great deal of flexibility and adaptability to the networks of
the future.
As many benefits as they provide, the technology still has a long
way to go before it finds its way into cellular handsets that can
exploit the absolute potential of SDR.
SDR serves as an enabling technology for intelligent radios and
MIMO devices.
Any Questions?
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2008, from The US Navy Website:http://sca.jpeojtrs.mil/downloads.asp?ID=2.2.2.
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Government Website:http://www.safecomprogram.gov/SAFECOM/.
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