Publication Date

Spring 2014


School of Engineering and Computational Sciences


Engineering: Electrical Intelligence; Mathematics


software radios, SDR, radios, wireless communications


Electrical and Computer Engineering | Electrical and Electronics | Signal Processing | Systems and Communications


Over the past decade, software-defined radios (SDRs) have an increasingly prevalent aspect of wireless communication systems. Different than traditional hardware radios which implement radio protocols using static electrical circuit, SDRs implement significant aspects of physical radio protocol using software programs running on a host processor. Because they use software to implement most of the radio functionality, SDRs are much more easily modified, edited, and upgraded than their hardware-defined counterparts. Consequently, researchers and developers have been developing previously hardware-defined radio systems within software. Thus, communication standards can be tested under different conditions or swapped out entirely by simply changing some code. Additionally, developers hope to implement more advanced functionality with SDRs such as cognitive radios that can sense the conditions of the environment and change parameters or protocol accordingly. This paper will outline the major aspects of SDRs including their explanation, advantages, and architecture.

As SDRs have become more commonplace, many companies and organizations have developed hardware front-ends and software packages to help develop software radios. The most prominent hardware front-ends to date have been the USRP hardware boards. Additionally, many software packages exist for SDR development, including the open source GNU Radio and OSSIE and the closed source Simulink and Labview SDR packages. Using these development tools, researchers have developed many of the most relevant radio standards. This paper will explain the major hardware and software development tools for creating SDRs, and it will explain some of the most important SDR projects that have been implemented to date.