Editorís note: This feature originally appeared on the RF & Microwave Designline in September 2011, prior to the launch of the Military & Aerospace Designline. We are reprinting it in response to reader interest in software-defined radio; look for exclusive content to come on this topic later in the year.
Some key goals of next-generation communication systems are the ability to provide much higher data capacity and system re-configurability while also reducing power, board area, and cost. These competing requirements are forcing re-evaluation of the capability of traditional system architectures to address many market demands including:
Increased number of received channels for additional data capacity and capability
Increased programmability and re-configurability to reduce re-design costs and enable easy customization
Reduced energy consumption to improve system reliability, address regional and global green initiatives, and reduce operating expense
Reduced board area and solution bill-of-materials
These market trends can be elegantly and efficiently addressed by a new breed of wideband software-defined radio (SDR) solutions. Recent advances in analog-to-digital converter (ADC) technology (12 bits at 3.6-GSPS) have enabled the development of wide bandwidth SDR systems that can simultaneously process multiple channels at high input frequencies. With this new ADC capability, systems can be developed that digitize entire input frequency bands with high resolution, removing the need for multiple receive paths or expensive analog filtering. Instead, all of the channel filtering can be implemented in the digital domain, where it can be accomplished at much lower power, area and cost, and with much better performance Moving signal processing into the digital domain also allows for easier programming and on-the-fly system parameter reconfiguration, yielding truly programmable (or software-defined) systems.
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