Software Defined Radio Engineering

Course length:

5 Days



Course dates

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In the past 20 years software defined radio (SDR) has evolved from a major defense department effort to build a one radio fits all applications to a low cost RF tuner card that streams samples into, primarily, Simulink or GNU radio software.   At the present time low cost RF tuner cards, such as RTL-SDR, Ettus Research Radios, Hack RF and others, are widely coupled to PCs to form SDRs, both in industry and by hobbyist.  The detailed signal processing algorithms presented in this course provide useful, and in most cases ready to use, solutions for both phases of this SDR evolution.  If you are into SDR, this is your course.

Day one starts with an overview of everything SDR, architectures, advantages, applications, etc.  Day 1 also features two different SDR hardware demos that we will refer to throughout the class.    Day two presents an in-depth review of digital modulation, both basic and advanced, as well as RF propagation impairments, received signal equalization, coding theory and multiple access techniques. Day three focuses on SDR analog design starting with analog radio signal processing and finishing with a look at theory and application of analog to digital converter (ADC) technology. The second half of day three considers SDR digital signal processing algorithms including theory and application of various acquisition, tracking and estimation algorithms. Day four covers complete details of two modem designs: 32APSK and IEEE802-11b.  Both working simulations and explanatory slides are presented. There is plenty of detail so you can use these as a starting point for your own complete SDR implementation

Throughout the course, intuitive explanations take the place of detailed mathematical developments. The emphasis is on providing the student knowledge and insight. Most topics include carefully described design examples, alternative approaches, performance analysis, and references to published research results. Extensive guidance is provided to help you get started on practical design and simulation efforts. In addition to the class slides and extensive bibliography, all DSP code and models are provided on the class CD.  As you can see, this course has both breadth and depth into all SDR aspects!

Signal Processing Demos:

  • IEEE 802.11a OFDM transmit, receive
  • DVB-S2 APSK transmit, receive
  • Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast receiver (interfaces to both RTL-SDR and AD9361)
  • Channel equalizer technology:  LMS, DFE, OFDM
  • Phase array directional antenna signal processing

Matlab/SimulinkTM source code described in detail and provided to students.

Course runs 8:30 am to 5:00 pm

What You Will Learn:

  • State-of-the-art digital algorithms and RF communications principles for software defined radio.
  • Many difficult to find practical digital modem design techniques.
  • Pros and cons of SDR software development tools such as Simulink and GNU radio.
  • Pros and cons of SDR hardware platforms such as Analog Devices, Ettus, Nutaq, Xilinx and others.
  • SDR system design applications.
  • Cognitive radio concepts and current applications

Course Outline:

  1. SDR IntroductionSDR definitions, motivation, advantages, history and evolution as well as an overview of SDR design approaches.
  2. SDR Major Standards. Software Communications Architecture (SCA) and Space Telecommunications Radio System (STRS). We look at the differences as well as the motivation, operational overview and details. Hardware abstraction concepts and structural components of both systems are discussed. The NASA SCAN SDR test is presented as a practical SDR example.
  3. SDR Architectures. Changes that the SDR approach has brought about in radio and computer architecture, interface design, component selection and other aspects. We study the characteristics and application of the computational elements of a typical SDR.  Finally, we discuss the very latest FPGA system on a chip (SOC) that contains all analog and digital processing on one chip (just add antenna).
  4. SDR Enablers. We discuss how block diagram-oriented simulation environments such as Simulink and GNU Radio facilitate SDR development. We also look at how these tools fit into both research, hobby and manufacturing environments.
  5. SDR Advantages/Disadvantages. Practical uses of both SDR and cognitive radio. What benefits are obtained and what other factors, such as cost and complexity are involved?
  6. Digital Modulation. We look at both basic waveforms as well as advanced linear and non-linear bandwidth efficient modulations. Techniques analyzed include OFDM and its application to LTE. We emphasis system design implications of bandwidth and power efficiency, peak to average power, error vector magnitude and error probability.  These are major indicators of radio system quality.
  7. RF ChannelsA wide range of RF channel impairments are studied and categorized. Techniques for coping with imperfect channels are discussed. A satellite link budget is described in detail. Topics covered also include antennas, RF spectrum usage, bandwidth measurement, multiple input multiple output (MIMO) channels and several diversity techniques.
  8. Receiver Channel Equalization. We present a thorough treatment of inter-symbol interference, group delay, linear and nonlinear equalization, as well as time and frequency domain equalizers.
  9. Multiple Access Techniques. Frequency, time and code division techniques as well as carrier sensing, wireless sensor networks and beam steering in azimuth and elevation are among the topics discussed.
  10. Source and Channel Coding. Source and channel coding, sampling, entropy, data compression, voice coding, block and convolution coding, turbo coding, space-time coding and trellis coding. The source coding theorem and Shannon’s capacity theorem are both described and applied to provide a thorough but concise treatment of this important topic.
  11. Receiver Analog Signal Processing. We discuss RF components and conversion structures for SDR, frequency planning, automatic gain control as well as high speed, high dynamic range analog to digital conversion techniques and bandpass sampling. We also explore a detailed comparison of receiver direct downconversion vs. non-zero intermediate frequency. This section concludes with an overview of RF power amplifiers.
  12. Receiver Digital Signal Processing. All the DSP algorithms for an APSK as well as IEEE802.11b complete practical digital receiver are discussed. This includes algorithms for quadrature downconversion, matched filtering, packet synchronization, automatic gain control, carrier and symbol tracking, equalization and hard/soft decision slicing. Functioning simulations of this receiver, suitable for FPGA implementation, are presented. In addition, we present practical algorithms for both FIR and IIR parallel processing for high data rate FPGA implementations


Dr. John M Reyland has 30 years of experience in digital communications design for both commercial and military applications. Dr. Reyland holds the degree of Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Iowa. He has presented numerous seminars on digital communications in both academic and industrial settings


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