USRP + GNU radio: software-defined radio meets open source

Jun 05, 2006 8:35 pm
forwarded by Ben Owen

If you've never heard of software-defined radio, that may be because some might liken it to outlaw pirate-radio; it's a wild-west wireless device which will, in theory, receive or transmit radio data on any frequency (or all frequencies simultaneously) by way of software-based controls. Not exactly the device the FCC's been hoping and praying for since, well, it kind of undermines the whole concept of segmented spectrum and delineated radio devices and services. But that's all the more reason why Wired's profile of one Eric Blossom and one Matt Ettus, is rather astounding. As creators of the Universal Software Radio Peripheral, they've managed to fit a modular SDR system into a $550 USB device, capable in theory of doing anything from receiving (and transmitting) HDTV, to GPS, to EV-DO, to AM radio on their specified frequencies, or others. Nothing new or unusual in and of itself, but the cost of the part, and its built-in integration with run of the mill desktop computers is what's unprecedented. Which is why if you think we'll ever see SDR in America, you're crazy; the government, which makes tens of billions of dollars from spectrum sales, has precisely zero interest in allowing software defined radio to run free. Funny, because as the cost of SDR goes down, it could actually end all our wireless transmission problems once and for all. Imagine an SDR-based cellphone that with one chip does GSM, CDMA, EV-DO, HSDPA, DMB, FLO, DVB-T, Bluetooth, WiFi, WiMax, etc. It's not impossible, you know. In fact, according to Blosson and Ettus, it's apparently quite easy.