SOMETIME SOON, ONE COMMON HARDWARE will be able to run multiple wireless services, with software defining their functionalities,” predicts Dr. Vanu Bose, founder and CEO of Vanu Inc., the Cambridge, MA-based startup.
Currently, the hardware in each wireless device—digital or analog handsets, domestic cordless phones, two-way radios, even garage—is built to handle specific RF signal processing software. Wireless systems employ protocols that vary from one service to another. Link-layer protocol standards (2.5G, 3G, and 4G), existence of incompatible wireless network technologies in different countries inhibiting deployment of global roaming facilities, and problems in rolling-out new services/features due to wide-spread presence of legacy subscriber handsets have hindered wireless growth.
Software Defined Radio is a platform that seeks to integrate the protocols at the software level. Software-defined radio (SDR), refers to wireless communication in which the transmitter modulation is generated or defined by a computer, and the receiver uses a computer to recover the signal intelligence.
The most significant asset of SDR is versatility. Wireless systems employ protocols that vary from one service to another. Even in the same type of service, for example wireless fax, the protocol often differs from country to country. A single SDR set with an all-inclusive software repertoire can be used in any mode, anywhere in the world. Changing the service type, the mode, and/or the modulation protocol involves simply selecting and launching the requisite software, and making sure the batteries are adequately charged if portable operation is contemplated.
The ultimate goal of SDR engineers is to provide a single radio transceiver capable of playing the roles of cordless telephone, cell phone, wireless fax, wireless e-mail system, pager, wireless videoconferencing unit, wireless Web browser, Global Positioning System (GPS) unit, and other functions still in the realm of science fiction, operable from any location on the surface of the earth, and perhaps in space as well.