Monday, August 1, 2011

SDR soon playing at a university near you

Two years ago I assisted at a meeting at Elektor during which Software Defined Radio (SDR), GNU radio and its hardware platform the Universal Software Radio Peripheral (USRP) were discussed. The GNU radio people were really convincing and I liked the concept, but since then I didn't hear much of it. One of the reasons, I thought, was that the USRP (version 2 at the time) was quite an expensive platform.

During the visit of the University of Texas (UT) this morning a wireless class was presented that was based on SDR. The hardware platform was a PXI from National Instruments and the programming was done, of course, in LabVIEW. The goal of the course is to familiarise students with wireless concepts and instead of treating the subject only in a theoretical way, the UT decided to use an SDR hardware platform so that students can easily implement and try out the concepts in the real world. An excellent concept if you ask me.

Instead of keeping it a UT-only course they went a step further and developed an educational package that other schools and universities can buy from the UT. This package includes two now-where-did-I-see-you-before? USRPs (on the left in the photo). Actually, the USRP is now an NI product because NI bought Ettus Research in February 2010. I am afraid this will not really help to lower the price of the USRP.

I don't know if there is a difference between the USRP N210 that you can buy from Ettus and which looks identical to the USRP-2920 from NI, but maybe I can find that out this afternoon during the special USRP session?

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