Wireless Systems Design

Software-Defined Radio Gets Demonstrated For Base Stations

Software defined-radio (SDR) technology is slowly but surely raising its profile in the wireless industry. At this month's CTIA Wireless show in New Orleans, for instance, ADC (www.adc.com) and Vanu, Inc. (www.vanu.com) demonstrated Vanu's Software Radio technology paired with ADC's Digivance radio-over-fiber system. This demonstration comes on the heels of the companies' announcement to combine their technologies. In doing so, they hope to provide an SDR solution for the wireless infrastructure.

Essentially, SDR allows one wireless device to take the place of multiple products. Thanks to SDR, that single device can now support a wide range of wireless capabilities. The agreement between ADC and Vanu furthers the strengths of SDR, however, by capitalizing on each company's technology. For instance, Vanu's Software Radio maximizes the flexibility found in SDR by moving all of the signal processing into application-level software running on general-purpose processors. As a result, a single Vanu Software Radio device can communicate with many different wireless systems—from GSM cellular to public-safety standards—simply by running different software. When configured as a base station, the Vanu Software Radio provides an extremely flexible infrastructure for wireless services.

For its part, a remote transceiver system like ADC's Digivance allows wireless service providers to enhance their networks. The providers can cost effectively extend coverage and distribute capacity wherever it's needed. By placing antennas remotely, carriers can even provide coverage in areas where cellular service is often difficult to achieve. Examples include tunnels, street corners, and buildings.

In teaming up and targeting base stations, the two companies saw a problem that software-defined-radio technology could solve. Current wireless networks are tied to the hardware radio technology used to implement them. Carriers must therefore spend several billion dollars to deploy a new standard, such as GSM, nationwide. For carriers to realize a reasonable return on their investment, that equipment must operate for close to 10 years.

In contrast, Vanu Software Radio facilitates software upgrades to the wireless infrastructure. Carriers gain the ability to quickly deploy new standards, revenue-generating services, and spectrum-efficient technology. When paired with Digivance technology, which can transport any signal protocol over fiber, the Vanu Software Radio base station can adapt dynamically to changing traffic patterns (see figure). It also can allocate channels to different antennas, enabling superior performance and network flexibility.

The system featured in the CTIA demonstration was software-configured as a GSM base station. It included a remote antenna for real-time demonstrations of the infrastructure solution. The demonstration spotlighted SDR's potential to deliver a more compelling cost model, while giving wireless providers more flexibility and efficiency improvements in the use of their radio spectrum.

This joint solution will be tried for the first time in a live network deployment this summer with Mid-Tex Cellular, Ltd. The trial will highlight the benefits of SDR for rural wireless providers by offering a flexible, cost-effective, and spectrum-efficient infrastructure solution. The first commercial deployment of the technology is expected later this year.

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