Interested in Software-Defined Radio? We are!

Before I took on my role at Digilent, I was an RF engineer at NI (the company that acquired Digilent some years ago). While at NI, I worked on some really complex, fascinating RF instruments. The hardware was awesome! But it was also expensive. Like, really expensive. Some instruments alone started at around $75,000 and a full test system might include several of them! (Not to mention the embedded controller to operate the system and the chassis to fit it all in, which is another $10,000+).

The price is justified for the quality and performance, but it would be overkill for software-defined radio (SDR). Also, what if you’re not a certain trillion-dollar fruit company and looking for something more friendly to your wallet? Well, check this out!

There’s a cool company called Ettus Research that brings together quality hardware and a robust open-source community. (Ettus is also an NI brand, so it’s basically Digilent’s SDR cousin.) Ettus introduced the world to the USRP platform (USRP = Universal Software Radio Peripheral). The USRP family of products is designed for RF applications from DC to 6 GHz, including multiple-antenna (MIMO) systems. Example application areas include white spaces, mobile phones, public safety, spectrum monitoring, radio networking, cognitive radio, satellite navigation, and amateur radio.

We’ve been hearing some interest in RF and SDR from quite a few of our customers, and so we wanted to bring you all something new!

I’m happy to announce that the Ettus USRP B205mini-i is now available in the Digilent store! This flexible and compact platform is ideal for both hobbyist and OEM applications. It provides a wide frequency range from 70 MHz to 6 GHz and a user-programmable, industrial-grade Xilinx Spartan-6 XC6SLX150 FPGA. The RF front end uses the Analog Devices AD9364 RFIC transceiver with 56 MHz of instantaneous bandwidth. The board is bus-powered by a high-speed USB 3.0 connection for streaming data to the host computer.

The USRP B205mini-i also includes connectors for GPIO, JTAG, and synchronization with a 10 MHz clock reference or PPS time reference input signal. The USRP Hardware Driver™ (UHD) provides a C and Python API that enables users to efficiently develop applications then seamlessly transition designs between platforms as requirements expand.

Available now for an introductory price of $746.00 ($100 off!).


4 Comments on “Interested in Software-Defined Radio? We are!”

  1. You didn’t mention television. In the US, TV broadcast frequencies are almost completely included in the range this device targets, except only the lower VHF band (and nowadays it is not used very much since digital has encouraged the use of UHF and upper VHF almost exclusively). Try looking for a TV tuner that can smartly mix signals from multiple antennas to optimize the signal on a per channel basis — I’ve been looking for years and it seems that no such product exists. Simple antenna combiners that introduce phase shift and inversion to one of two antennas before combining them should theoretically do the job, but I can’t even find *that*. Again, no so product seems to exist! There must not be enough demand. But hey, *I* want such a thing. This board could surely do the job in an automated way as part of acting as an ATSC (digital TV) receiver, right? I mean, for each channel, find the most optimal way to combine 2 or 3 antennas to get the best signal (tuned in), and remember that setting for the next time the user wants to tune in that channel. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to pay that much for such a thing, so this may not be the right platform for it. What do you think?

    1. Hey Keith,

      This is the right thing if you want to buy two or three of them, as it only has one transmit and one receive channel. Also, it sounds like you might be interested in something that is more “off-the-shelf”? This definitely has a development component to it, and you’d have to program the FPGA yourself.

  2. Such a shame this thing won’t work below 70MHz.
    Maybe someone at Analog Devices should design a complementary chip, covering from 50KHz to about 2GHz. It could even be used in Spectrum / Network Analyzers – two of the most expensive pieces of test equipment an RF person could desire.
    Yes, I know – they have already been beaten to the punch by the NanoVNA and TinySA test gear. However, the actual specs of these items still leave plenty of room for improvement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *