What is Software Defined Radio?

With the exponential growth in the ways and means by which people need to communicate - data communications, voice communications, video communications, broadcast messaging, command and control communications, emergency response communications, etc. - modifying radio devices easily and cost-effectively has become business critical. Software defined radio (SDR) technology brings the flexibility, cost efficiency and power to drive communications forward, with wide-reaching benefits realized by service providers and product developers through to end users.

Software Defined Radio - Defined:

A number of definitions can be found to describe Software Defined Radio, also known as Software Radio or SDR. The Wireless Innovation Forum, working in collaboration with the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) P1900.1 group, has worked to establish a definition of SDR that provides consistency and a clear overview of the technology and its associated benefits.

Simply put Software Defined Radio is defined as :
"Radio in which some or all of the physical layer functions are software defined" *

Thank you to the Forum's Platinum Sponsor

A radio is any kind of device that wirelessly transmits or receives signals in the radio frequency (RF) part of the electromagnetic spectrum to facilitate the transfer of information. In today's world, radios exist in a multitude of items such as cell phones, computers, car door openers, vehicles, and televisions.

Traditional hardware based radio devices limit cross-functionality and can only be modified through physical intervention. This results in higher production costs and minimal flexibility in supporting multiple waveform standards. By contrast, software defined radio technology provides an efficient and comparatively inexpensive solution to this problem, allowing multi-mode, multi-band and/or multi-functional wireless devices that can be enhanced using software upgrades.

SDR defines a collection of hardware and software technologies where some or all of the radio’s operating functions (also referred to as physical layer processing) are implemented through modifiable software or firmware operating on programmable processing technologies. These devices include field programmable gate arrays (FPGA), digital signal processors (DSP), general purpose processors (GPP), programmable System on Chip (SoC) or other application specific programmable processors. The use of these technologies allows new wireless features and capabilities to be added to existing radio systems without requiring new hardware.


General Functional Architecture-SDR

Wireless Innovation Forum Generalized Functional Architecture – Commercial (source document)


* Cognitive Radio Definitions Document

Other Pages in this section:
- Benefits of SDR
- SDR Rate of Adoption
- SDR Value Chain
- SDR Related Technologies

Click here for a pdf of all the pages in this section.