What Is Software-Defined Radio (SDR)?

Design and prototype SDR systems with MATLAB and Simulink

A software-defined radio (SDR) is a wireless device that typically consists of a configurable RF front end with an FPGA or programmable system-on-chip (SoC) to perform digital functions. Commercially available SDR hardware can transmit and receive signals at different frequencies to implement wireless standards from FM radio to 5G, LTE, and Wi-Fi®. Figure 1 shows a typical SDR block diagram and its connectivity to MATLAB®.

Figure 1. Block diagram of SDR components and connectivity to MATLAB.

Wireless engineers can use software-defined radio hardware as a cost-effective, real-time platform for a range of wireless engineering tasks, including:

  • Over-the-air lab and field testing with live RF signals
  • Rapid prototyping of custom radio functions
  • Hands-on learning of wireless communications concepts and design skills

Wireless engineers can also work with various wireless standards such as 5G, LTE, DVB-S2, and others using SDR and MATLAB connectivity.

Using a software-defined radio together with MATLAB and Simulink® for wireless design, simulation, and analysis enables engineers and students to:

Figure 2. Deploy, prototype, and verify custom designs on SDR hardware using HDL and C code generation from algorithm models.

MATLAB and Simulink Hardware Support for SDR

With MATLAB and Simulink support for popular SDR hardware, you can communicate with SDR platforms to perform radio-in-the-loop testing, prototyping, and hands-on learning. The images below show the supported SDR hardware and solutions offered by MathWorks to design and prototype software-defined radio systems.

See also: RF system, LTE tutorial, Communications Toolbox, massive MIMO, Communications Toolbox Library for ZigBee and UWB, Bluetooth, beamforming, Wireless Testbench, 5G, DVB-S2, wireless transceiver