Radio design needs to mirror PC industry approach

A senior Navy program manager challenged the software-defined radio (SDR) industry to think more like the PC industry.

Richard Anderson, senior program engineer and manager at the RF Communications Engineering Division of the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in Charleston, S.C., specifically pointed to the need to deliver the types of features consumers have in their mobile phones.

“I don't understand why troops in the field don't have a cell phone like I do,” he said at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement’s Software Radio Summit Feb. 24.

“The SDR community needs to drive standards like the PC industry,” he said in his keynote address. “One program [the Defense Department's Joint Tactical Radio System] is not going to be able to drive standards.”

SDR standards shouldn't be static, Anderson said. He pointed to the changes in the PC bus — from Industry Standard Architecture to PCI — as an example. “Standards can migrate. Interfaces can change, they can evolve,” he said. New technology should be incorporated into SDR standards in a similar fashion for applications such as mobile ad hoc networks, he added.

DOD was an early promoter of SDR technology. It was responsible for creating the Software Communications Architecture (SCA), a framework that builds on the Common Object Request Broker Architecture on which the JTRS program waveforms and radios are based. DOD’s goal was to create an ecosystem of commercially developed SDR applications and lower the overall cost of SDR technology for the department.

Although the Software Defined Radio Forum is now maintaining SCA, few programs outside JTRS have adopted the architecture. Part of the problem is radio developers’ reluctance to open their interfaces to potential competitors. But Anderson said he believes that doing so is essential to creating a market for SDR technology.

“Just like the PC world, as companies release their [interface] standards, business will increase,” he said. He added that an open SDR interface standard would lead to business opportunities in creating radio development environments, board-level components, testing tools and advanced network waveforms.

About the Author

Sean Gallagher is senior contributing editor for Defense Systems.

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