Cornell has a radio for the whole world with software filtering

The new design could mean a single smartphone model that works everywhere

Researchers at Cornell University have developed a new type of radio-on-a-chip that could mean cheaper, more flexible wireless systems. Smartphone makers could, for example, use the technology to make a single model of each phone that works anywhere in the world.

Single-chip radios have become a popular choice for communications hardware in the last decade because most characteristics of the radio are determined through software, not discrete hardware components. For this reason, they are often referred to as software-defined radios.

But software can only do so much. In many transceiver devices -- ones that transmit and receive -- an array of filters is needed to protect the sensitive receiver circuity from signals being transmitted. Those signals can be up to a billion times more powerful that the ones being received, so without the filters, the radio would be overwhelmed and useless.

In cellphones, the radio transmits and receives simultaneously on different frequencies. This allows you to listen and speak at the same time without having to take turns and say "over" each time you finish.

The Cornell researchers have figured out a way to generate the transmit signal that allows it to be canceled out on the receive side. That way, hardware filters aren't needed.

"The reason why it works is a unique design," said Alyssa Apsel, a professor at Cornell and member of the team that developed the technology. The radio generates several signals that in one direction combine to produce the desired transmit signal. In the other direction they cancel each out, thus doing the job of a filter.

The new design could make software radios cheaper, but that's secondary to a bigger advance.

"We can enable this function at any frequency, just by tuning some parameters," said Apsel. "So we can make a radio that is truly reconfigurable, changed on the fly to spectrum in your location."

That's becoming more important as the airwaves get more crammed with wireless signals.

A couple of decades ago, a cellphone that covered three frequency bands would have worked pretty much anywhere in the world, but the latest LTE technology is available for more than 30 different bands.

Things are likely to get more complicated as demand for spectrum leads more countries to make band assignments specific to their needs. So a radio that can quickly be reprogrammed for a particular region could be useful.

The radio developed at Cornell covers frequencies from 300MHz to 5GHz, which encompasses many active communications bands, including those for cellphones, Wi-Fi, amateur radio, emergency services and some fixed wireless broadband and satellite communications.

They've managed to attain 25dB of isolation between the transmit and receive signals so far. Apsel said hardware filters will typically isolate from 20dB to 40dB, but the researchers aren't done yet. She's confident of achieving 50dB isolation or more.

The research was detailed in a paper, “A wideband fully integrated software-defined transceiver for FDD and TDD operation,” published online in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Journal of Solid-State Circuits on January 27, 2017. Apsel worked with Cornell professor Alyosha Molnar.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Martyn Williams

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?