First software-defined radio approved

A technology that could transform wireless communications got a boost on Friday when the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced its first approval of a software-defined radio.

The Vanu Software Radio GSM Base Station from Vanu can support multiple cellular technologies and frequencies at the same time and can be modified in the future without any hardware changes, according to Vanu Chief Executive Officer Vanu Bose. Software-defined radios like Vanu's could lower costs and provide new flexibility in wireless networks, IDC analyst Shiv Bakhshi said Friday.

Traditional radios are hardware components built for a particular frequency range, modulation type and output power. Software-defined radios (SDRs) consist of a flexible radio controlled by software running on a computer or device. The concept goes beyond cellular base stations to other types of radios, such as handheld devices that can switch from one network to another to suit a particular application or environment.

The FCC applauded the technology in a Friday statement on the approval. Software-defined radios can help users share limited airspace and prevent interference, the FCC said.

Vanu's GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) base station is a Hewlett-Packard ProLiant server running Linux, coupled with an ADC Telecommunications Digivance radio subsystem. Using an off-the-shelf server and standard operating system allows Vanu to ride the declining cost curve for processing power, Bose said. Though the price of the current product is close to that of conventional base stations, according to Bose, the equation is expected to change.

"It is going to change the entire cost structure over time," IDC's Bakhshi said. In fact, the new approach is so revolutionary that it's hard to know what benefits will come of it, he said, comparing it to the change from analog to digital cellular networks. Though large operators will not make the switch quickly from their conventional radio networks, some have signaled interest in the technology, Bakhshi said. Cingular Wireless, Orange PCS and NTT DoCoMo all are members of the SDR Forum industry group, along with Intel, Motorola and other infrastructure companies.

Vanu, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is first targeting small, rural operators, Bose said. Those carriers want to support multiple cellular technologies so they can secure roaming agreements with more than one major operator, he said. Software-defined radios let them do that without investing in new hardware each time they add a new technology. For customers of the major operators, that should mean better coverage, Bose said. Vanu launched a trial with Mid-Tex Cellular last year and is now installing its base stations on the operator's network. Bose believes the company is two years away from a direct sale to a top-tier U.S. carrier.

The FCC was supportive during the approval process, according to Bose. Its main concern was ensuring that software-defined radios don't cause harmful interference, he said.

Outside the U.S., software-defined radios could be a boon to mobile operators in less-developed countries, Bose said. The technology provides the flexibility to combine different grades of hardware and software to strike the right balance between cost and network resiliency. Most cellular systems today ensure 99.999 percent, or "five nines," reliability, he said.

"For certain areas, such as rural or developing areas, five nines is overkill because it prices the network right out of the market," Bose said. "Now they can make a choice."

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stephen Lawson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?