Wideband RF Front End Daughterboard Based on the Motorola RFIC

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Virginia Tech


The goal of software-defined radio (SDR) is to move the processing of radio signals from the analog domain to the digital domain — to use digital microchips instead of analog circuit components. Until faster, higher-precision analog-to-digital (ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) become affordable, however, some analog signal processing will be necessary. We still need to convert high-radio frequency (RF) signals that we receive to low intermediate-frequency (IF) or baseband (centered on zero Hz) signals in order for ADCs to sample them and feed them into microchips for processing. The reverse is true when we transmit. Amplification is also needed on the receive side to fully utilize the dynamic range of the ADC and power amplification is needed on the transmit side to increase the power output from the DAC for transmission. Analog filtering is also needed to avoid saturating the ADC or to filter out interference when receiving and to avoid transmitting spurs. The analog frequency conversion, amplification and filtering section of a radio is called the RF front end. This thesis describes work on a new RF front end daughterboard for the Universal Software Radio Peripheral, or USRP. The USRP is a software-radio hardware platform designed to be used with the GNU Radio software radio software package. Using the Motorola RFIC4 chip, the new daughterboard receives RF signals, converts them to baseband and does analog filtering and amplification before feeding the signal into the USRP for processing. The chip also takes transmit signals from the USRP, converts them from baseband to RF and amplifies and filters them. The board was designed and laid out by Randall Nealy. I wrote the software driver for GNU Radio. The driver defines the interface between the USRP and the RFIC chip, controls the physical settings, and calculates and sets the hundreds of variables necessary to operate this extremely complex chip correctly. It allows plug-and-play compatibility with the current USRP daughterboards and supplies additional functions not available in any other daughterboard.



USRP, radio hardware, land mobile radio, public safety, GNU Radio, Motorola RFIC, SPI interface, Python, software radio