By Michael Millhaem

Test equipment manufacturers are constantly challenged to develop new solutions for testing their customers’ latest devices, but they’ve traditionally developed specialized hardware to meet this challenge.

The communications market is still more challenging due to the rapid development of new standards, which often require new stimulus and measurement capabilities. To keep pace, test vendors must find new approaches that reduce instrument development times and allow instruments to adapt to new requirements. Software-defined radio is one technique that can help.

“Software-defined radio” (SDR) can be defined as a radio communication system that uses software to modulate and demodulate radio signals. Economics is the driving force behind the growing use of SDR. These systems can achieve high flexibility at a lower cost than traditional analog designs. Figure 1 illustrates an SDR system.