Asee peer logo

Implementation of Analog and Digital Communications Transceivers on SDR Platforms using GNU Radio Companion

Download Paper |


2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Tampa, Florida

Publication Date

June 15, 2019

Start Date

June 15, 2019

End Date

October 19, 2019

Conference Session

Course Transformation in ECE

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count




Permanent URL

Download Count


Request a correction

Paper Authors


Joshua David Edgcombe Grand Valley State University

visit author page

Joshua Edgcombe is a Graduate Student at Grand Valley State University pursuing his Masters of Science in Engineering in Computer and Electrical Engineering. He has experience with signal processing and communication systems as well as analog and digital circuit and filter design. He also has a strong background in software development and has developed software in a variety of environments including web, native, systems, and embedded.

visit author page


Bruce E. Dunne Grand Valley State University

visit author page

Bruce E. Dunne received the B.S.E.E. (with honors) and M.S. degrees from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1985 and 1988, respectively, both in Electrical and Computer Engineering. He received the Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, in 2003. In the Fall of 2003, he joined the Padnos College of Engineering and Computing, Grand Valley State University, Grand Rapids, MI, where he is currently a Professor of Engineering. Prior to this appointment, he held several research and development positions in industry. From 1991 to 2002, he was a Staff Engineer with Tellabs, Naperville, IL. Additionally, in 1991, he was with AT&T Bell Telephone Laboratories, Naperville, IL; from 1988 to 1991, he was with R. R. Donnelley & Sons, Lisle, IL; and from 1985 to 1986, he was with Zenith Electronics, Glenview, IL. His interests include adaptive filtering, speech enhancement, wireless and wireline communications, and engineering education. Dr. Dunne is a senior member of the IEEE and a member of Eta Kappa Nu and the ASEE.

visit author page

Download Paper |


In the recent literature, Software Defined Radio (SDR) has been promoted as a powerful and low-cost approach to offering laboratory experiments in the field of analog and digital communications. Furthermore, using the freeware graphical software GNU Radio Companion (GRC), a wide variety of experiments can be easily and quickly assembled by students on the SDR hardware. The GRC software includes built-in instrumentation blocks that allow visualization of the signals at any point in the modulation and/or demodulation process, lending strong experimental observation to reinforce theoretical concepts. Certain SDR hardware platforms provide duplex processing, allowing implementation of both the transmitter and receiver, for short distances.

The advantages of an SDR/GRC approach to offering communication laboratory experimentation is well described; however, the specific implementation details are less well documented. While conceptually not overly difficult, there are many non-trivial pitfalls and obstacles that must be overcome to actualize such communication experimentation. The intent of this paper is to address this knowledge gap and provide clear implementation details for a turn-key laboratory in a first or second course in analog and digital communications. To do so, a series of communications experiments are described, including all processing at both the transmitter and the receiver (including timing considerations), the interface to external files, the RF interface, and beneficial points to observe signals in either the time or frequency domain, or as appropriate, constellation plots. The configuration of the GRC blocks are described along with complete GRC flow graph diagrams for each modulation format presented. In certain cases, configuration of performance measurements, such as Signal-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) or Bit-Error-Rate (BER) are included. Dealing with issues such as timing alignment are also discussed. Finally, the implementation of custom blocks to augment the GRC library are also described.

This paper includes an overview of the use of SDR/GRC in communication laboratory experimentation as well as a description of the recommended hardware and development environment. Some general remarks about the development of GRC flow graphs is then followed by a detailed discussion of transceiver implementation. Particular transceivers discussed include the analog modulation formats AM and FM and the digital modulation formats FSK, PSK and QAM. The paper concludes with recommendations for additional and more advanced communication experimentation.

Edgcombe, J. D., & Dunne, B. E. (2019, June), Implementation of Analog and Digital Communications Transceivers on SDR Platforms using GNU Radio Companion Paper presented at 2019 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Tampa, Florida. 10.18260/1-2--32936

ASEE holds the copyright on this document. It may be read by the public free of charge. Authors may archive their work on personal websites or in institutional repositories with the following citation: © 2019 American Society for Engineering Education. Other scholars may excerpt or quote from these materials with the same citation. When excerpting or quoting from Conference Proceedings, authors should, in addition to noting the ASEE copyright, list all the original authors and their institutions and name the host city of the conference. - Last updated April 1, 2015