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Rf Signal Database For A Communication Systems Course

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Digital Communications Systems

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.1097.1 - 11.1097.13

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Paper Authors


Joseph Hoffbeck University of Portland

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Joseph P. Hoffbeck is an Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering at the University of Portland. He has B.S.E.E, M.S.E.E., and Ph.D. degrees from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana. He has also worked with digital cellular telephone systems at Lucent Technologies (formerly AT&T Bell Labs) in Whippany, New Jersey. He is a member of the IEEE and the ASEE, and his technical interests include communication systems, digital signal processing, and remote sensing. His email address is

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Andrew Melton University of Portland

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Andrew Melton is an electrical engineering student at the University of Portland. He is a student member of the IEEE, and his technical intrests include wireless communications and photovoltaic materials.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

RF Signal Database for a Communication Systems Course Abstract

Students in communication systems courses respond to the material better when it is related to real world examples and systems. In order to strengthen the link between the theory and real systems, the radio frequency (RF) signal was recorded from several commercial communication systems and stored in a database which is available from the first author. Some of the signals included in the database are AM and FM radio, high definition AM and FM radio, analog and digital TV, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS, WWV time signal, garage door opener, remote control for toy cars, wireless thermometers, and a wireless serial cable replacement system. The recordings, which were made with a Tektronix RSA3408A Real Time Spectrum Analyzer, can be used to illustrate several important concepts such as various modulation methods, frequency division multiplexing, frequency hopping, direct sequence spread spectrum, and noise. The signals can also be used in assignments and projects such as having the students identify the parameters of the signals (such as the bandwidth, type of modulation, baud rate, etc.), or having the students write a computer program to decode the signals. Using software to decode these signals illustrates the operations required in a software-defined radio receiver, and it makes the demodulation and decoding process more interesting than it would be with simulated signals. This paper describes how the signals in the RF signal database were recorded and how these signals can be used to enhance a communication systems course.


When teaching communication systems, it would be very useful to have access to real signals to illustrate various concepts. For example, when teaching the concept of frequency division multiplexing (assigning different signals to different frequencies), it would make this concept very clear to have a recording of the entire AM radio band, so the students could see that in order to tune in a particular station, the receiver must isolate one of the stations and demodulate it. When teaching frequency hopping systems, it would be interesting to examine the signal from a frequency hopping system such as Bluetooth to witness the signal jumping from one frequency to another. In teaching software-defined radio, it would be interesting to test receivers with real RF signals instead of simulated ones.

There are advantages in having the students work with real signals in laboratory courses[1,2,3]. But for those students without access to the expensive test equipment or the time to set up the experiments, a database may be the only way to get access to a wide variety of RF signals. The RF signals in the database described in this paper can be used for examples, projects, and homework assignments in a communication systems course to strengthen the link between the concepts and real systems. A copy of the database can be requested by sending email to the first author.

Hoffbeck, J., & Melton, A. (2006, June), Rf Signal Database For A Communication Systems Course Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois.

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