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BER Experimental Measurements in the 2.

4 GHz
and 5.85 GHz Bands using Software Defined Radios
Ignacio G. Bugueño-Córdova, Felipe A. Bahamonde-Muñoz, Cesar A. Azurdia-Meza

Abstract—Bit error rate (BER) is an important performance The purpose of this paper is to present a methodology using
measure for the evaluation of digital communications systems USRPs that allows to validate experimental BER curves in a
over a communication channel. Taking into consideration that real channel for a single carrier system, and using QPSK in
packets transmitted through a physical medium may be affected
by transmission channel noise, bit synchronization problems, at- the 2.4 GHz and 5.85 GHz bands. These frequency bands are
tenuation, interference, wireless multipath fading, among others, the ones in which the USRP 2921 operates. It is important
is necessary to determine this measure in real conditions, in order to note that in this work only degradation generated by
to evaluate and improve the performance of the system. In this path loss is considered. The root raised-cosine filter (RRC)
context, this paper presents an experimental methodology for the is used for pulse shaping and different roll off factors are
measurement of BER curves in the 2.4 GHz and 5.85 GHz bands,
using Software Defined Radio (SDR) Universal Software Radio evaluated (α = 0.22; 0.35; 0.5). It is expected that this work
Peripheral (USRP) and Systems Engineering Software LabVIEW. will lead to additional experimental measurements with other
By determining the BER in realistic conditions, is possible to pulse shaping filters, modulation schemes, and other evaluation
improve the modeling of the communication channel, allowing metrics additional to the BER.
to design robust pulse shapes. In this way, the development of The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: Section
the proposed methodology will allow to measure the performance
of different modulation techniques, and thus be able to contrast II presents an introduction and bibliographic review regarding
the theoretical performance versus the realistic performance of the use of SDRs, focused on digital communications systems.
traditional and new digital communications systems. Section III presents the methodology used for obtaining the
Keywords—Bit error rate (BER), digital modulation tech- BER curves in the 2.4 GHz and 5.85 GHz bands using
niques, LabVIEW, path loss, software defined radio (SDR). single carrier and QPSK. Section IV presents the results and
discussion. Finally, Section V presents the conclusions and
I. I NTRODUCTION future work.
Communication systems have become an essential part of
our daily lives, given to the exponential growth and evo- II. SDR IN DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS
lution of technology, which has allowed the exchange of
One way to emulate large-scale communication systems
information to exceeds different barriers. To achieve this,
on a small scale is through the use of radio communication
multiple communications systems have been developed over
systems. Traditionally, the existing communication devices
the years: from the invention of the optical telegraph to current
were limited by the static parameters at the hardware level [2],
digital communication systems. Current systems have acquired
preventing the emulation of systems of interest. It is for this
relevant importance in the last years due to the significant
reason that SDRs arise, define as radio communication system
advantages that they present with respect to analog systems;
where components that have been traditionally implemented
such as advance detection techniques, detection and correction
in hardware are instead implemented by means of software
of errors at the receiver side, encryption, as well as the
on a personal computer or embedded system [3]. Thus, it
possibility of transmitting different types of digital data. Given
is possible to emulate different communication systems with
this, multiple studies and models emerge from day to day.
different configurations, on a small scale, without the need to
These, having a large mathematical component, usually remain
physically change the hardware of the equipment. There are
in theoretical developments that are difficult to compare exper-
many cases of the use of SDR in communication systems, for
imentally [1]. It is in this context that experimentation arises
example the design of a prototyping platform for vehicular
through the use of software defined radios (SDRs), which is
communications with VLC using SDR [4], the construction
a platform to develop digital communication systems that can
of an architecture based on SDR for 5G IoT network [5],
be implemented via software using LabVIEW or GNU (Open-
a fully functional prototype proposed for a low-cost satellite
gateway based on an embedded SDR platform [6], the de-
Ignacio G. Bugueño-Córdova was with the Department of Electrical En- sign and implementation of a LTE-WiFi aggregation system
gineering, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Universidad de based on SDR [7], among others. Now, the applications of
Chile, Santiago, Chile e-mail: ignacio.bugueno@ing.uchile.cl.
Felipe A. Bahamonde-Muñoz was with the Department of Electrical En- SDR in communications systems can be extended to multiple
gineering, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Universidad de areas with multiple purposes, such as meteorology with the
Chile, Santiago, Chile e-mail: felipe.bahamonde.m@ug.uchile.cl. development of a low cost prototype that allows the visual-
Cesar A. Azurdia-Meza was with the Department of Electrical Engineer-
ing, Faculty of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, Universidad de Chile, ization of meteorological images [8], space with the design
Santiago, Chile e-mail: cazurdia@ing.uchile.cl. of an autonomous system for space traffic management [9],
and aeronautics with the implementation of a receiver for TABLE I
processing aeronautical data link messages [9]. Further, the use F REQUENCY S PECTRUM A NALYZER : S YSTEM PARAMETERS
of SDRs mainly focuses in digital communications systems: Parameter Value Ref
to study the different modulation techniques [11], analyzing IQ Sampling Rate 200000 sampling -
frequency interference [12], measuring the performance of Number of Samples 20000 samples
OFDM-based systems [13] [14], among others. Based on this Receiver antenna gain 3 dBi [15]
Transmitter/Receiver carrier frequency 2.4 GHz, 5.85 GHz -
last premise, the present work aims to propose a methodology
for measuring the performance of digital communications
systems, implementing wireless links through the use of SDR,
in which two antennas are separated at a distance d, the
along with the development of the corresponding system, to
transmitting antenna has a gain Gt and a power Pt , the
obtain the system’s BER curves.
receiving antenna has a gain Gr and a power Pr , λ is the
wavelength of the radio frequency, and θ is the exponent of
III. M ETHODOLOGY the Friis equation, the analytic solution of the Friis propagation
The goal of this paper is to present an experimental method- loss model exponent has the form:
ology in a wireless communication system in order to obtain  
BER curves using SDRs. In order to determine the BER curve ln Pr
Pt Gt Gr
associated to the modulation scheme, first, the communication θ= . (1)

channel must be studied. Second, the transmission medium ln 4πd
must be analyzed, modeled, and finally the BER for each
configured wireless communication system is obtained. In Taking into consideration that the values of Gt , Gr , and d
this context, the following sections will study and model the are known, a mapping must be made between the transmitted
communication channel in the frequency bands of interest, to power and the received power by the SDR USRP 2921, in a
finally determine the BER curve associated with each wireless specific scenario, to determine the value of the exponent in
digital communication system. the communication channel. In this context, to establish the
correspondence between each transmitted and received power,
a HP 8563E Microwave Spectrum Analyzer was used, with
A. Frequency Spectrum of the Communication Channel coaxial input and operates continuously from 9 KHz to 26.5
The first part of this methodology consists of analyzing the GHz. Thus, to determine the relationship between the trans-
frequency spectrum of the wireless communication channel, mitted power displayed by the USPR 2921 Transmitter (using
in such a way as to determine the prior state of the channel. code in LabVIEW) versus the effective power transmitted by
For the present work, the frequency bands of 2.4 GHz and the SDR, the output of the USRP 2921 is directly connected
5.85 GHz, associated to the Wi-Fi operational bands, will be to the input of the spectrum analyzer, with a 30 dB attenuator
studied. In this way, a SDR USRP 2921 is used as spectrum to avoid working outside the power operation range of the
analyzer. The USRP 2921 is characterized by having a double spectrum analyzer, as can be visualized in Fig. 2.
frequency operational band (2.4 GHz - 2.5 GHz and 4.9 GHz
- 5.85 GHz). Using a LabVIEW base code, we processes the
frequency spectrum of both bands in real time, as can be seen
in Fig. 1.

Fig. 2. Friis propagation loss model exponent. First scenario: wired Link.

Then, analogously, an attempt is made to determine the

relationship between the transmitted power displayed by the
Fig. 1. Frequency spectrum analyzer. LabVIEW platform versus the effective power received by
the spectrum analyzer. To achieve this, an omnidirectional
The analysis of the frequency spectrum allows to obtain antenna is connected to the output of the USRP 2921 and the
information regarding the state of the channel in terms of input of the spectrum analyzer, in order to establish a wireless
channel congestion and thermal noise. These factors will play communication link that allows to map the relationship of the
a key role in the BER curve for the respective frequency previously mentioned powers. This configuration is presented
band and system parameters. The system parameters of this in Fig. 3.
experimental scenario can be seen in Tab. I.

B. Friis Transmission Exponent

Once the spectrum of the communication channel has been
analyzed, it is necessary to determine the path loss exponent
given by the Friis transmission expression, which models the Fig. 3. Friis propagation loss model exponent. Second scenario: wireless
propagation loss of the medium. Based on the Friis equation, Link.
After, by iterating for different power levels, it is possible to large distances is emulated, by means of the use of attenuators,
establish a relationship between the transmitted and received as can be seen in Fig. 5.
power, which allows to obtain independent samples of the Friis
path loss exponent. Finally, the exponent is represented as an
average. The system parameters values of this experimental
scenario can be seen in Table II.


Parameter Symbol Value Ref

Distance between antennas d 4.2 m -
Receiver attenuator - 30 dB -
Transmitter/Receiver antenna gain Gt , Gr 3 dBi [15] Fig. 5. Proposed digital communication system.
3·108 m/s
Wavelength of the radio frequency λ 5.85GHz
For this particular experiment, the root raised cosine (RRC)
filter is used as the pulse shaping filter and is evaluated
with different roll-off values, whereas the modulation scheme
C. Wireless Communication Link Development
used is QPSK, in Tab. III and IV it is possible to see the
BER is defined as the number of bit errors divided by the parameters and configuration used in this experiment. Final
total number of transmitted bits for a certain time interval. codes of the spectrum analyzer, Friis transmission exponent
Extending the BER calculation of a modulation with a par- calculations, and BER curves are available in the Github
ticular gain to any wide range of gains, a BER curve can be project’s repository1 .
elaborated with these set points, a graph corresponding to the
error probability rate versus noise power levels. For each noise
level it is important to generate a sufficient number of samples, W IRELESS C OMMUNICATION L INK D EVELOPMENT: PACKET DATA
in such a way that the samples associated with the BER is F RAME
statistically representative. In this way, from the transmitter Guard Bits 30 bits
and receiver base code provided by LabVIEW, a digital com- Sync Bits 20 bits
munication system is elaborated, with the focus of generating Message Bits 128 bits
Packet Pad 200 samples
BER curves. In this proposed code, the transmitter can adopt Blank Frame 500 samples
digital phase modulation schemes, such as BPSK, QPSK,
PSK, and OQPSK, different pulse shaping filter, adopt various
message packets sizes (Fig. 4), various gain ranges (initial
gain, gain step and final gain), duration of each transmission W IRELESS C OMMUNICATION L INK D EVELOPMENT: S YSTEM
in each gain, and frequency band selection of operation, among PARAMETERS
other parameters. It should be noted that the sending of each
Parameter Value Ref
bit strip is statistically independent, which allows the reception Distance between antennas 10 m -
and subsequent processing of the transmitted messages to be IQ Sampling Rate 200000 sampling
statistically representative. Furthermore, the size of each sent Modulation QPSK -
bit strip is greater than 100,000 bits, in such a way to reach Roll factor 0.22, 0.35, 0.5 -
RRC Filter length 6 -
bit error rates of the order of 10−5 . Transmitter attenuator 30 dB -
Transmitter/Receiver antenna gain 3 dBi [15]
Transmitter/Receiver carrier frequency 2.4 GHz, 5.85 GHz -
Transmitter/Receiver filter RRC -

Fig. 4. Message packet parameters in the proposed digital communication

In a similar way, the proposed receiver can adopt phase
A. Spectrum Analyzer
modulations, such as BPSK, QPSK, PSK, OQPSK, different
pulse shaping filter parameters, adopt various sizes for the From the first stage of the experiment, which consists of
message packets, specific gain, and frequency band selection performing a spectrum analyzer with a bandwidth of 200KHz,
of operation, among the most important. Taking into account 2 results were obtained, one for each band. In Fig. 6 it is
that inside the transmitted packets is the date of issue of the possible to see that, the 2.4 GHz band encounters a lot of
message, this information can be retrieved by the receiver, interference, as expected, not the case of the 5.85 GHz band
allowing to identify the packets sent with the received packets, as seen in Fig. 7, which practically does not present any
calculating the BER associated with each gain, and therefore disturbances. It is expected that the interference signals in the
generating the BER curve with the respective configured 2.4 GHz band will impact negatively the BER curve.
transmission system. With this digital communication system,
it is possible to configure a scenario in which the coverage of 1 https://github.com/laboratoriotics-uchile
Fig. 6. USRP frequency spectrum analyzer in the 2.4 GHz band.

Fig. 9. Spectrum analyzer of the wireless link for determining the Friis
transmission exponent.

Scenario 1 - Wired Link

Received Power [mW]


Fig. 7. USRP frequency spectrum analyzer in the 5.85 GHz band.

0 5 10 15 20 25 30
B. Friis Transmission Exponent USRP 2921 Gain [dB]
Once the channel state has been analyzed in terms of 10-7 Scenario 2 - Wireless Link
Received Power [mW]

interference, the Friis transmission component is obtained and,
with this, it is possible to map the gain of the Software Defined
Radio with the power actually transmitted. For this, the power
transmitted in the wired case and the power received in the 2

wireless case are measured for each level of gain in LabVIEW 0

(from 0 to 30), in Figs. 8 and 9 it is possible to see examples 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
USRP 2921 Gain [dB]
of both experiments, where for the same gain both on the
radio powers are measured. Graphically it is easy to see that
Fig. 10. Power curves mapping for determining the Friis transmission
the transmitted power is about 40 dB larger than the received exponent.

both scenarios (Wired Link and Wireless Link), the exponent

of the Friis Transmission Equation can be calculated for each
measurement using Pt , Pr and the values from Table II,
being possible to determine a representative statistic of the
exponent, as presented in Table V. Each experiment was
repeated 30 times to statistically validate the result. These
results agrees with what was expected by the theory and
empirical results obtained where the values were similar or
within the expected range for an indoor experiment, with line
of sight and interference from other sources. [16].


Fig. 8. Spectrum analyzer of the wired link for determining the Friis the Parameter Average Standard Deviation
transmission exponent. Friis Transmission Exponent 2.1261 0.0287

Once the experiment was done, in Fig. 10 it is possible to

see the result obtained from the mapping for both experiments,
from where it is easy to see that the wired case does not present C. BER Curve
interference, not so in the case where the omnidirectional To obtain the BER curves, the transmitter and receiver
antenna was used. This is attributed to the workspace where were placed at a distance of 10 m with line of sight. The
the experiment was made. From the measurements obtained in parameters used in the system are depicted in Table IV. In
general, 3 different tests were performed related to different
roll-off factors. Once the parameters have been chosen, the
signal to be transmitted is designed, using packet data frame
given in Table III, with a random message that remains fixed
for each repetition and experiment. Then, samples are taken
where changes are made in the transmitted gain (from 0 to 30)
to change the Eb /N0 ratio. In Fig. 11, where a roll-off factor of
0.22 is used, the 2.4 GHz band has a worse performance than
the 5.85 GHz band in terms of BER. This can be explained
through the spectrum analyzer, where the channel was found
to have more interference.

Fig. 12. Experimental BER for QPSK Digital Modulation with α = 0.35.

Fig. 11. Experimental BER for QPSK Digital Modulation, with α = 0.22.

BER curves are shown in Figs. 12 and 13, with the RRC
filter and roll-off factors equal to 0.35 and 0.5, respectively.
Note that for the case of a roll-off factor equal to 0.35 in the
5.85 GHz band, the whole curve has a better BER than the
curve in Fig 11, starting from about 10−3 and reaching 10−5 .
Fig. 13. Experimental BER for QPSK Digital Modulation with α = 0.5.
A similar case occurs for a roll-off factor of 0.5, where both
curves (2.4 and 5.85 GHz) have a lower BER. This might
attributed to the multiple factors that affect the transmission
lower BER. This was not the case for the 5.85 GHz band
scheme and the channel, taking into consideration that this
since the channel at the time of conducting the experiment
was an experimental work.
was with less interference. The impact of the roll-off factor
As expected, a lower BER was obtained for a roll-off
selected in single carrier systems using pulse shaping must
factor equal to 0.5 [17]. This is because in the time-domain
be taken into account when designing digital communication
an increase in the roll-off factor implies smaller relative
magnitudes in the filter’s sidelobes . This implies a lower BER
due to to intersymbol interference (ISI). However, the prior As future work, it would be interesting to develop the
advantage seems to be achieved at the expense of an increase experiments in an environment as isolated as possible (free
in the high frequency components of the filter’s bandwidth. space), in order to fully obtain the behavior of the signal
to be studied. The possibility of carrying out experiments
in systems with higher modulation orders, such as OFDM
V. C ONCLUSION AND F UTURE W ORK and other multi-carrier systems, remains open. To obtain
The use of USRP radios is done for validating experimental better and more representative BER curves, it is necessary to
work and comparing it to theoretical results, both in scientific increase the complexity of the system in terms of robustness
and educational fields. This work has allowed a new way (synchronization, environment where it is deployed, channel
of empirically testing experiments related to communications coding, among others). Finally, and as future work, the use of
through the use of SDRs. In particular by using USRP 2921 GNU radio for new experiments and validations through the
radios, SDRs that work in the 2.4 and 5.85 GHz bands. SDR will be taken into consideration. This is due to the large
Regarding the BER curves obtained, specifically for the 2.4 scientific community that uses GNU (Open-Source) versus the
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