Digital transceivers have for many years been used in a wide variety of applications, including terrestrial cellular networks, satellite communications and radar-based surveillance and Earth observation and monitoring. Their capabilities will have a direct impact on the efficiency and system cost of new 5G mobile networks. Traditionally, transceiver system engineers have used intermediate frequency architectures for such applications. However, the most recent improvements in the capabilities of high-speed data converters enable innovative architectures based on RF sampling, offering a number of benefits and efficiencies at system level.
These include not only ‘SWAP-C’ benefits – reduced size, weight, power consumption and cost – but also time-to-market and flexibility benefits through an increased focus on Software Defined Radio (SDR) and Software Defined Microwave (SDM). This enables engineers to address multiple applications with unique system hardware capable of supporting multiple configurations and requirements.
Before examining how the latest generation high-speed data converters can help deliver these benefits, it is worth looking at the two transceiver system architectures.