Introduction

In this blog post, I provide an overview of the Software Communication Architecture (SCA) for software-defined radio (SDR). I also list the main goals and benefits of SCA and provide a brief historical overview of its development.

What is SCA ?

As described by the Wireless Innovation Forum: “What are SCA standards? Standards based on or supporting the software communication architecture (SCA), an architecture framework created to assist in the development of software defined radio communication systems allowing waveform application software to be more easily ported across radio platforms”.

SCA is a standard architecture for software-defined radios. Its goal is to provide portability for some elements of the radios. Portability is defined as the capacity of one element (a software waveform, for example) to be ported from one device to another without extensive modification. Portability also enables the recuperation of older wireless waveforms by porting them to newer devices and freeing up resources to produce new waveforms. SCA extends this concept, as the waveform and related application-processing is divided between multiple processing elements.

Benefits

The benefits of SCA include:

  • Proven cost and delivery-time advantages through the reuse of waveform software and firmware components within a radio family and across radio vendors
  • Enhanced communications interoperability through use of a common waveform application base across multi-national coalitions
  • Simplified insertion of new communications capabilities into deployed radios (including next-generation networking, dynamic spectrum allocation, and multi-national security solutions)
  • Reduced development risk and time-to-market through an established SCA vendor ecosystem

SCA provides a unique way in which waveform software and other elements of a software-defined radio interact with the hardware. With standardization, waveforms are compatible, not only with one platform, but also for any device supporting SCA. A software waveform can then be used in many different radio sets, be it handheld devices or other communication equipment.

SCA development history

SCA was developed in the context of the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS). An initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense, JTRS aimed at replacing 30 families of radio systems used by the United States Army. The project required assembling software made by different players onto hardware from different companies. Furthermore, the software developed was required to be re-usable in other contexts, thus creating a need for a standard defining how all the parts would interact with each other. The SCA was created to fulfill this requirement. Today the JTRS is part of the past but the SCA is still a very active topic.

Application of portable waveforms in software-defined radio

The SCA is an initiative of the defense community, namely the JTRS. The portability of software waveforms is useful in military activities because of the utility of being able to port different waveforms to the same radio unit depending on the mission.

This being said, defense is not the only field in which we can imagine a portable waveform to be useful. Portability is a key attribute in areas like public safety. For example, in operations where a major catastrophe has damaged the communication network, the responder’s radio could provide an ad-hoc extension to the existing network structure for relaying communications.  Through cognitive radio technologies, software-defined radio hardware can reconfigure itself to achieve this.  Portability of the waveforms, one of SCA’s main goals, is therefore applicable to fields beyond the military and extend to public safety and any other field where one device may have to run different waveforms.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we’ve provided a brief overview of SCA and its implications in applications in software-defined radio fields. In subsequent blog posts, we will look more closely at SCA and how Nutaq’s hardware is ideal for developing new SCA-compatible applications.

Sources

http://www.wirelessinnovation.org/assets/documents/tut-Market_Studies_Overview.pdf
http://www.wirelessinnovation.org/webinars webinar #12 SCA Standards for Defense Communications
http:/http://www.nutaq.com.wikipedia.org/wiki/Software_Communications_Architecture