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This paper describes the concept, architecture, development and demonstration of a real time, high performance, software defined 4-receiver system and a space time decoder to be implemented on a Xilinx Virtex 2 pro field programmable gate array. It is designed and developed for research into receiver diversity and multiple input and multiple output (MIMO) wireless systems. Each receiver has a freescale DSP56321 digital signal processor (DSP) to run synchronization, channel state estimation and equalization algorithms. The system is software defined to allow for flexibility in the choice of receiver demodulation formats, output data rates and space-time decoding schemes. Hardware, firmware and software aspects of the receiver and space time decoder system to meet design requirements are discussed.