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Wireless communication standards are continuously evolving and getting more diverse.This requires a wide variety of baseband implementations within a short time-to-market. Besides, deep sub-micron technology significantly increases the design complexity and associated cost. These yield a growing need for reconfigurable/programmable baseband solutions. Implementing the whole base band functionality on programmable architectures, as foreseen in the tier-2 SDR, will become a must. However, the energy efficiency of SDR baseband platforms is unavoidably worse than the ASIC counterparts. This brings a challenging gap to bridge, which is even broadening further in emerging high rate standards. With a holistic view, we advocate a system level algorithmic approach to bridge this gap. Specifically, we propose to leverage the advantages (programmability) of SDR platforms to compensate for its disadvantages (energy efficiency). Highly flexible baseband algorithms are designed to exploit the abundant dynamics in the environment and the user requirements.In this way, the baseband can utilize the dynamics and substantially reduce the average energy consumption. In this paper, we present a design methodology and principles, illustrated with 3 representative case studies in HSDPA, WiMAX, and 3GPP LTE.