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This paper presents an ultra-low-cost wireless communications laboratory that is based on a commercial off-the-shelf field programmable gate array (FPGA) development board that is both inexpensive and available worldwide. The total cost of the laboratory is under USD $200, but it includes complete transmission, channel emulation, reception (coherent and noncoherent), and probing capabilities. Over 15 different modulation types are currently supported. The laboratory, aimed primarily to serve as a teaching aid for a professor teaching senior undergraduate courses and projects, allows students to have visual real-time demonstrations in wireless communications systems. The laboratory is also powerful enough to allow experienced researchers to carry out wireless communications research projects. In this context, the laboratory is particularly useful for universities in developing countries, where budgets are extremely limited. Numerical and written survey results are presented that were collected from two classes of students taught by the author in a university in Colombia, South America, and which show the effectiveness of the laboratory in teaching wireless communications.
Date of Publication: May 2012