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Hands on with HackRF

Andrew Back
Open source (hardware and software!) advocate, Treasurer and Director of the Free and Open Source Silicon Foundation, organiser of Wuthering Bytes technology festival and founder of the Open Source Hardware User Group.


June 11, 2014 11:05

I can appreciate that for a radio amateur with an interest in HF bands, boards such as this may be frustrating in their lack of off-the-shelf support for lower frequencies. However, what you must remember is that the vast majority of wireless innovation is at much higher frequencies and where orders of magnitude more bandwidth is available. For example, HF would be no use for wireless/cellular broadband, unless you use vast swathes of it, and even then the propagation characteristics, inefficiencies and antenna sizes etc. would make it quite impractical. And this is where the new applications, research and money is.

Generally speaking, mass market requirements drive IC design. Developing new silicon that meets the requirements of radio hams before all others, would very likely be a loss making enterprise unless you could be certain that nearly every ham on the planet will buy a device with your chip in it. Even then, you'd probably have a difficult time convincing your investors. Sadly, amateur radio is, relatively speaking, very much a niche market.

That said, all is not lost and I do not see how one of these new highly integrated devices — such as the LMS6002D, as used with Blade RF — paired with some external circuitry to lower the frequency coverage, would necessarily result in reduced performance. With the aforementioned chip it's not that you'd even be forced to down/up-convert to and from 300MHz+, since it's a "field-programmable RF" device that lets you turn on and off parts of it (which are still RF building blocks such as you would have previously had spanning multiple chip packages and circuits, or before that implemented via many more discrete devices).

0 Votes

June 11, 2014 09:41

While the Hack RF [and the Blade RF] cover the top end admirably, they are let down by their lack of HF coverage.
The Blade RF has a lower limit of 300 MHz. The Hack RF is better, getting down to 30MHz.

However, to cover the amateur radio bands, what is needed is a frequency range that goes down to 1 MHz, or even lower.

While there are upconverter adapters available as 3rd-party options, there are arguments about how well they work.
The lack of coverage for the lower frequencies is awful, and the manufacturing companies designing the IC's at the heart of these products are not helping.

I for one would happily buy a device which reached less than 1GHz if it just covered the HF bands.
It could reach 400 MHz and I'd be happy to match it with a Blade RF.
If it went to 110 MHz [local FM] I could combine with this - the Hack RF - for full RF spectrum coverage.

Alas, it would seem, I'm dreaming...

0 Votes

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