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Microsoft Research Software Radio Platform for Academic Use

This page contains information on how you can build a powerful software radio research platform based on Microsoft Research Software Radio technology and the Academic Kit.

First, please understand that this is not a Microsoft product. It comes with no warranties and we disclaim all liabilities. If this ever causes any one any harm, you will indemnify Microsoft. (In another word, you do it at your own risk! Don’t touch it if you don’t know what you are doing.) Further, no intellectual property is granted; all IPs belong to Microsoft or their respective owners. It can only be used for non-commercial academic research and education purpose.

If you are okay with this, please read the Microsoft Research Software Radio Academic Kit License Agreement carefully. We require signature from someone who has the authority on behalf of your institution. (We won't accept forms signed by a student, post-doc, or in some case, junior faculty.) Once you return the form, we will connect you to a local make-to-order vendor company, who can supply you with the hardware, either component-by-component or as an integrated system ("turn-key" solution). Please note that we (Microsoft) do not make or sell Sora hardware. The vendor company makes hardware according to Sora spec, and charges you a fee to cover the components and assembling (plus S&H).

You may need to acquire the following items:

1. A Multi-core PCA Shuttle XPC with RCB and RF plugged in.

We recommend you use a high-end PC (workstation-class or server-class) with a performance desktop or server CPU (at least quad-core). We suggest the latest Intel Core i7 or Xeon ("Nehalem" or later). Some quad-core Core i5 may work, but we haven't tested it extensively. Here is the list of CPU (and motherboard chipset) models that we know will work: Intel core i7-9xx (X58), i7-2600 (H61/H67), i7-3770 (H61/H67/Z77), and Xeon E5-16xx/26xx (C602). Older Intel "Nehalem" or "Core 2" quad-core CPU should also work. We haven't tested any AMD processor.

The PC should have at least one free full-size PCIe x8 or x16 slot. (Note that some low-budget PCs have only PCIe x1 slots or video-card-only slots. Those won't work.)

The amount of memory and disk space is less important and will depend on what you plan to do. We recommend at least 2G RAM for single-radio and 8G RAM for MIMO.

2. RCB (Radio Control Board)

Original RCB (internal PCIe card)RCB is the most important component in Sora hardware. We now have two types of RCB. The original RCB is a full-length full-height PCIe card designed to be plugged in a PCIe slot inside the PC. Due to the space limitation, it is almost always used in a single-radio setting (like in the Shuttle XPC picture above).

The ballpark estimate for the original RCB is RMB¥10,000 (US$1.7K). The actual amount will be set by the vendor and will be affected by component market price and also currency exchange rate.

Sora MIMO Kit (PCIe external enclosure)The MIMO RCB comes as a PCIe external enclosure box. The 1U, half-depth, and rack-mountable enclosure houses the MIMO RCB, 4-way RAB, and up to 4 RF daughter-boards. It connects to the PC with one or two external PCIe extension cables. 

3. Driver and SDK

We can download the software from codeplex. It runs on 64-bit Windows 7 or 8.

Starting from SDK 2.0, Sora now supports MIMO. The SDK also includes the Brick source code of a  working implementation of 802.11n.

SDK v1.8 upgrade includes a rewritten 802.11a/b/g baseband using Brick. The baseband source code is now highly modular, very easily to understand and modify.

SDK v1.7 upgrade supports 64-bit Windows 7 and 64-bit Windows 8. (All previous versions required Windows XP.)

Wi-Fi visual decoding with DbgPlotSDK v1.6 upgrades the UMX API and supports a new Reflection mechanism to integrate user-mode SDR modem into Windows network stack. It also includes a new modular programming library, called Brick, for high-performance DSP programs, and two new powerful tools: DbgPlot for real-time monitoring and debugging and UMXSDRab as an interactive 802.11a/b modem application based on UMX Reflection.

SDK v1.5 is a major facelift from previous v1.0 and v1.1. It fixes almost all bugs known to us (like the bluescreens) and substantially changes the implementation to provide a more flexible, robust, and friendly developing environment. In particular, we have a new ethread scheduler, a full-fledged user-mode extension, and a set of new tools for testing hardware and tuning RF parameters (gains, I/O imbalance, central frequency), etc.

The PDF version of the Sora Manual is here.

You must have RCB hardware installed before you can load and run the driver and SDK.

4. Radio Front-ends

If you want to conduct wireless experiments over-the-air, you will need to connect the Academic Kit with a Radio Front-end (RF daughter-board). (Of course you must follow your local laws and regulations about radio frequency use and obtain license if necessary.)

Sora Kit (single-radio RCB-RAB-RF combo)The RF daughter-board connects to the RCB through a well-defined Fast Radio Link interface. In principle, you can obtain any third-party RF daughter-boards and play mix-and-match. But unless you want to experiment with the hardware, we recommend you get one of the supported RCB-RAB-RF combos when you buy the RCB. Many RF daughter-boards require a RAB (RF Adapter Board) to work with RCB, and we have worked with our RCB vendor to provide several types of RAB for some common RF daughter-boards.

For MIMO, you should almost always obtain the whole Sora MIMO Kit (integrated RCB, RAB, and 2-4 RF daughter-boards in one enclosure box). It is extremely challenging to get MIMO hardware right.

The following is a list of third-party Radio Front-ends that are known to work with the Academic Kit. We will update the list when more become available and have been tested. Again, we (Microsoft) do not make or sell any Radio Front-end, nor do we endorse any particular brands or makers.

Radio Front-end  Frequency band  Availability and Where to Buy 
V3 SDR (SISO or MIMO)

2.4GHz and 5GHz

TV whitespace 

Radio:  v3best

Adapter: v3best

WARP radio board 1

2.4GHz and 5GHz

Radio: mango communications

Adapter: v3best

USRP daughterboard 1

(e.g., XCVR2450)

2.4GHz and/or 5GHz

Radio: Ettus Research

Adapter: v3best

Note 1. Single channel setting only. Not compatible with Sora MIMO Kit.

If you have or know of a Radio Front-end that is proven to work with our Academic Kit, please let us know.

5. Tools, samples, applications

What's New!
Quick Links
Related Links
Discussion
Cost Estimation

For budgetary purpose only. Actual cost will vary.

  • Multi-core PC: $1K to $2K
  • Single-radio Sora Kit: $3K (includes RCB, RAB, and 2.4/5G RF)
  • 4x4 MIMO Kit: $7K (includes MIMO RCB, 4-channel RAB, 4x 2.4/5G RF, and enclosure)
Current Academic Users

(Not a complete list)

  • Beihang University (CN)
  • Beijing Jiaotong University (CN)
  • Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications (CN)
  • Carnegie-Mellon University (US)
  • China University of Geosciences (CN) 

  • Chinese Academy of Science (CN)
  • Chongqing University of Posts and Telecommunications (CN) 
  • Communication University of China (CN)
  • Duke University (US)
  • ETH Zurich (CH)
  • Florida State University (US)
  • Fudan University (CN)
  • Georgia Southern University (US) 

  • Harbin Institute of Technology (CN)
  • Hong Kong Polytechnic University (CN/HK)
  • Hong Kong University of Science & Technology (CN/HK)
  • Huazhong University of Science & Technology (CN)
  • Humboldt University Berlin (GR)
  • International Institute of Information Technology Bangalore (IN)
  • Jiangnan University (CN)
  • Keio University (JP)
  • Korea University (KR)
  • Nanchang University (CN)
  • National Taipei University of Technology (TW)
  • National University of Defense Technology (CN)
  • North Carolina State University (US)
  • North Eastern University (CN)
  • Peking University (CN)
  • POSTECH (KR)
  • Seoul National University (KR)
  • Shanghai Jiaotong University (CN)
  • Stanford University (US)
  • Stevens Institute of Technology (US)
  • Tennessee Tech University (US)
  • Tongji University (CN)
  • Tsinghua University (CN)
  • University of California, Davis (US)
  • University of California, Los Angeles (US)
  • University of California, San Diego (US)
  • University of Cambridge (UK)
  • University College London (UK)
  • University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign (US)
  • University of Michigan (US)
  • University of Rochester (US)
  • University of Siena (IT)
  • University of Texas at Austin (US)
  • University of Washington (US)
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison (US)
  • Xian Jiaotong University (CN)
  • Xidian University (CN)
  • Yonsei University (KR)
  • Zhejiang University (CN)
  • Zhengzhou University (CN)