Introduction to Wireless Communications
and Software-Defined Radio

Fall 2018 and Fall 2019

Tu/Th 3:30-4:45pm

Instructor: Dr. Marc Lichtman

No required textbook to purchase


Wireless communications is a major and continuously growing field. While it is typically considered an electrical engineering discipline, positions in industry and the defense sector often target CS graduates, due to the amount of software development that goes along with this field of work. Recently, many components of a radio transceiver have transitioned from hardware (e.g. programmed into an application-specific chip or in analog circuitry) to implemented in software on a general purpose computer, FPGA, or GPU. It is now possible for code to be written (e.g. in Python or C++) and directly used in a fielded wireless system, using software-defined radios. Thus, there is a huge demand for wireless communications engineers with strong programming skills.

Software-defined radios can be programmed to do things like:

  • Create an LTE base station
  • Sniff ADS-B aviation signals from planes flying nearby
  • Monitor spectrum for malicious transmitters
  • Radar
  • Direction-finding
  • Transmit or receive drone FPV video feeds
  • Receive signals directly from NOAA satellites

Course Description

This course introduces CS students to the area of wireless communications, in a hands-on manner using Software-Defined Radios (SDRs). During this course, students will learn basic wireless communications and Digital Signal Processing (DSP) concepts, and how to implement these techniques onto SDRs. In ECE curriculums, these concepts are traditionally taught through equations on a blackboard. While this course will still cover the basic theory, it will focus on conveying wireless communications and DSP concepts through “learning by doing”. By utilizing open-source SDR toolkit software, we reduce the amount of code needed to be written, allowing more concepts to be covered. As part of this course, students will also learn how to use an SDR as a replacement for common test equipment such as a signal generators and spectrum analyzers. Topics include sampling, digital modulation, frequency domain analysis, cellular networks, physical layer security, and recording/storing RF signals.

If you are interested in this course, contact Dr. Lichtman at