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LimeSDR Open Source Hardware Software Defined Radio Goes for $199 and Up (Crowdfunding)

Canonical and Lime Micro showcased SoDeRa software defined radio (SDR) a couple of months ago, with a promise to launch a crowdfunding campaign later this year. They’ve fulfill their promise, and launched the open source SDR, renamed to LimeSDR, on Crowdsupply.
LimeSDR_BoardLimeSDR board specifications:

  • FPGA – Altera Cyclone IV EP4CE40F23 Altera FPGA compatible with EP4CE30F23
  • System Memory – 256 MB DDR2 SDRAM
  • RF
    • Lime Microsystems LMS7002M RF transceiver with continuous coverage of the frequency range between 100 kHz and 3.8 GHz; 61.44 MHz bandwidth
    • 4 x TxOut and 6 x RxIn U.FL connectors
    • Power Output (CW): up to 10 dBm
    • Wi-Fi, GSM, UMTS, LTE, LoRa, Bluetooth, Zigbee, RFID, Digital Broadcasting, configurable through apps.
  • USB – 1x micro USB3 via CYUSB3014-BZXC Cypress Microcontroller  for control, data transfer and power
  • Misc – Status LEDs, RGB LEDs, 4x switches
  • Power – USB or external power supply
  • Dimensions –  100 mm x 60 mm

The board interfaces with systems running Snappy Ubuntu Core, and you can enable wireless protocols the easy way by simply installing the required app with snappy. If you implement a new protocol, it can also be easily shared through snappy apps.

LimeSDR with Aluminium ENclosure with 4 Antennas

LimeSDR with Aluminum Enclosure with 4 Antennas

Potential applications include radio astronomy,RADAR, 2G to 4G cellular basestation, media streaming (DVB, ATSC, ISDB-T), IoT gateway, HAM radio, wireless keyboard and mice emulation and detection, tyre pressure monitoring systems, aviation transponders, utility meters, drone command and control, test and measurement, and more.

It’s not the first FPGA based SDR system that’s available to hobbyist, so the company compared it to other platform such as HackRF One, BladeRF, and others, include ultra-low cost solution based on RTL-SDR.

HackRF One Ettus B200 Ettus B210 BladeRF x40 RTL-SDR LimeSDR
Frequency Range 1MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 70MHz-6GHz 300MHz-3.8GHz 22MHz-2.2GHz 100kHz-3.8GHz
RF Bandwidth 20MHz 61.44MHz 61.44MHz 40MHz 3.2MHz 61.44MHz
Sample Depth 8 bits 12 bits 12 bits 12 bits 8 bits 12 bits
Sample Rate 20MSPS 61.44MSPS 61.44MSPS 40MSPS 3.2MSPS 61.44MSPS (Limited by USB 3.0 data rate)
Transmitter Channels 1 1 2 1 0 2
Receivers 1 1 2 1 1 2
Duplex Half Full Full Full N/A Full
Interface USB 2.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 3.0 USB 2.0 USB 3.0
Programmable Logic Gates 64 macrocell CPLD 75k 100k 40k (115k avail) N/A 40k
Chipset MAX5864, MAX2837, RFFC5072 AD9364 AD9361 LMS6002M RTL2832U LMS7002M
Open Source Full Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware Schematic, Firmware No Full
Oscillator Precision +/-20ppm +/-2ppm +/-2ppm +/-1ppm ? +/-1ppm initial, +/-4ppm stable
Transmit Power -10dBm+ (15dBm @ 2.4GHz) 10dBm+ 10dBm+ 6dBm N/A 0 to 10dBm (depending on frequency)
Price $299 $686 $1,119 $420 ($650) ~$10 $299 ($199 early bird)

As mentioned in the comparison table, LimeSDR is open source hardware and you’ll find the Altium schematics & PCB layout, as well as the manufacturing files in LimeSDR-USB github repo, Altera Quartus FPGA project, Cypress FX3 firmware, source code for the drivers and GUI, and more in the various repo available on myriadrf github account.

So far, the project has raised close to $70,000 out of its $500,000 goal. A $199 early bird pledge should get you LimeSDR board, as long as you are part of the 500 backers (200 left), after which you’d need to pledge $299 for the board. Unless you provide your own antennas, you may want to add $85 to your pledge to get the four antennas and cables, or if you want a complete system with the board, antennas, enclosure, and “turnkey support”, go for the acrylic or aluminum kits for respectively $499 and $599. Shipping is free to the US, and between $15 to $35 to the rest of the world, with delivery scheduled for November or December 2016 depending on the pledge.

  1. April 29th, 2016 at 14:10 | #1

    That board will be used in flying (or not) 4G base stations in the UK: https://insights.ubuntu.com/2016/04/26/flying-mobile-base-stations-are-coming-to-the-uk/

  2. April 29th, 2016 at 15:40 | #2

    This is really great value. But this market has been tested before … not sure they will succeed. SDR just seems to be too much of a specialized field.

  3. Harley
    April 29th, 2016 at 16:16 | #3
  4. April 29th, 2016 at 16:19 | #4

    @Jean Dassi Fongang
    I think the idea here is that anybody could use this, even without SDR / RF experience, as you’d just need to install an app to implement the wireless protocol you need.

    For example, it could be used as a DVB-T2, ASTC, ISDB-T “TV” station to test different tuners standard within an office. If it’s indeed easy to use then it could be a flexible alternative to other tools.

    • Harley
      April 29th, 2016 at 17:40 | #5

      Exactly, you can think of this almost as a an Android box which you can install SDR apps on as as an end-user, or develop on if you are a developer

  5. TC
    April 29th, 2016 at 19:05 | #6

    hoping for sub 100 chinese clones…

  6. Deets
    April 29th, 2016 at 19:34 | #7

    @TC
    Good luck. Just the FPGA and rf ic are worth more than $100.

  7. ade
    April 29th, 2016 at 20:00 | #8

    This is a great, great project for education / engineer schools and prototyping / labs and amateur radio (I am really impatient to receive mine 🙂 )
    I wonder whether it would be possible to use an NViDIA Shield TV (Tegra X1) with Ubuntu + CUDA, in order to have a reasonably powerful machine with USB3 and GbE at a reasonable cost…

  8. Drone
    April 30th, 2016 at 17:55 | #9

    The $199 early bird is kind of misleading. Post Kickstarter you are really talking closer to $400 for a good out of box experience, and looking at what the BOM & build costs probably are, the price is too high. Someday someone will get this Open-SDR thing right, and a robust community will emerge. But I don’t think today is that day.

  9. Nobody of Import
    May 4th, 2016 at 04:38 | #10

    @Drone

    We won’t get into the fact that they’re all gone- you’re spending $299 for the base experience, more to $400 for the good out of box.

    Biggest problem with SDR (you can get cheap receive for most bands ($10~) with the little DVB-T dongle that is little more than basic SDR in the first place…) is that the credible modes for receive and/or Transmit/Receive aren’t cheap. When you get into the 30+ MSPS domain, you’re talking expensive as hell hardware (which is why the stuff in the 30+ range (most of this…) is $300-600 on the cheap and more like $1500.

  10. May 6th, 2016 at 10:51 | #11

    They’ve added more early bird rewards at $249.

  11. June 21st, 2016 at 09:15 | #12

    95% funded with 21 hours to go.. Will they make it?

  12. June 22nd, 2016 at 09:06 | #13

    @cnxsoft
    Yep. 122% funded. Somehow about 500 backers came out on the last day.

  13. May 24th, 2017 at 17:22 | #14

    New related crowdfunding campaign for LimeNET boxes with a more powerful Intel Core i7 processor.
    There are three main LimeNET hardware stacks: Mini, Enterprise, and Base Station.
    https://www.crowdsupply.com/lime-micro/limenet

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