Introductory Communications Systems

The twelve lab exercises presented in this package are intended to accompany an introductory course in communication systems offered at the junior or senior level in an electrical or computer engineering program. The lab exercises use the NI USRP software defined radio platform; no additional laboratory equipment is needed, other than a computer to run LabVIEW Communications and to interface with the USRP. The USRP transceivers are operated in loopback mode with a coaxial cable and attenuator connecting the transmitter to the receiver. Each of the lab projects after the introductory lab includes a prelab assignment, an in-lab exercise, and a lab report. The twelve lab projects should be sufficient to support a one-semester course. For a one-quarter course spanning ten weeks, Labs 3 and 4 can be omitted without compromising continuity.
by Dr. Bruce Black | Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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  • These labs are intended to accompany and enhance an introductory course in communication systems at the junior or senior level (year 3 or 4) in an electrical or computer engineering program.
  • After completing this course, students will be capable of building a variety of analog and digital communications systems comprising of a complete transmitter and receiver usng LabVIEW Communications and NI USRP software defined radios.
  • With the knowledge built up through this course students will be able to identy common modulation schemes, diagnose impairments and use simple tools such as the Eye Diagram and Bit Error Rate to determine the quality of a communication system.


Level University
Topic Communication Systems
Style Laboratory
Prerequisite Skills Signals & Systems


The purpose of this introductory laboratory exercise is to ensure that students have a working installation of LabVIEW Communications on their computers and know how to connect to the USRP software defined radio.
This laboratory exercise has two objectives. The first is to gain a firsthand experience in programming the USRP to act as a transmitter and a receiver. The second is to investigate classical analog amplitude modulation and the envelope detector.
In this laboratory exercise students will investigate sending multiple messages on a single carrier by frequency-division multiplexing.
This laboratory exercise illustrates the image problem in superheterodyne receivers. Image rejection is carried out using complex filtering. This lab introduces a processing technique that is straightforward in a software defined radio, but is virtually unavailable in a conventional hardware- based radio.
This laboratory exercise introduces suppressed-carrier modulation. A simple scheme for phase and frequency synchronization is introduced in implementing the demodulator.
This laboratory exercise introduces frequency modulation. This lab exercise is a nice illustration of the utility of the software defined radio approach, since the algorithms for creating and demodulating FM in software are much simpler than those used in the traditional hardware approach.
In this lab project, design of the transmitter and design of the receiver each present challenges and opportunities for investigation. The lab project is consequently divided into several parts. The transmitter part investigates creation of the ASK signal and the effect of transmitted pulse shape on the bandwidth of the transmitted signal. The receiver part investigates demodulation, matched filtering, and signal detection. There is a third part investigating alignment of the receiver and transmitter bit streams.
In this lab, students will learn about frequency-shift keying. In frequency-shift keying (FSK), a 1 is represented by a tone at a specific frequency, known traditionally as the “mark” frequency, while a 0 is represented by a tone at a different frequency, known as the “space” frequency. FSK owes part of its popularity to the fact that a tone is always being transmitted, even when the source generates a long string of zeros. This makes it easy for the receiver to distinguish between a transmitter that is idling and a transmitter that has stopped transmitting. FSK also has the property that the transmitted signal has a constant amplitude. This allows a very efficient nonlinear power amplifier to be used for transmission, a very important consideration when the transmitter is battery-powered.
In phase-shift keying (PSK), information is encoded on the phase of the transmitted carrier, rather than on its amplitude (ASK) or its frequency (FSK). In binary phase-shift keying (BPSK) there are two phase values, 0 and 180, which means that an unmodified carrier is transmitted to represent one binary data value, while an inverted carrier is transmitted to represent the other binary data value.
In this lab project, students will examine how the eye diagram changes when intersymbol interference (ISI) is present in the communication channel, and students will learn how to make quantitative measurements of the amount of ISI from the eye diagram.
In this lab project, students will use the BPSK transmitter and receiver that they created for Lab 9 as a “test bed” system. The Channel.gvi that students used in the eye diagram lab project will create the intersymbol interference. The equalizer that we will investigate is provided in the Modulation Toolkit.
In this lab project we introduce quadrature phase-shift keying (QPSK), a variation on binary phase-shift keying that encodes two bits of data into each symbol. Using QPSK, we can transmit data at twice the rate, without increasing the channel bandwidth. There will be some loss in performance, however, as somewhat more transmitted power will be needed to maintain a given bit error rate in the presence of noise.

Related Resources


These labs have related concepts that can expand student experience.

USRP and Software Defined Radio Devices

Enables prototyping of wireless communication systems with LabVIEW-powered radios. Software Defined Radio Devices are tunable universal software radio peripheral (USRP) transceivers for prototyping wireless communication systems. Software Defined Radio Devices offer frequency ranges up to 4.4 GHz...

LabVIEW Communications 2.0 or Earlier

*Only compatible with LabVIEW for Communications 2.0 or earlier* LabVIEW Communications provides a design environment closely integrated with NI software defined radio (SDR) hardware to enable rapid prototyping communications systems. From host-based USRP prototypes to more demanding host- and...


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Rob Young
07-18-2018 10:18 PM

I purchased the Intro to Comm Systems teaching bundle with two NI2901 USRPs. None of the .gvi files that come with the lab will run with the NI2901. The device ID control is looking for the NI2920 IP address and is not set up to look for the NI2901 over a USB connection. I've tried to troubleshoot, but can't figure it out. Can someone point me in the right direction to get this working? The tutorials/examples that come with LabVIEW Communications 2.0 work fine. Thanks!

Samer Alabed
12-08-2017 08:24 PM

thank you very much for your prompt response. My question is: can i use any type of usrp in these labs or a specific type. Also, do i need other packages with ni labview or just ni labview. thanks in advance.

Catherine Peacock
12-08-2017 07:59 PM

Hi Samer. The hardware and software required for these labs can be viewed in the "requirements" tab, and the solutions can be downloaded in the "Resources" tab.

Samer Alabed
12-08-2017 07:11 PM

Dear Sir/Madam, Could you please tell me all required hardware and software to implement all 12 labs in "Introductory Communications Systems" and their prices. I need to prepare communication lab in my university, therefore, I should not forget any item in the requestion form. Moreover, How I can get the solution manual for the labs. Sincerely yours, Samer Alabed

Dayna Polstein
11-16-2017 03:00 PM

Hi Brijendra. This resource requires LabVIEW Communications 2.0. If you have technical questions on LabVIEW Communications, the best place to get help is on this forum, which is monitored by NI Applications Engineers:

11-15-2017 12:02 PM

Dear Sir/Mam, I would like to request you that please tell me how we can open protected file in Labview Communication suite software. Actually i am testing experiment. So I want to go in details. Brijendra Kymar Sharma