Why to buy one?
To satisfy my interest in radio waves and digital signal processing I finally decided to buy myself some hardware to get started. For my intentions it was probably the best to start with a SDR. So I searched a bit on the Internet which SDRs are availably and how to get one. There are basically two different product families which are in totally different price classes:
- The USRP product family from Ettus Research (price range: from 650 USD to 1700 USD (without a daughter board); advantages: can also transmit, high frequency coverage, high bandwidth, preprocessing capabilities in hardware, extensible; disadvantages: expensive, no distribution channel in Germany (only USA and Netherlands))
- Realtek RTL2832U DVB-T tuner with a “unofficial” driver rtl-sdr (price range: from 15 € to 20 €; advantages: cheap, small, USB powered, easily available; disadvantages: limited in frequency coverage and bandwidth, receive only, lesser reception quality)
Actually I bought a USRP first and later a rtl-sdr dongle because it was just extremely cheap. I recommend to start with the rtl-sdr dongle first because you can do pretty much with this little device.
After some time I had my shopping cart by Ettus complete. Finally I got the following components:
- SBX daughter board (400-4400 MHz)
- BasicRX daughter board (1-250 MHz)
- BasicTX daughter board (1-250 MHz)
- LFRX daughter board (0-30 MHz)
- LFTX daughter board (0-30 MHz)
- LP0410 400 MHz to 1 GHz Log Periodic PCB directional antenna
- LP0965 850 MHz to 6.5 GHz Log Periodic PCB directional antenna
- SMA-SMA Cable (60 cm)
Later I also bought a second SMA to SMA cable and some adapters (SMA to IEC connector) to have both antennas connected to the USRP to easily use the best antenna for the received frequency and to connect the rtl-sdr dongle to the better antennas from Ettus.
With this equipment I can basically receive and transmit from DC (0 Hz) up to 4.4 GHz with a bandwidth of something like 25 MHz. Pretty neat
Ordering from Ettus located in the USA
As I never ordered something from the USA (especially nothing that expensive) I first looked around. There were very few experience reports. I only found a thread on the firstname.lastname@example.org mailing list (archive, gmane). After this thread it should not be a big issue to buy the thing directly from the USA and that was the case. I had no problems to get my USRP to my location. However there are a few things to know. After making the order Ettus needs some additional information from you to prevent credit card fraud. This information are:
- Legible picture or a scanned copy of your credit card, please black out all but the last four digits of the credit card and your name.
- Legible picture or scanned copy of your personal identification document (ID), please black out any document numbers but leave name and address legible.
A second thing to know is that FedEx will contact you to ensure that you are willing to pay the VAT and their share.
And now lets talk about cost. The bill (including shipping to Germany) from Ettus was about 2500 USD which I paid via credit card. This makes 1900 € (exchange curse of 1.336900). The second bill came from FedEx directly by delivery. It cost around 4 € duties, 350 € taxes and 11 € administration fee for FedEx. And finally I had to pay 20 € for a transaction to a foreign country via my credit card. So everything together cost me about 2265 €.
Possible use cases will follow.