Techno FAQ!

Q. What is the frequency range?
A. 64-1,700MHz, although straw poll tests on pre-production units indicate that units can be stretched down to 51.5MHz or so. The upper frequency limit is beyon 2,000MHz haven’t been tested yet. In tests, we have found a gap between 1,100 and 1,270MHz where the local oscillator is not stable.

Q. What can the FUNcube Dongle receive?
A. The FUNcube Dongle has no restriction on modulation schemes: it is limited only by the application program running on the host computer. As long as the signal fits within about an 80kHz bandwidth, the FUNcube Dongle is capable of receiving the radio signal. So, for analogue reception, as well as narrow band FM and SSB, it is also possible to receive, for example, sound subcarriers for TV broadcast. Similarly for data reception, as long as a data demodulator has been written that will accept standard soundcard quadrature I/Q reception, that will work too.

Q. What is the bandwidth?
A. 96kHz is the quadrature sampling rate. Once the ADC’s decimation filter skirts have been taken into account, you have about 80kHz.

Q. What applications work with the FUNcube Dongle?
A. As well as the forthcoming FUNcube front end application, any application that understands a standard stereo soundcard configured for quadrature, or I/Q, reception should work. Examples include Linrad, Spectravue, Rocky and M0KGK.

Q. What operating systems are compatible?
A. Currently Windows XP 32 bit, and Vista and Windows 7 32 and 64 bit have been tested. The sound card element works with Mac OSX and Ubuntu 10.10 32 and 64 bit, but the frequency setting application has not been ported yet.

Q. What’s the difference between versions?
A. There are two versions, the Base and the Pro models. The Base model is frequency restricted and designed as an entry level minimal cost device, targetted for educational outreach. The Pro model is unrestricted in its frequency coverage.

Q. Can I upgrade a “Base” version to a “Pro” version?
A. At present, the upgrade will require a return of the device so that it can be modified to accept “Pro” firmware.

Q. Is the firmware upgradeable?
A. Yes, already the devices can have their firmware upgraded in a matter of a few seconds by the user. However, Pro firmware and Base firmware are not interchangeable.

Q. How much?
A. The Pro version should be around GBP100/USD150, although this is only indicative pricing as it is highly dependent on batch volume and assembly costs. Pricing for the base educational outreach model hasn’t been finalised yet, but it will be significantly less than the Pro model.

Q. When?
A. Pro devices are tentatively scheduled for December 2010. Base device release will be confirmed once precise launch dates for FUNcube become confirmed.

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20 Responses to Techno FAQ!

  1. Denis G0OLX says:

    Has anybody tried it with a transvertor in front of it
    And what is the receive signal level calibration like.
    Denis G0OLX

  2. F.Costa says:

    Will it be avaliable as kit? 73 F.Costa, CT1EAT

    • admin says:

      Hi

      Thanks for your comment.

      There are no plans at present to make the FCD available in kit form. This wasn’t a primary design goal, as the FCD’s raison d’etre was (and still is) a unit targetted at educational outreach, although clearly it’s a handy unit for many other purposes. As a result, the use of one of the devices within the FCD has effectively precluded this as it is subject to a non-disclosure agreement, common in the type of device.

      I should also add that the parts used, particularly the leadless QFNs, require a pretty well equipped workshop including reflow capability, SMD rework tools and microscope inspection facilities. It’s not a project for a blowtorch and plumber’s solder!

      Howard (G6LVB)

      • F.Costa says:

        Hi Howard
        Many thanks for your reply. After I post my comment, I check the photos of the first production line and realised, even for me, that was way too small to assemble! I should have look twice before ask, hi. I could have said instead this is a fantastic project, and I’m sure it’s going to be a tremendous sucess.
        Congratulations and please put me on the list.
        Vy best 73 F.Costa, CT1EAT

      • W0FMS says:

        Is the non-disclosure device the tuner module? Just curious as I am as interested in learning from the various SDR designs (including yours) as anything else.

        It’s actually a bit of a pity there is a NDA attached to this. I was hoping that this could be used as a building block for other future ham SDR projects.. but that could make it more difficult.

        I agree: QFN’s are rough. I think in many cases they are actually worse than BGA’s for placement…

        Fred

        • admin says:

          Hi Fred.

          Well the history to this is a long one. For over a year I spent a lot of time and energy thinking about how to do the FCD. Last winter I thought I had the solution in a CML device, but getting hold of dev kits proved difficult, then, to top it all, it turned out that although the mixer would cover 2m the LO wouldn’t. I probably wasted four or five months. So it was back to square one.

          Subsequently I spent some time investigating a number of other options including an option from Analog Devices. However invariably I’d go round in circles as I attempted to keep part numbers and costs down. For example, low IF options (as opposed to zero IF) are common, but you then can’t use low cost codecs. Perhaps you might require an expensive SAW or other external filter. Or an external VCO.

          I then had a brainwave about how TV dongles worked, as they are cheap as chips, so I purchased three bargain basement TV dongles and proceeded to take them apart, even considering the possibility of modding them, however in TV dongles, once the IF is produced it goes straight into a highly integrated decoder device with IF in, integrated USB phy out. It was at this point I realised that there’s a whole semi-secretive industry out there creating silicon tuners.

          Obtaining data sheets in this “space” is difficult. It seems to be one of those few niches where manufacturers closely guard their IP at the expense of technical marketing. In many ways that is what made the earlier CML fiasco so frustrating: had comprehensive technical data been more easily available I could have saved ourselves a lot of time and money. Some of the older silicon tuners are pretty open but the state of the art ones are subject to NDAs.

          The tuner I ended up going with was as the result of attempting to even open up dialogue with manufacturers. It seems that most are well geared up for those developing for tens and hundreds of thousands of units, living in Taiwan or RoC, but anyone else, no.

          However luckily I have a manufacturer on home turf who knows I am only looking at 100’s and didn’t wince. Plus, their pricing is extremely competitive.

          They also were the only ones out of half a dozen others including some much bigger names to return emails.

          I still have to buy parts in bulk, but they’re in terms of 100 off not 10,000 off.

          • Rob says:

            Been through this whole cycle myself, including buying some of the first DVB-T/Satellite internet cards to be released for evaluation (expensive!). My amazement that you actually found a usable device, I couldn’t … but then that was over 5 years ago, and maybe the chip didn’t exist then.

            Well done anyhow, great product.

          • Zach says:

            Yup, I used to work in that semi-secretive business as an RF systems engineer. If you think the tuner guys are bad, try to get information out of the demod guys (Broadcom, ST).

            😉

  3. Lars Nyberg says:

    Put me on the list for a PRO.

  4. Lars Nyberg says:

    Thanks for info Howard.
    73 de Lars SM3KYH

  5. Fred Schrod says:

    FANTASTIC idea Howard!

    I will order a PRO when available!

    Fred
    VA7UN
    http://www.signalhunter.com

  6. Allan H. Kaplan says:

    Great instrument, Howard! I appreciate not only the engineering skill you put into this effort, but more so your courage to take on the task of building these eye-strainers, and dealing with the stampedes this product generates. I shall watch the website and keep an ear on WWV’s time signal. My interest is in the PRO version for your marketing statistics. Soldier on, and BRAVO! 73, Allan.

  7. Kallol Das Gupta says:

    Dear Sir

    Pl Confirm if you are shipping the FCD in India.
    If yes Pl confirm what will be the prices for PRO version.

    Regards

    Kallol das gupta

    • admin says:

      Hello Kallol

      Please see the “Order your FUNcube Dongle Pro” menu, the details are there including shipping prices.

      Howard

  8. MeMyselfAndI says:

    I would like to use such a receiver to listen to psk31 and similar protocols on 14 and 7 MHz. How difficult would it be to get a receiver to cover that Part of the Spectrum?

    And if i might be honest a receiver with more than 1 MHz bandwidth at about 1.5GHz would also be nice. How difficult would that be to archieve?

    • admin says:

      Hello

      The limitation in the frequency coverage is dictated by the tuner chip. The limitation on bandwidth is due to the ADC used. In both cases, you can expect a significant redesign and on the second case in particular a significant increase in cost: a primary design crierion of the FCD was low cost, so we used devices that usually sell in 100’s of thouands and are therefore reasonably priced.

      I am looking at just such features in a possible FCD 2.

      Howard

    • Rob says:

      There are mountains of devices available for the HF bands 0.1 – 54MHz, starting with the SDR-1000 (available since 2003) and moving down to the cheaper but limited Softrock boards. Several German products exist that are quite good: Google the FiFi board, or Pappradio for cheap and well-designed options. Software to decode most common ham modes—and some uncommon ones as well—is readily available, although when I started it had to be written from scratch.

      As for your second request, a 1MHz bandwidth at 1.5GHz is a BIG ask. The closest thing to that would be the GNURadio hardware manufactured by Ettus Research, and even that doesn’t quite cut it for those realms. Good luck!

  9. Bernhard says:

    Hi,

    I’m currently preparing a HF converter for the FCD. I tried to figure out how much current the FCD can provide (with phantom power on), but I coudn’t find anything.
    Can you provide the limitations on this phantom power, please?

    Regards
    Bernhard

    • admin says:

      Hello Bernhard

      I believe you’re pretty safe at about 50mA. The PTC resettable fuse kicks in at abut 150mA, although the USB port is software limited so you will likely find that the USB port controlled current limiting might kick in before the PTC fuse does.

      Many thanks, Howard

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