Software Communications Architecture (SCA)

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Software reuse and portability to reduce development cost and time-to-market.

What is Software Communications Architecture (SCA)?

The Software Communications Architecture (SCA) is an open architecture framework that promotes development of “Software Defined” systems by clearly identifying the boundaries for software applications and their interactions with the physical hardware. The SCA facilitates the portability, interoperability and configurability of the software and hardware components used in embedded systems.

The SCA was originally developed by the U.S. military’s Joint Tactical Radio Systems (JTRS) to standardize the way in which Software Defined Radios (SDR) for the U.S. armed forces were to be built. Since then, the SCA has evolved with the input of the international radio community led by the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnF).

The SCA follows a Component Based Development (CBD) paradigm where software applications (i.e., waveform applications) are assembled using a number of individually built (and tested) components. The SCA is a CBD architecture that provides location transparency as well as operating system and programming language independence for its software components. Being a key goal of the SCA to promote software reuse, application components are ‘shielded’ on their interaction with the physical hardware through an abstraction layer that offers standardized interfaces as proxies to the physical hardware. The latter in turn promotes application portability from one platform to another.

The SCA Core Framework (CF), a key element of the architecture, provides a standard operating (OE) that is identified by the combination of Operating System (OS), Processor and CORBA ORB for inter process communication. The SCA CF is a runtime deployment engine that identifies requirements of software components, and matches them with suitable targets for deployment within the SCA system. Requirements can take the form of capabilities of a platform like processor type (GPP, DSP, GPU, FPGA), or finite capacities like memory or mips needed for execution.

The SCA OE shields the SCA Application from changes in the underlying software/hardware by abstracting the deployment platform. The SCA does so for the physical hardware devices used by the SCA Application, the operating systems that runs on the target, as well as the inter process communication mechanism used by the different components executing on the platform.

SCA Offerings

SCA & Software Defined Systems – Working Together

Software has become the largest component of electronic systems today demanding more development resources than hardware.  Software Defined Systems (SDS) provide the flexibility to be reconfigured to adapt to changing environment and requirements. However, as the underlying electronic becomes more complex with the rapid evolution of processors and heterogeneous nature of embedded systems, developing software has also become a challenge. 

The international community, under the leadership of the US Department of Defense and the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnF), has developed an open standard for the development of software that promotes software portability between platforms and reusability of software. This open standard allows for greater interoperability and reduced development cost and time-to-market, both of which benefit the equipment manufacturer and end user. The Software Communications Architecture (SCA) standard follows a Component Based Development (CBD) approach and defines a set of implementation rules to abstract the application from the platform hardware.  Software deployment and configuration rules have been standardized as well as several application programming interfaces (APIs) for wireless communications systems.

Software Defined Radio (SDR) is commonly defined as a “Radio in which some or all of the physical layer functions are software defined”. SDR technology uses software, instead of conventional hardware, to perform radio-signal processing functions. Filters, error correction, synchronizers, modulators/demodulators, and frequency tuners used in conventional systems can all be written in software. Software defined devices can be reconfigured to adapt to changing product requirements.

Software Communications Architecture FAQ:

Software re-programmable devices that can be reconfigured to adapt to changing product developments are within reach, enabling rapid transformation of those products at much lower cost and much quicker than today’s conventional approach of developing a new product based on hardware modifications.


Is the Software Communication Architecture an open standard?

Yes, SCA is an open standard, developed by the international radio community to alleviate those drawbacks and make the development of Software Defined Products more efficient, thus reducing time-to-market and development cost and improving product quality and performance.

What is a key element of SCA?

A key element of any software-based system is the overall software architecture that development teams follow to integrate the software to the hardware platform. In most cases, still today, organizations make use of proprietary software architectures that tightly couple software applications to the hardware platforms. With changes of platforms (through hardware evolution for example), the software often needs to be significantly modified to adapt to the new characteristics of the hardware, adding additional cost and time-to-market to the product. This unique and proprietary approach is also prone to obsolescence when the original team members move on to other projects, positions, or companies.

How did SCA originate?

The Software Communications Architecture (SCA) was originally created by the Modular Software programmable Radio Consortium (MSRC): RaytheonBAE SystemsRockwell Collins, and ITT, under contract to the U.S. Department of Defense Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) Joint Program Office (JPO).

SCA version 1.0 was first introduced early in the year 2000 and was followed by revisions that culminated in the release of SCA v 2.0 later that same year. 2001 saw the release of version 2.2, time at which the specification was deemed ‘implementable’. With the knowledge gained by implementations developed during the newt two years, the specification was updated to version 2.2.1 in 2004. Version 3.0 was released later that same year, but work on such version was stopped one year later. Focus was returned to improve version 2.2.1, and version 2.2.2 saw the light of day in the year 2006. With more lessons learned through the following years, in 2009 work started towards the new version of the SCA. It was code named SCA Next, and 4.0 was released in 2012. The scope of improvements from version 2.2.2 to version 4.0 were substantial, and industry feedback identified backwards compatibility  issues that needed to be solved. Version 4.1 addressed those issues and was published in August 2015.

VIAVI has the industry’s largest team of SCA experts that have implemented all major versions of the SCA specification. From version 0.3 back in the early 2000s, to SCA 2.1, 2.2, 2.2.1, 2.2.2 and now the latest version 4.1.

SCA Evolution

How has SCA been adopted internationally?

SCA International Adoption

Proven Performance In Deployed Systems

  • General Dynamics AN/PRC-154 Rifleman Radios – 19,000 Units Ordered, 190,000 planned
  • General Dynamics AN/PRC-155 – 3700 Units ordered
  • Harris AN/PRC-117G – 25,000 Units Deployed
  • Harris AN/PRC-152 – 160,000 Units Deployed
  • Thales AN/PRC148 JTRS Enhanced MBITR – 200,000 Units Deployed

Other SCA Based Radios In Deployment

  • Harris Falcon III Radio Family
  • Rockwell Collins/Thales FlexNet
  • ViaSat/Rockwell Collins MIDS-JTRS
  • Raytheon (RT-1987 / ARC231, MAINGATE, NMT, FAB-T)
  • Rockwell Collins RT-840
  • Rohde & Schwarz R&S®SDTR Vehicular Tactical Radio
  • Selex ES Swave™ Family (HH, VM-3, MB-1, VB-1, VQ-1)
  • Thales (FlexNet, Fastnet, and Nextwave Families)

SCA Based Waveforms – Deployed*

  • Easy II
  • FlexNet Waveform
  • HDR-AJ
  • Mobile User Objective System (MUOS)
  • PR4G-Fastnet
  • Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW)
  • Soldier Broadband Waveform (SBW)
  • VHF/UHF Line of Sight (VULOS)
  • Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW)
  • Legacy Waveforms (COBRA, SATCOM 181/182/183/184,
  • SINCGARS, EPLRS, JTRS Bowman, Link-16 & HF)

SCA Based Waveforms – In Development*

  • Coalition Wideband Networking Waveform (COALWNW)
  • ESSOR High Data Rate Waveform (HDRWF)

*These lists are representative, not all-inclusive

What We Offer: VIAVI SCA SDR Products and Services

Modular AXIe

VIAVI offers a variety of products and services that simplify SDR/SDS development and streamline testing, helping you deliver high quality products to customers in less time, with lower development costs. Our SCA products are based on the Software Communications Architecture (SCA) international open standard and offer more than two decades of technological breakthroughs and experience that has been gathered from interactions with government and industry professionals. We also offer SCA training and consulting services to help you create state of the art software-defined platforms such as those used in the telecommunications, aerospace, radar, electronic warfare, robotics, transportation, and instrumentation domains.

VIAVI SCA products provide the following advantages which are not found in other commercially available SDR/SDS development solutions for embedded systems:

  • Operating environment agnostic, the VIAVI solution can be used to develop complex heterogeneous systems built with multiple processor types (GPP, DSP, FPGA, GPU, etc.), operating systems, programming languages, and inter-process communications schemes.
  • Enables distributed processing, with automatic software component discovery and deployment, an important feature to simplify the development of applications.
  • Decouples hardware from software, greatly facilitating porting of applications from platform to platform, significantly reducing development time and cost.
  • Enables reuse of software components from project to project and allows for third party software insertion.
  • Simplifies software updates and upgrades post manufacturing as the SCA infrastructure provides facilities to install/uninstall software applications after the physical devices have left the production floor.

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SCARI Software Suite

SCA Training and Consulting Services

SCA Development

Whether you need help with implementation strategies, or simply need help getting started with SCA, our team of SCA experts is here to help you find the answers to your many questions.

The VIAVI team of SCA experts has participated in the evolution of SCA since its initial release in the early 2000’s. VIAVI continues its involvement in the SCA evolution via its active participation in the Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnF), the home of the technical advancement for the SCA specification.

The VIAVI SCA support team consists of the most knowledgeable team of SCA experts in the industry, providing more than 150 person-years of combined expertise in the development, implementation, and use of the SCA for embedded systems development.

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Integrated Test and Development Environments

VIAVI offers a complete integrated SCA development environment for Embedded System manufacturers which provides customers with the following key benefits:

  • Minimize development risk
  • Reduce development cycle and cost
  • Improve overall quality of their systems

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SCA Application Domains

Originally created for tactical Software Defined Radios (SDR), SCA’s Component Based Development (CBD) architecture targets all embedded systems developments regardless of the application domain. The SCA provides developers with a high-level abstraction between the software and hardware platforms, greatly simplifies development cycles, promotes software reuse, and facilitates system updates and upgrades.

VIAVI has a selection of products and services that are suitable for a wide variety of industries.

  • Test & Measurement Instruments
  • Radar
  • Electronic Warfare
  • Robotics & Automation

Learn More about SCA

SCA Development

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