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Modulation roundup: error rates, noise, and

capacity
Krishna Pillai - July 06, 2008

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The article compares various digital modulation schemes like BPSK, QPSK, PAM, 16PSK, 32PSK,
16QAM and 64QAM using the following metrics:

(a) Symbol Error Rate vs. Signal to Noise Ratio (SER vs Es/No)

(b) Symbol Error Rate vs. Bit to Noise Ratio (SER vs Eb/No)

(c) Capacity in bits per second per Hertz vs. Bit to Noise Ratio (Capacity vs Eb/No)

(d) Bit Error Rate vs. Bit to Noise Ratio (BER vs Eb/No)

Symbol Error Rate vs. Es/No


Binary Phase Shift Keying (BPSK) Modulation
In Binary Phase Shift Keying, the symbols are used for transmitting information. From the
post, Bit error probability for BPSK modulation, the symbol error rate is given as,

Click here for Matlab simulation of bit error rate (BER) curve with BPSK modulation.

Pulse Amplitude Modulation (4-PAM)


In 4-PAM modulation, the symbols are used for transmitting information. The
symbol error rate for 4-PAM modulation is derived in the post, symbol error rate for 4PAM and is
given as,

Click here for Matlab simulation of symbol error probability with 4PAM modulation

4QAM (QPSK)
In 4-QAM modulation, the symbols are used for transmitting
information. The symbol error rate for 4-QAM modulation, derived in the post, symbol error rate for
4-QAM (QPSK) is given as,
Click here for Matlab simulation of symbol error probability with 4QAM (QPSK) modulation

16QAM

In 16QAM modulation, the symbols are used. The symbol error rate for
16QAM modulation, derived in the post, symbol error rate for 16-QAM, is given as,

Click here for Matlab simulation of symbol error rate curve with 16QAM modulation

16PSK

In 16PSK modulation, the alphabets is used, where .


The symbol error rate for 16PSK, derived in the post, Symbol Error Rate for 16PSK is given as,

Click here for Matlab simulation of symbol error rate with 16PSK modulation

Note: The formula derived in this post is for a general M-PSK case. For an M-PSK scheme, the
symbol error rate is,

M-QAM
In a general M-QAM constellation, where and is even, the alphabets used are:

, where .

From the article deriving the symbol error rate for M-QAM,

(Click to enlarge).

Click here to download Matlab/Octave script for simulating symbol error rate for M-QAM modulation
Figure: Symbol Error Rate vs Es/No (dB) in AWGN

Symbol error rate vs Eb/No


Symbol error rate vs Eb/No
The relation between bit energy Eb/No and symbol energy Es/No is reasonably straight forward. For
M-PSK/M-QAM modulation, the number bits in each constellation symbol is,

Since each symbol carries bits, the symbol to noise ratio is times the bit to noise ratio ,
ie.

Plugging in the above formula, the symbol error rate vs bit energy (SNR per bit, Eb/No) is given as,
(Click to enlarge).

Figure: Symbol Error Rate vs SNR per bit (Eb/No) for digital modulation schemes

Bandwidth requirements and Capacity


From the post, Transmit pulse shaping filter, we know that minimum required bandwidth for

transmitting symbols with symbol period without causing inter symbol interference (ISI) is Hz.

Further, if the transmission is passband, PAM transmission requires bandwidth of Hz (Refer to


post on Need for IQ modulator and demodulator). However, the spectral efficiency can be improved
by either,

(a) Filtering the unwanted half of the bandwidth from the passband PAM, resulting in a bandwidth

requirement of Hz called single sideband modulation (SSB).

(b) Using both I and Q arm for modulation, resulting in a bandwidth requirement of Hz called
QAM (quadrature amplitude modulation).

Based on knowledge of symbol duration and bandwidth requirement, the capacity in bits per second
per Hz for various modulation schemes can be derived. For example, for 16QAM modulation with

symbol duration , the bit rate is bits per second (as each symbol carries 4 bits) and the bandwidth
required is Hz.

Further, from the Symbol Error rate vs Eb/No plot, the Bit to Noise ratio (Eb/No) required for
achieving arbitrarily low symbol error probability of can be obtained.
.

Table: Bandwidth, Capacity and Eb/No requirements for symbol error rate of 10^-5

Symbol Error rate (SER) to Bit Error Rate (BER)


The information from the above table can be mapped into Shannon's capacity vs Eb/No curve.

Figure: Shannon's capacity curve for various digital modulation schemes.

Note: The Figure 10.44 in [COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS: PROAKIS, SALEHI], we can see that the
points 2PAM (SSB) and QPSK are overlapping; the points 4PAM (SBB) and 16QAM are overlapping.
This implies that the SNR per bit (Eb/No) required for achieving symbol error rate of is the same for
2PAM and QPSK; and 4PAM and 16QAM respectively. However, from the symbol error rate vs Eb/No
plot, we know that for the same value of SNR per bit (Eb/No), the symbol error rate for QPSK is
double that of BPSK; and the symbol error rate of 16QAM is double that of 4PAM. So, I think that the
points should not overlap (should be offset by around 0.3dB). I will update once I get a response
from the authors.

Symbol Error rate (SER) to Bit Error Rate (BER)


Typical communication systems use Gray coded modulation mapping, i.e bits represented in
adjacent symbols differ by bit only. When a symbol is incorrectly decoded, it typically falls into the
adjacent the symbol bin. Hence, each symbol error causes one bit out of bits to be in
error.

So, the relation between symbol error and bit error is,

With this approximation, the bit error rate equations are:

(Click here for Matlab simulation model of 16QAM Bit Error Rate (BER) with Gray mapping)

(Click here for Matlab simulation model of 16PSK Bit Error Rate (BER) with Gray mapping)

(Click to enlarge).
Figure: BER vs SNR per bit (Eb/No) for digital modulation schemes

References
Fundamentals of Communication Systems, by John G. Proakis, Masoud Salehi

About the author


Krishna Pillai is a Signal Processing Engineer at an Indian firm based out of Bangalore, India. His
typical activities on a working day involve identifying and modeling digital signal processing
algorithms for wireless receivers. As a part time hobby, he develops and maintain the educational
blog www.dsplog.com which discuss digital signal processing algorithms applied to the digital
communication domain.

Subscribe here to receive similar articles over e-mail whenever Krishna Pillai publishes an article on
his site.