JPL's Wireless Communication Reference Website

Chapter: Analog and Digital Transmission. Section: Multi-Carrier Modulation, OFDM

OFDM: Choice of the key parameters

Contributed by Dusan Matic

Useful symbol duration

The useful symbol duration T affects the carrier spacing and coding latency. To maintain the data throughput, a longer useful symbol duration results in increase of the number of carriers and the size of FFT (assuming the constellation is fixed). In practice, carrier offset and phase stability may affect how close two carriers can be placed. If the application is for the mobile reception, the carrier spacing must be large enough to make the Doppler shift negligible. Generally, the useful symbol duration should be chosen so that the channel is stable for the duration of a symbol.

Number of carriers

The number of subcarriers can be determined based on the channel bandwidth, data throughput and useful symbol duration.

The carriers are spaced by the reciprocal of the useful symbol duration. The number of carriers corresponds to the number of complex points being processed in FFT. For HDTV applications, the number of subcarriers are in the range of several thousands, so as to accommodate the data rate and guard interval requirement.

Modulation scheme

The modulation scheme in an OFDM system can be selected based on the requirement of power or spectrum efficiency. The type of modulation can be specified by the complex number dn=an+jbn , defined in The use of FFT in OFDM. The symbols an and bn can be selected to ( 1, 3) for 16QAM and 1 for QPSK. In general, the selection of the modulation scheme applying to each subchannel depends solely on the compromise between the data rate requirement and transmission robustness. Another advantage of OFDM is that different modulation schemes can be used on different subchannels for layered services.

Coded OFDM

By using frequency and time diversity OFDM provides a means to transmit data in a frequency selective channel. However, it does not suppress fading itself. Depending on their position in the frequency domain, individual subchannels could be affected by fading. This requires the use of channel coding to further protect transmitted data. Among those channel techniques, trellis coded modulation (TCM), combined with frequency and time interleaving is considered the most effective means for a selective fading channel.

TCM combines coding and modulation to achieve a high coding gain without affecting the bandwidth of the signal. In a TCM encoder, each symbol of n bits is mapped into constellation of n+1 bits, using a set-partitioning rule. This process increases the constellation size and effectively adds additional redundancy to the signal. A TCM code can be decoded with a soft decision Viterbi decoding algorithm, which exploits the soft decision nature of the received signal. The coding gain for a two-dimensional TCM code over a Gaussian channel is about 3 dB for a bit error rate (BER) of 10-5.

It should be mentioned that one of the advantages of OFDM is that it can convert a wideband frequency selective fading channel into a series of narrowband and frequency non-selective fading subchannels by using parallel and multicarrier transmission. Coding OFDM subcarriers sequentially by using specially designed TCM codes for frequency non-selective fading channel is the major reason for using the COFDM for terrestrial broadcasting. However, the search of the best TCM code is still ongoing.

Although trellis codes produce improvements in the signal-to-noise ratio (S/N), they do not perform well with impulsive or burst noise. In general, transmission errors have a strong time/frequency correlation. Interleaving plays an essential role in channel coding by providing diversity in the time domain. Interleaving breaks the correlation and enables the decoder to eliminate or reduce local fading throughout the band and over the whole depth of the time interleaving. Interleaving depth should be enough to break long straight errors.

Flexibility and scalability

Based on the information theory, the channel capacity is a function of the signal-to-noise ratio and channel bandwidth. The concept of graceful degradation has been implemented in the analog TV systems. It is believed that the joint source/channel coding is the best way to achieve flexibility and scalability. COFDM has been considered very flexible for the layered and scaleable transmission. Different groups of COFDM subchannels can be assigned to different orders of modulation, power levels, and channel coding schemes.

JPL's Wireless Communication Reference Website Dusan Matic, 1999