Learned in some other articles on this website, the following three important concepts take us to the core of the Discrete Fourier Transform (DFT) idea. Regardless of the signal shape, most signals of practical interest can be considered as a sum of complex sinusoids oscillating at different frequencies. A set of $N$ orthogonal complex sinusoids can be constructed within a span of $N$ time domain samples. Each `tick’ or bin on the discrete frequency axis denotes the discrete frequency $k/N$ of such a complex sinusoid. To understand how a set of sinusoids with $N$ discrete frequencies can sum up to

Continue reading## Packing More Bits in One Symbol

Note that digital electronics are constrained to work on only two levels by electronic switches which in the simplest case are either on or off. For many reasons, practical digital communication systems require quite complicated signal processing workload both at the Tx and Rx ends that can be performed only by a device more intelligent than an electronic switch, such as an Application Specific Integrated Circuit (ASIC), Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA), Digital Signal Processor (DSP) or a General Purpose Processor (GPP). If this intelligent device can differentiate between two signal levels like a switch, it can certainly differentiate between

Continue reading## Beamforming for Broadband Signals

Recall that classical or physical beamforming is based on calculating the differences in wave arrival times of a signal between antenna array elements and compensating for these delays through signal processing techniques that steer the beams in any desired direction. There are two main candidates for this purpose: Phase shifting and True Time Delays (TTD). We saw in that article on beamforming that phase shifts implemented through a set of complex multipliers are incapable of beamforming over the entire bandwidth of a signal. Why? The intuitive reason is clear from a signal level view. In the narrowband scenario, the same

Continue reading## What are Cycle Slips and Hangup in Phase Locked Loops?

In a previous article, we have covered in detail the inner workings of a Phase Locked Loop (PLL) in a Software Defined Radio (SDR). There are two phenomena that have the potential to occasionally disrupt the performance of a PLL operating in steady state: cycle slips and hangup. Both the carrier and timing locked loops suffer from these issues. The underlying mathematics is quite intricate and hence I give a simple overview of these concepts. A reader interested in further exploration is referred to [1]. Cycle Slips To understand the cycle slip, assume that the loop is in tracking mode,

Continue reading## Correlation

Correlation is a foundation over which the whole structure of digital communications is built. In fact, correlation is the heart of a digital communication system, not only for data detection but for parameter estimation of various kinds as well. Throughout, we will find recurring reminders of this fact. As a start, consider from the article on Discrete Fourier Transform that each DFT output $S[k]$ is just a sum of term-by-term products between an input signal and a cosine/sine wave, which is actually a computation of correlation. Later, we will learn that to detect the transmitted bits at the receiver, correlation

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