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Wireless Communications Systems

With wireless communications systems, electromagnetic signals are emitted
from an antenna, propagate through the earth’s atmosphere (air) or free space (a vacuum), and
are then received by another antenna. The signals are unguided and the direction they propagate
depends on the direction in which they were emitted and any obstacles they may encounter while
Free-space propagation of electromagnetic waves is often called radio-
frequency (RF) propagation or simply radio propagation. Wireless communications systems
include satellite microwave systems, radio broadcast systems, two-way mobile radio and cellular

Electromagnetic polarization
The Polarization of a plane electromagnetic wave is simply the orientation of the electric field
vector in respect to earth’s surface.
Linear Polarization:
-- If the polarization remains constant, it is described as Linear Polarization.
Linear Polarization is of two types –
1)Horizontal polarization -- if the electric field propagates parallel to the earth’s surface.
2)Vertical polarization -- if the electric field propagates perpendicular to the earth’s surface.
Circular Polarization:
-- If the polarization vector rotates 360 degrees as the wave moves one wavelength through space
and the field strength is equal at all angles of polarization.
Elliptical Polarization:
-- When the field strength varies with changes in polarization, it is called Elliptical Polarization.
--A rotating wave can turn in either direction.
--If the vector rotates in a clockwise direction, it is right handed and if the vector rotates in a
counterclockwise direction, it is considered as left handed.

Rays and Wavefronts

Plane wave comprised of rays R
, R
, R
, R
forming wavefront ABCD

--Electromagnetic waves are invisible, therefore they must be analyzed by indirect methods
using schematic diagrams.
--A ray is a line drawn along the direction of propagation of an EM wave. Rays are used to show
the relative direction of propagation
--A wavefront shows a surface of constant phase of electromagnetic waves.
--A wavefront is formed when points of equal phase on rays propagating from the same source
are joined together.
--When a surface is plane, its wavefront is perpendicular to the direction of propagation.

--A point source is a single location from which rays propagate equally in all directions. It is
also called as isotropic source.

Rays and Wavefronts from a point source

Electromagnetic radiation
--It represents the flow of electromagnetic waves in the direction of propagation.
--The rate at which energy passes through a given surface area in free space is called power
--Power density is energy per unit of time per unit of area given in watts per square meter
P= power density(w/m
E= rms electric field intensity (v/m)
H= rms magnetic field intensity (ampere turns per meter)

Spherical Wavefront and The Inverse Square Law
1) Spherical Wavefront:
--The figure shows a point source radiating power at a constant rate uniformly in all directions.
Such a source is called isotropic radiator.
--An isotropic radiator produces a spherical wavefront with radius R.
--All points at distance R from the source lie on the surface of the sphere and have equal power
densities. i.e., the power densities at points A and B are equal.
-- At any instant of time, the total power radiated P
watts, is uniformly distributed over the
total surface of the sphere.
--The power density at any point on the sphere is the total radiated power divided by the total
area of the sphere.

where P = power density (watts per meters squared)
= total power radiated (Watts)
R = radius of the sphere
= area of the sphere with radius R (square meters)
Inverse square law:
--The total power distributed over the surface of the sphere remains the same
--As the area of the sphere increases in direct proportion to the distance from the source squared,
the power density is inversely proportional to the square of the distance from the source. This
relationship is called inverse square law.

EM Wave Attenuation and Absorption
--As a wavefront moves away from the source, the electromagnetic field radiated from the source
spreads out.
--Attenuation is due to spherical spreading of the wave, none of the radiated power is lost. This
reduction in power density with distance is equal to power loss called wave attenuation.
-- Wave attenuation is generally expressed in terms of power density ratio (dB loss).
-- Mathematically, wave attenuation is
where γ
= wave attenuation (dB loss)
= power density at point 1
= power density at point 2
-- The reduction of power density due to the inverse square law presumes free-space propagation
and is called wave attenuation.
--Earth’s atmosphere is not a vacuum. It is comprised of various substances, such as gases,
liquids and solids. Some of these materials are capable of absorbing electromagnetic waves.
--Absorption is due to energy transfer from the EM-wave to the atoms and molecules of the
atmosphere. It is analogous to I
R power loss
-- Once absorbed the energy is lost forever reducing the power density of the signal.
-- The figure shows atmosphere absorption in decibels per km due to oxygen and water vapor for
radio frequencies above 10 GHz.
--It can be seen that certain frequencies are affected more or less by absorption, creating peaks
and valleys in the curves.
2 2

4 m
R t
P =
¸ ¸

-- For abnormal atmospheric conditions, such as heavy rain or dense fog, absorb more energy
than a normal atmosphere.

Atmospheric absorption of electromagnetic waves

Optical Properties of Radio Waves
-- Electromagnetic refraction is the change in direction of an electromagnetic wave as it passes
obliquely from one medium to another medium with a different density (refractive index).
-- The velocity at which an electromagnetic wave propagates is inversely proportional to the
density of the medium in which it is propagating. Therefore, refraction occurs whenever a radio
wave propagates from one medium to another.
--Whenever a ray passes from less dense to more dense medium, it is effectively bent towards
the normal.
--Whenever a ray passes from more dense to a less dense medium, it is effectively bent away
from the normal.
--The angle of incidence is the angle formed between the incident wave and the normal, and the
angle of refraction is the angle formed between the refracted wave and the normal.
-- Mathematically, Snell’s law states,

1 1 2 2
sin sin n n u u =

Refraction at a plane boundary between two media
where n1 = refractive index material 1
n2 = refractive index material 2
u1 = angle of incidence
u2 = angle of refraction

Wavefront Refraction in a gradient medium
--Refraction also occurs when a wavefront propagates in a medium that hs a density gradient that
is perpendicular to the direction of propagation.
--The medium is more dense near the bottom and less dense near the top
--Therefore, rays traveling in the upper layers of the atmosphere travel faster than rays traveling
near earth’s surface and, consequently, the wavefront tilts downward. The tilting occurs in a
gradual fashion as the wave progresses.

Wavefront Refraction in a gradient medium

EM wave reflection occurs when an incident wave strikes a boundary if two media and some or
all of the incident power does not enter the second material i.e., reflected back.
All the reflected rays remain in medium 1, the velocities of the reflected and incident waves are
Consequently, the angle of reflection equals the angle of incidence. The ratio of the reflected to
the incident power is Г, expressed mathematically as,
Г= P
where Г = reflection coefficient
= power reflected (watts)
= power incident (watts)

EM Reflection at a plane boundary of two media
--Diffraction is defined as the modulation or redistribution of energy within a wavefront when it
passes near the edge of an opaque object.
--Huygen’s principle states that every point on a given spherical wavefront can be considered as
a secondary point source of electromagnetic waves from which other radio waves are radiated
--Normal wave propagation considering an infinite plane is shown in figure below. Each
secondary point source (p
, p
and so on) radiates energy outward in all directions.

EM wave Diffraction: Huygen’s principle for a plane wavefront
-- The wavefront continues in its original direction rather than spreading out because cancellation
of the secondary wavelets occurs in all directions except straight forward. Therefore, the
wavefront remains plane.

-- Around an edge, wavelet cancellation occurs only partially. Diffraction occurs around the edge
of the obstacle, which allows secondary waves to sneak around the corner of the obstacle into the
shadow zone.

Wavefront through a slot Around an edge

-- Radio wave interference occurs when two or more EM waves combine in such a way that
system performance is degraded.
--Interference is subject to the principle of linear superposition of EM waves and occurs
whenever two or more waves simultaneously occupy the same point in space.
--If the difference in distance traveled is an odd-integral multiple of one-half wavelength,
reinforcement takes place.
--If the difference in distance traveled is an even-integral multiple of one-half wavelength, total
cancellation occurs.

EM wave Interference

Terrestrial propagation of EM Waves
--Electromagnetic radio waves traveling within earth’s atmosphere are called terrestrial waves,
and communications between two or more points on earth is called terrestrial radio

--There are three modes of propagating EM waves within earth’s atmosphere: Ground wave
propagation, Space wave propagation, Sky wave propagation.

Normal modes of wave propagation

1)Surface (ground) wave propagation
--Ground waves are EM waves that travel along the surface of earth. They are also called as
surface waves.
--Ground waves must be vertically polarized because the electric field in a horizontally polarized
wave is parallel to the earth’s surface and short circuited by the conductivity of the ground
--With ground waves the changing electric field induces voltages in earth’s surface, which cause
currents to flow that are very similar to those in a transmission line.
--Earth’s surface also has resistance and dielectric losses so ground waves are attenuated as they
--Ground waves propagate best over a surface that is a good conductor, such as salt water, and
poorly over desert areas.
--Ground wave losses increase rapidly with frequency, therefore, ground wave propagation is
generally limited to frequencies below 2MHz.

Surface (ground) wave propagation

--Earth’s atmosphere has a gradient density i.e., the density decreases gradually with distance
from earth’s surface, which causes the wavefront to tilt progressively forward.
--Used for ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communications, for radio navigation and for maritime
mobile communications.

2)Space wave propagation
--Space wave propagation of EM energy includes radiated energy that travels in the lower few
miles of earth’s atmosphere.
--Space wave include both direct and ground reflected waves. Direct waves travel essentially in a
straight line between transmit and receive antennas.
--Space wave propagation with direct waves is commonly called line-of- sight (LOS)
transmission. Therefore direct space wave propagation is limited by the curvature of the earth

Space wave propagation

--Ground-reflected waves are waves reflected by earth’s surface as they propagate between
transmit and receive antennas.
--The field intensity at the receive antenna depends on the distance between the two antennas
(attenuation and absorption) and whether the directed and ground-reflected waves are in phase
--The curvature of earth presents a horizon to space wave propagation commonly called the radio
--The radio horizon can be lengthened by elevating the transmit or receive antennas above
earth’s surface by towers or by placing the antennas on top of mountains or tall buildings
--A special condition called duct propagation occurs when the density of the lower atmosphere is
such that EM waves can propagate within the duct for greater distances, causing them to
propagate around earth following its natural curvature.
3)Sky wave propagation
-- EM waves that are directed above the horizon level are called sky waves.
Sky waves are radiated typically in a direction that produces a relatively large angle with
reference to earth.
Sky waves are radiated toward the sky, where they are either reflected or refracted back to the
earth by the ionosphere. Because of this sky wave propagation is sometimes called ionospheric
-- The ionosphere is the region of space located approximately 50 km to 400 km above earth’s

Ionospheric layers
Skip Distance
--Skip distance is the minimum distance fro a transmit antenna that a sky wave of given
frequency will be returned to earth.
--The figure shows several rays with different elevation angles being radiated from the same
point on the earth.

Skip distance
--It can be seen that the location where the wave is returned to earth moves closer to the
transmitter as the elevation angle (Φ) increases.
--The angle of elevation is sufficiently high that the wave penetrates the ionosphere and
continues into space totally escaping earth’s atmosphere.
--Figure below shows the effect on the skip distance of the disappearance of the D and E layers
of the ionosphere during nighttime.

Daytime versus nighttime propagation

Free-space path loss (spreading loss)
--Free-space path loss is often defined as the loss incurred by an EM wave as it propagates in a
straight line through a vacuum with no absorption or reflection of energy from nearby objects.
-- With free-space path loss, no EM energy is actually lost- it merely spreads out as propagates
away from the source resulting in a lower power density called as Spreading loss.
--Spreading loss occurs simply because of inverse square law.
-- Spreading loss is a function of distance from the source and the wavelength (frequency) of the
EM wave.
-- Mathematically, free-space path loss is

2 2
4 4
D fD
t t
| | | |
= =
| |
\ . \ .

Lp = free-space path loss
D = distance (kilometers)
f = frequency (hertz)
ì = wavelength (meters)
c = velocity of light in free space

= 32.4 + 20 log f
+ 20 log D

( )
( ) ( )
4 4
10log 20log
20log 20log 20log
p dB
D fD
f D
t t
| | | |
= =
| |
\ . \ .
| |
= + +
\ .