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What is Ec/Io (and Eb/No)?

If someone asks you "Which Signal Level for good call quality: -80 dbm or -0 d!m""
!e#are$ if you res%ond quickly$ you might end u% missing& 'his is because the correct
ans#er is &&& it de%ends( 'he Signal Strength is a very im%ortant and essential measure for
any technology )*S+$ ,-+.$ /+'S$ L'0$ etc&1& 2o#ever$ it is not the only one: let3s
talk a little today about another magnitude$ equally im%ortant: the Signal 4oise 5atio&
.lthough this ratio is of fundamental im%ortance to any cellular system$ is not #ell
understood by many %rofessionals& 6n the o%%osite side$ %rofessionals #ith a good
understanding of this ratio are able for e7am%le$ to correctly assess the 58 links$ and also
to %erform more e7tensive o%timi9ations$ obtaining the best %ossible %erformance of the
So$ let3s see a little about it"
Eb and No
'o begin$ #e define the basic conce%ts of 0b and 4o& 'hey are basic for any digital
communication system$ and generally #e talk about it #hen #e deal #ith !it 0rror 5ate
and also +odulation techniques&
Sim%ly %ut:
Eb: !it 0nergy&
o It re%resents the amount of energy %er bit&
No: 4oise S%ectral -ensity&
o /nit: Watts:29 )or mWatts:291
Which brings us to the classic definition of 0b:4o:
Eb/No: !it 0nergy on the S%ectral 4oise -ensity&
o /nit: d!
It did not hel% much$ does it"
-o not #orry& Indeed$ only #ith the theoretical definition is still very difficult to see ho#
this ratio is used$ or ho# it can be measured&
!ut okay$ let3s #alk a little further&
Okay, so how is Eb/No measured?
'o understand ho# this ratio can be measured$ let3s imagine a sim%le digital
communication system&

'he ratio 0b:4o is measured at the receiver$ and serves to indicate ho# strong the signal
-e%ending on the modulation technique used )!;S<$ =;S<$ etc&1 #e have different
curves for !it 0rror 5ate 7 0b:4o&
'hese curves are used as follo#s: for a certain 58 signal$ #hich is the bit errors rate that I
have" Is this bit error rate acce%table for my system"
Whereas the gain that digital has$ then #e can set a minimum criterion of signal to noise
ratio$ in order to have each service )>oice:-ata1 o%erating acce%tably&

In other #ords$ #e can theoretically determine ho# the %erformance #ould be for the
digital link&
4ote: it is #orth remembering here that this is a very com%le7 sub?ect& .s al#ays$ #e try
to introduce to you the most sim%lified %ossible through the use of e7am%les and sim%le
conce%ts& 6kay"
8or e7am%le$ a conce%t that could be e7%lored here - since #e are talking about digital
communication system - is the 4oise 8igure& !ut #e do not #ant to re%eat here all the
theory e7%lained in the /niversity& 4or #as it to have mentioned the noise figure here$
but as #e talked about it$ ?ust understand as a noise level that every receiver has$ and that
it is due to the %rocess of am%lification and %rocessing of signal&
,once%ts like this$ and other even more com%le7$ can be studied$ if you #ish& !ut no#$
let3s continue #ith our signal to noise ratio&
Eb/No -> Ec/Io
'he conce%t of 0b:4o a%%lies to any digital communication system& !ut today #e are
talking s%ecifically to 0c:Io$ #hich is a measure of evaluation and decisions of ,-+.
and /+'S&
4ote: all the technology uses signal-interference ratio& 8or e7am%le$ in *S+$ #e use ,:I&
.s #e are s%eaking of codes$ it becomes easier to understand the conce%ts by observing a
sim%lified diagram of S%read S%ectrum +odulation&
In red$ in transmitter have a narro#band signal #ith data or voice modulated& 'his signal
is s%read and transmitted& .nd s%reads through the middle )air1& In the receiver$ the signal
is des%read - using the same sequence that #as s%read - and thus recovering the base
narro#band signal&
'o %roceed$ #e must kno# some more definitions& 2o#ever$ this %oint is quite delicate$
as #e enter a conce%tual area #here #e have differences bet#een authors$ differences in
translations:countries$ #here differences in technologies are a%%lied$ etc&&
Let3s try to define in a generic #ay$ and only the main&
No: S%ectral -ensity of 4oise@
o 4oise generated by the 58 com%onents of the system$ the air$ among
Io: Interference is the !roadband@ Interfering co-channel$ including yourself setor&
E: is the signal )average1 energy - do not confuse it #ith the sinal )average1
b, c, s& &&: 0nergy are the %o#er %oints in time$ therefore related to the measure or
3length3 of the time )the average %o#er is inde%endent of time 1&
o 2ence it comes 0b$ 0c and 0s$ res%ectively relating to !it ,hi% and
Symbol in different times&
4ote: With these conce%ts$ several formulas can be derived #ith different numerators and
denominators& 8or e7am%le$ 0s A 0b B k$ #here k A number of bits %er symbol& In =;S<
modulation$ #here k A C$ 0s A C B 0b& .nd the derivations of formulas can reach far more
com%le7 equations$ such as the definitions of ca%acity of an .W*4 channel$ and further
deductions for equivalences )0c:4o$ 0b:4t$ etc& &&&1& .gain$ it is not our %ur%ose here
today& We only mention a fe# conce%ts$ related&
'hen come back to the %ractical level - noting that theoretical a%%roaches can be done
more easily later$ after the basics are understood&
So let3s kee% today in ratios most common: 0b:4o and 0c:Io&
.s #e defined Eb/No is the .verage 0nergy of a bit signal$ on the S%ectral -ensity of
4oise& It is %rimarily a %arameter related to the manufacturer for different bearers )based
on the channel model1& !ut it can also vary #ith the environment )urban$ rural$ suburban1$
s%eed$ diversity$ use of %o#er control$ a%%lication ty%e$ etc&&
.nd no# #e can begin to define Ec/Io$ one of the most im%ortant systems in ,-+. and
4ote: .n im%ortant observation is that often #hen #e refer to 0c:Io$ #e are actually
referring to 0c:)Io D 4o1& What ha%%ens is that for %ractical %ur%oses$ #e only have
0c:Io$ because the interference is much stronger and the noise can be neglected&
6ther#ise: for ,-+. interference is like a noise$ then both can be considered the same
6kay$ let3s sto% #ith the issues and conce%ts$ and talk a little about the values of these
indicators and their use in %ractice&

Eb/No Positie and Ec/Io Ne!atie?
In terms of values$ and talking logarithmicly$ if any ratio is less than E$ then the value is
negative& If greater than E$ %ositive&
We have 0c:Io in the air$ #hich is s%read across the s%ectrum: then #e have negative
value to the ratio of energy on the total noise )the energy is lo#er than the 'otal
Interference1& It is measured at the in%ut of receiver )4ode!$ /0$ etc1&
5egarding 0b:4o$ it is in the baseband after des%reading and decoded only for one user -
then #e have a %ositive amount of energy over the total noise& It is measured at the out%ut
of receiver )4ode!$ /0$ etc1&

Why shou"d we use Ec/Io?
. more natural question #ould be: #hy #e can not sim%ly use the Signal Strength
measured by the mobile as a guide for o%erations such as handover"
'he ans#er is sim%le: the measured signal level corres%onds to the 'otal 58 %o#er - .ll
cells that the mobile sees&
So #e need another quick and sim%le measure that allo#s us to evaluate the contribution
of each sector individually&
We used to measure the %ilot channel signal of each sector to assess the quality: if the
level of the %ilot is good$ then also are good levels for the traffic channels for our call in
this sector& Like#ise$ if the %ilot channel is degraded$ so #ill the other channels
)including traffic1 be$ and it is best to avoid using the traffic channels in this sector&
/+'S and ,-+. systems$ #e have a %ilot channel$ some other control channels such as
%aging$ and traffic channels&
'he 0c:Io varies #ith several factors$ such as the 'raffic Load and and 58 Scenario&
6f course$ the 0c:Io is the final com%osition of all these factors simultaneously
),om%osite 0c:Io1$ but it3s easier to understand talking about each one se%arately&
#han!e in Ec/Io accordin! to the $ector %ra&&ic 'oad
0ach sector transmits a certain %o#er& Su%%ose in our e7am%le #e have a %ilot channel
%o#er setting of C W$ and a %o#er of other control channels also fi7ed at C W&
'o make it easier to understand$ #e calculate the 0c:Io )%ilot channel %o#er to total
%o#er1 of this sector in a situation #here #e have no busy traffic channel )0 W1&

'hus #e have:
0c A C W
Io A 0 D C D C A F W
Ec/Io A )C:F1 A 0&G A -( d)
4o# assume that several traffic channels are busy )eg use H W for traffic channels1& 'his
is a situation of traffic load$ #e3ll see ho# is 0c:Io&

0c A C W
Io A C D C D H A E0 W
Ec/Io A )C:E01 A 0&C A -* d)
#onc"usion: .s the traffic load in the sector increases$ the 0c:Io #orsens&
#han!e in Ec/Io accordin! to the scenario +,
.ccording to the 58 scenario - a single server sector$ some or many servers sectors - #e
can also take various measures to 0c:Io&
,onsidering first a situation #ithout e7ternal interference$ #ith only one server sector
)dominant1$ the ratio 0c:Io is about the same initially transmitted&

Ec/Io A )C:81 A 0&CG A -- d)
Whereas a signal coming from this sector in the mobile at level of -0 d!m )Io A -0
d!m1$ #e have 0c A -0 d!m D )- H db1 A -H d!m&
Let us no# consider another situation& Instead of one$ #e have five sectors signal arriving
at the mobile )for sim%licity$ all #ith the same level of -0 d!m1&

4o# have Io A -8I d!m )#hich is the sum of five signals of -0 d!m1& .nd the %o#er of
our %ilot channel remains the same )0c A -H d!m1&
'hus: Ec/Io A -H - )-8I1 A -.( d)
#onc"usion: .s many more sectors serves the mobile$ the 0c:Io #orsens&

'his situation #here #e have many overla%%ing sectors$ and #ith the same level of signal
is kno#n as ;ilot ;ollution - the mobile sees them all at once - each acting as interferer to
each other&
'he solution in such cases is to eliminate un#anted signals$ by setting %o#er %arameters
or %hysical ad?ustments )tilt$ a9imuth1$ leaving ?ust dominant signals #hich should e7ist
at this %roblematic %lace&
Okay, and what are ty/ica" a"ues?
We have seen that for ,-+. and /+'S systems$ the measurement of 0c:Io #hich is
very im%ortant in the analysis$ es%ecially in handover decisions&
.nd no# also understand the measure 0c:Io as the ratio of 3good3 energy over 3bad3
energy$ or 3cleaness3 of signal&
!ut #hat are the %ractical values"
'he value of 0c:Io fluctuates )varies1$ as #ell as any #ireless signal& If the value starts to
get too lo#$ you start to have dro%%ed calls$ or can not connect& !ut #hat then is a good
range of 0c:Io for a sign"
In %ractical terms$ values of 0c:Io for a good evaluation of the net#ork )in terms of this
indicator1 are sho#n in the diagram belo#&
. com%osite 0c:Io J - E0 db is a reasonable value to consider as good&
4ote: See #e are talking about negative values$ and considering them 3good3& In other
#ords$ #e are saying that energy is belo# the 4oise )and still have a good situation1&
'his is a characteristic of the system itself$ and 0c:Io 3most negative3 or 3less negative3 is
going to allo# assessment of the communication&
In situations #here 0c:Io is very lo# )high negative number1$ and the signal level too
)also high negative number1$ first #e need to #orry in enhancing the #eak signal&
.nother ty%ical situation: if the measured 0c:Io is very lo#$ even if you have a good
signal level$ you can not connect$ or the call #ill dro% constantly&
I ho%e you3ve managed to understand ho# the 0c:Io is im%ortant for ,-+. and /+'S&
4ote$ ho#ever$ that this matter is very com%le7$ and su%%lementary reading - books and
internet - can further hel% you become an e7%ert on the sub?ect&
.ny#ay$ the content dis%layed serves as an e7cellent reference$ es%ecially if you3re not
familiar #ith the conce%t of signal over noise for ,-+. and /+'S&

0nd the $i!na" to Noise +atio &or other techno"o!ies?
'he ratio 0c:Io is the most commonly used to assess the condition of energy over
interference$ but a%%lies only in technologies that use codes )0c1&
!ut the conce%ts understood here to ,-+. and /+'S are very similar - a%%ly - for any
technology$ eg *S+$ #here #e use the ,:I&
.ny#ay$ this is a to%ic for another tutorial$ #e sa# today 0c:Io&

'oday #e had a brief introduction on the 0c:Io ratio$ a measurement for decisions in
,-+. and /+'S$ and used togheter #ith the measured Signal Strength&
We have seen that it re%resents the ratio of signal energy #ithin the duration of a chi% of
the %ilot channel$ on the S%ectral -ensity of 4oise D Interference&
'his is a very im%ortant measure$ #hich someho# ignores the overall strength of the
signal$ and focuses on ho# best to evaluate the %ilot channel signal is desired$ in relation
to noise that interferes #ith it&
5eturning to our original question: . strong signal level does not necessarily indicate an
strong 0c:Io: it de%ends on the level of interference&