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# dB and dBm theory

## Definition of dB: ThedBisalogarithmicunitusedtodescribearatio.Theratiomaybepower,

soundpressure,voltageorintensityorseveralotherthings.ThedefinitionofdecibelabbreviateddB,is

P
a = 10 * log10 1 dB
P2

have

dB = 10 * log(20 / 5)
= 10 * log(4)

= 10 * 0.602
= 6dB

Ofcourseitispossibletoconvertdecibelsbacktotheirlinervalues.WemustfirstconvertdBtoBelby
dividingthevalueof10.Thenwemustraisethenumberof10tothispower.

a / dB
P1
= 10 10

P2

Example:a=6dBwhatisP1/P2?

Afterfirstcomputing6/10=0.6weobtain:P1/P2=100.6=4

shouldbememorizedasshownintable1.

Ratio dB
*1 0dB

*2 3dB
*3 5dB
4 6dB
*5 7dB
6 8dB
*7 8.5dB
*8 9dB
*9 9.5dB
*10 10dB
100 20dB
103 30dB

104 40dB
Figure1showhowdecibelscalesareconstructed.

Figure1

Itshouldbeemphasizedthatunlikewatts,voltsandamperes,thedBisnotaphysicalquantity.Rather,a
dBrepresentsaratiooftwophysicalquantities,typicalpower.Therearesomerulesortheoremsthat
areusefulinthemanipulationofdecibelquantities.

Theorem 1:TheproductoftwopurenumbersorratiosAandBisequivalenttotheirsumwhentheir
valuesareexpressedindB.

Example:

A=10dB

B=23dB

A*B=1*20dB+3db

=2=3dB

Theorem 2:ThedivisionoftwopurenumbersorratiosAandBisequivalenttotheirdifferencewhen
theirvaluesareexpressedindB.
Example:

A=46dB

B=23dB

A/B=4/26dB3dB

=2=3dB

## Fractional Numbers in Decibels:

Figure2showsthelayoutofthefractionalnumbersandtheircorrespondingdecibelvalues.As
wegodownward,eachblockdecreasesinsizebyafactorof10.Toshowthat0.1is10dB,we
invokeTheorem2inthefollowingmanner.

1Block

Figure2

Since0.1=1/10

Weknowthat1=0dBand10=10dB

ApplyTheorem2:

0.1 =1/10

=0dB10dB

=10dB
Similarlywecanshowthat102,103etcare20dB,30dBandsoon.Weshouldnowbeableto
find the dB equivalent of any positive fractional numbers. Remember that negative numbers
cannotbeexpressedindB.

Example:

Number=0.2

=2/10

=3dB10dB

=7dB

## Definition of dBm: Ifwereferanarbitrarypowerleveltoafixedreferencequantity,weobtainan

absolutequantityfromthelogarithmicpowerratio.

apowerof1mW.Thisreferencequantityisdesignatedbyappendinganm(formW)todBtogivedBm.

ThegeneralpowerrationP1toP2nowbecomesaratioofP1to1mW,indicatedindBm.

P
dBm = 10 * log watt
0.001watt

Example:50WindBm

10*log(50/0.001)=10*log5000=47dBm

## Combining dBm and dB:

Justlikevoltageandcurrent,powercanbeamplifiedbyapoweramplifier.Theamplificationfactoris
knownaspowergain,G.Forinstance,aninputpowerof1mWtoanamplifierofgain100resultsinan
outputpowerof1mW*100=100mW.

PoweramplificationcanbedescribedintermsofdBmanddB,withtheformerreferringtotheinputand
output power, and the latter to the gain of the amplifier. Hence, dBm + dB have physical meaning,
therefore,alsoapowerlevel,namelydBm.

dBm+dB=dBmPowerAmplification
Justlikethedivisionofacertainvoltagebyaresistornetwork,powercanbedivided(orattenuated)as
well.WhenexpressedintermsofdBmanddB,powerattenuationisdBmdB.Becauseanattenuated
powerisstillpower,wehavethefollowingimportantrelation:

dBmdB=dBmPowerAttenuation

Table2summarizesallpossiblecombinationsofdBanddBm.

## Operation ResultingUnit Physicalmeaning Allowed?

dB+dB dB Productoftwonumbers Yes
dBdB dB comparingoftwonumbers Yes
dBm+dBm XX Multiplyingoftwopowers No
dBmdBm dB comparingtwopowers Yes
dBm+dB dBm Poweramplification Yes
dBmdB dBm Powerattenuation yes

Inevaluatingsystemperformance,thequantityofgreatestinterestisthesignaltonoiseratio
(SNR). This is because the basic system design centers detect the signal, with an acceptable
errorprobability,inthepresenceofnoise.Sincethedesiredsignalhereisdemodulatedcarrier
waveformweoftenspeakoftheaveragecarrierpowertonoiseratio(C/N)or(Pr/N)astheSNR
isotropicantenna.

EIRP * Gr * 2 EIRP * Gr
Pr = = (1)
(4d ) 2 Ls

Where

Antenna(Gt)

=Wavelengthofthecarrier

Gr=receivingantennagain

Ls=Pathlossorfreespaceloss

Gr
Pr EIRP * N
= (2)
N Ls

by the demodulator is usually greater than the signal bandwidth, and Pr/N is the main
parameterformeasuringsignaldetectabilityandperformancequality.

With digital receiver correlators or matched filters are usually implemented and signal
bandwidthistakentobeequaltonoisebandwidth.Ratherthanconsiderinputnoisepower,a
common formulation for digital links is to replace noise power with noise power spectral
density.Wecanuseequationofmaximumsinglesidednoisepowerspectraldensity.

N
No = = k * T o Watts/hertz(3)
W

Where

N=maximumthermalnoisepower

To=TemperatureinKelvin

k=Boltzmannsconstant= W/KelvinHz

antenna gain Gr and system temperature To are grouped together which is sometimes called

SNRequation.

S=averagemodulatingsignalpower

T=bittimeduration

R=1/T=bitrate

N=No*W

Sistheaveragemodulatingsignalpower, thebitenergypernoisepowerspectraldensity,

andRthebitrate.

TofacilitatecalculatingamarginorasafetyfactorM,weintroducetwoparameterswhichare

The parameter reflects the differences from one system design to another. These

mightbeduetodifferencesinmodulationorcodingschemes.Combiningequations(4)and(7)