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Specify the proper level of performance by considering the effects

of blocking signals and increased noise due to reciprocal mixing

By Emmanuel Ngompe

Conexant Systems, Inc.

T

his article presents a formula

for computing the local oscilla-

tor (LO) phase noise require-

ments for a GSM receiver. The formu-

la not only takes into account the

effects of reciprocal mixing of a block-

ing signal with the phase noise of the

LO, it also includes the effects of gain

compression in the receiver front-end

due to the blocking signal as well as

the white noise added to the desired

signal band.

In a typical heterodyne wireless

receiver, the LO, usually implemented

in a frequency synthesizer, provides

the carrier signal necessary for the

mixing process. The single-sideband

(SSB) phase noise of the LO is a criti-

cal performance parameter for the

receiver. In phase-modulated digital

communications systems such as the Global

System for Mobile Communications (GSM)

handsets, the integrated phase noise of the syn-

thesizer contributes to the RMS phase error of

the transceiver. In a GSM receiver, when the

Gaussian minimum-shift-keying (GMSK) signal

is demodulated, the phase error will generate

deviations in the location points within the

demodulations scheme constellation diagram.

These deviations in the constellation points,

which can be directly correlated to the LO phase

noise, contribute to an increase in the systems

bit-error-rate (BER).

Given the impact of the LO phase noise in the

receiver, it is critical to find out what level of

this noise will meet the required receiver per-

formance. We will derive a formula that can be

used to compute the LO phase noise require-

ments for a GSM receiver. This formula includes

the effects from the reciprocal mixing, receiver

gain compression and receiver thermal noise.

Reciprocal mixing effects

The simplest method for calculating the

phase noise performance required for the LO is

to assume that the receiver channel is noiseless.

In this case, the only interference produced

within the signal bandwidth as it moves

through the receiver chain is due to the phase

noise reciprocal mixing with a strong interferer

(also called the blocking signal or blocker) [1].

The GSM standard imposes stringent con-

straints on the close-in and far-out receiver

interference levels. As depicted in Figure 1, the

blocker at the antenna input can be as high as

76 dB above the desired signal at a frequency

54 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

v Figure 1. GSM blocking signal level requirements (at the

antenna input).

56 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

only 3 MHz away from the carrier. The receiver must

still meet a specified BER for a useful signal at the

desired frequency that is 3 dB above the reference sen-

sitivity in the presence of a larger continuous blocking

signal. The reference sensitivity is specified as 102 dBm

minimum, which would give the desired signal a level of

99 dBm.

As shown in Figure 2, when the desired signal is

accompanied by a strong interferer, the two signals mix-

ing with the UHF LO produces a downconverted signal.

This signal consists of two overlapping spectra and will

suffer from significant noise due to the tail (noise side-

bands) of the LO.

Here, the phase noise is assumed to be flat across the

band of interest at a certain offset frequency (f

c

) from

the carrier. The interference component that is then

produced when the blocker mixes with the phase noise

sidebands is then compared to the desired signal which

mixes with the carrier energy. Based on the required

carrier-to-interference (C/I) ratio at the output of the

mixer, and on the blocker level along with its frequency

relative to the desired signal, the required phase noise

performance in dBc/Hz may be estimated using the fol-

lowing equation:

(1)

where,

L(f

c

) = phase noise in dBc/Hz at f

c

away from

the carrier

S

bl

(f

c

) = magnitude of the blocker in dBm (or

dBV)

C/I

req

= minimum magnitude of the required

carrier-to-interference ratio at the base-

band processor input in dB

S

des

= desired signal level in dBm (or dBV)

BW = receiver noise bandwidth

Using the previous formula and considering the

blocking signal levels in Figure 1 with 200 kHz of chan-

nel bandwidth and 9 dB of signal-to-interference ratio,

we will obtain the phase noise requirements shown in

Table 1.

Gain compression effects

The previous formula did not take into account the

fact that the presence of the small desired signal and a

strong interfering signal at the receiver input will create

a reduction in the small signal gain of the receiver.

Known as blocking, this process is created by the non-

linearity in the receiver front-end since it contains com-

pressive circuits (LNA, mixer). As a result, the small sig-

nal gain of the receiver front-end (all the receiver stages

up to the first downconverter) will be reduced and there-

fore, the desired signal will see an apparent gain G' [2]

which is given by the expression:

(2)

where S

bl

is the blocking signal level as previously

defined, G

1

and G

3

respectively are the gain shown by

the small desired signal and the blocking signal, and

their ratio = G

1

/G

3

is related to 1 dB compression

point of the receiver front-end by the following equation

[1]:

(3)

where A

1-dB

is the receiver 1 dB compression point.

Additionally, the blocker will also see an apparent

gain G" given by the equation:

(4)

G G

G S

G

bl

"

( )

+

1

]

1

1

1

3

2

1

1 3

4

( )

A

dB 1

2

0145 .

G G

G S

G

bl

'

( )

+

1

]

1

1

1

3

2

1

1 3

2

L f S S f C I Log BW

c des bl c req

( ) ( ) / ( )

_

,

10

dBc

Hz

v Figure 2. Reciprocal mixing effects.

f

c

S

bl

L(f

c

)

3 MHz 23 dBm 138 dBc/Hz

1.6 MHz 33 dBm 128 dBc/Hz

600 kHz 43 dBm 118 dBc/Hz

v Table 1. LO phase noise requirements at various frequen-

cy offsets based on equation (1).

58 APPLIED MICROWAVE & WIRELESS

So the resulting desired signal at the output of the

mixer will be S

0

= S

des

G' and the blocker level will be

S

I

= S

bl

G". Therefore, substituting these new vari-

ables in (1), we obtain a new expression for the phase

noise of the LO using the gain compression effects:

(5)

Let us consider a typical GSM receiver with the fol-

lowing parameters: G

1

= 22 dB, A

1dB

= 0.014 V (24

dBm in 50 ohms). For 9 dB of minimum signal-to-inter-

ference-ratio at the receiver front-end output, equation

(5) will produce the results in Table 2.

As the table shows, by considering the gain compres-

sion effects on the receiver front-end and the presence of

a strong blocker near the desired signal, the LO phase

noise requirement is 1.5 dB lower at 3 MHz away. At 1.6

MHz and 600 kHz offset frequencies, the effects of gain

compression are less pronounced because at these off-

sets, the interferer levels are lower, resulting in smaller

differences between the apparent gains of the desired

signals (G') and the interferers (G"). Because the receiv-

er is desensitized by a smaller amount at these offset fre-

quencies, the reciprocal mixing effects are not as impor-

tant as with the 3 MHz offset.

Thermal noise effects

Equation (5) can be used to approximate the required

phase noise performance of the local oscillators in the

receiver, assuming there is no contribution from ther-

mal noise at the receiver output. Practically speaking,

this is far from the true situation; the receiver noise con-

tribution will further degrade the overall carrier-to-

interference ratio at the output. Therefore, a better pic-

ture of the true C/I ratio at the receiver front-end output

should include the white noise added to the desired sig-

nal band. At the receiver front-end output, the total

SNR will have a contribution from the thermal noise

(C/N

th

) and a contribution from the reciprocal mixing

effects as derived in the previous section (C/N

rm

).

Combining these two effects, the total SNR at the

receiver output will then be given as follows:

(6)

As previously explained, S

0

= S

des

G', SI =S

bl

G"

and the thermal noise is given by:

N

th

= kTBWF'G'

where F' is the receiver front-end noise factor in the

presence of a blocking signal.

Combining equations (5) and (6), the overall phase

noise requirement on the LO should now be given by

equation (7):

The phase noise requirements for the receiver LO

obtained using equation (7) are the same as in Table 2.

The LO phase noise requirements are identical to the

ones obtained previously using equation (5) because, in

the GSM receiver, the thermal noise is much lower than

the noise from the reciprocal mixing effects. The limit-

ing factors are thus the reciprocal mixing and the gain

compression, not the thermal noise.

Conclusion

In this article, we have considered the effects of reci-

procal mixing, receiver front-end gain compression due

to the presence of blocking signals and thermal noise on

the LO phase noise requirements for a heterodyne

receiver. Using the GSM receiver as an example, we

found that the reciprocal mixing effects are the limiting

factor for the LO phase noise. s

References

1. Robert G. Meyer, and Alvin K. Wong, Blocking and

Desensitization in RF Amplifiers, IEEE Journal of

Solid-State Circuits, Vol .30, No .8, August 1995.

2. Benzad Razavi, RF Microelectronics, Prentice Hall

Communications Engineering Series, 1998.

Author information

Emmanuel Ngompe is an RF

systems engineer with Conexant

Systems Inc., formerly known as

Rockwell Semiconductor Sys-

tems, in Newport Beach, CA.

His interests include GSM and

other wireless receivers and dig-

ital signal processing. He can be

reached by phone at 949-483-

5496, by fax at 949-483-6409, or

via e-mail at emmanuel.ngompe@conexant.com.

L f Log

S

kT BW F

S

S BW

C

I

c

I req

( )

_

,

_

,

1

]

1

1

1

]

1

1

1

10

0

1

0

1

1

C

N

S

N

S

S

th I

_

,

_

,

1

]

1

1

0

1

0

1

1

L f S G S f G

C

I

Log BW

c des bl c

req

( ) ' ( ) " + ( )

_

,

10

dBc

Hz

v Table 2. LO phase noise requirements based on equation

(5). The same results are obtained using equation (7).

f

c

S

bl

L(f

c

)

3 MHz 23 dBm 139.5 dBc/Hz

1.6 MHz 33 dBm 128.3 dBc/Hz

600 KHz 43 dBm 118.1 dBc/Hz

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