The ABCs of Digital Communications

Most of our focus in this seminar will be on system-level issues and DSP implementations. Digital communications does not necessarily mean DSP implementation.

People have built digital transmission systems using analog components since the telegraph days. But DSP is being used increasingly in receivers and transmitters because it offers an unprecedented combination of performance, cost reduction, space reduction, power reduction, flexibility and stability in many systems.

Customers have an insatiable appetite for higher data rates and lower power transmission. How far can we push the envelope? The bad news is that we cant go above a limit known as Shannon Capacity.

The good news is that many applications are way below Shannons limit. DSP is the key enabling technology that allows us to get within inches of the Shannon capacity limit. DSP techniques are also being used in traditional analog communications systems such as AM, SSB and FM.


The concept of digital receiver doesnt necessarily mean receiving analog modulated signals. A digital receiver can have multiple personalities. It can detect analog signals and decode digital signals. This is very important because we will see a coexistence of both digital and analog modulation for a long time. Applications such as digital cellular, digital audio broadcasting and HDTV will not phase out analog modulation overnight! You will need a receiver architecture that can support analog and digital. A flexible software-based radio is also able to accommodate changing standards.

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