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Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Digital modulation classi"cation using constellation shape

Bijan G. Mobasseri*
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Villanova University, Villanova, PA 19085, USA
Received 12 September 1997; received in revised form 2 September 1999
Constellation diagram is a traditional and powerful tool for design and evaluation of digital modulations. In this work
we propose to use constellation shape as a robust signature for digital modulation recognition. We represent the
transmitted `informationa by the geometry of the constellation. Received information is in turn the recovered constella-
tion shape that is deformed by noise, channel and receiver implementation. We "rst demonstrate that fuzzy c-means
clustering is capable of robust recovery of the unknown constellation. To perform Bayesian inference, the reconstructed
constellation is modeled by a discrete multiple-valued nonhomogenous spatial random "eld. For candidate modulations,
their corresponding random"elds are modeled o!-line. The unknown constellation shape is then classi"ed by an MLrule
based on the preceding model building phase. The algorithm is applicable to digital modulations of arbitrary size and
dimensionality. 2000 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Das Konstellationsdiagramm ist ein traditionelles und leistungsfaK higes Werkzeug fuK r den Entwurf und die Bewertung
digitaler Modulationsverfahren. In dieser Arbeit schlagen wir vor, die Konstellationsform als robuste Signatur zur
digitalen Modulationserkennung zu verwenden. Wir stellen die uK bertragene `Informationa durch die Geometrie der
Konstellation dar. Die empfangene Information ist dann die rekonstruierte Konstellationsform, welche durch Rauschen,
den Kanal und die EmpfaK ngerimplementierung deformiert ist. ZunaK chst demonstrieren wir, da{eine Gruppenbildung
mittels fuzzy c-Mittelwerten in der Lage ist, die unbekannte Konstellation robust zu rekonstruieren. Um Bayessche
Schlu{folgerungen durchfuK hren zu koK nnen, wird die rekonstruierte Konstellation durch ein diskretes, mehrwertiges,
nichthomogenes raK umliches Zufallsfeld modelliert. Die den in Frage kommenden Modulationen entsprechenden
Zufallsfelder werden im voraus modelliert. Die unbekannte Konstellationsform wird dann mittels einer ML-Regel
klassi"ziert, welche auf der vorhergenhenden Modellierungsphase beruht. Der Algorithmus eignet sich fuK r digitale
Modulationsverfahren beliebiger GroK {e und DimensionalitaK t. 2000 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights
Re2 sume2
Un diagramme de constellation est un outil traditionnel et puissant de conception et d'eH valuation d'une modulation
numeH rique. Dans ce travail, nous proposons l'utilisation de la forme de constellation comme signature robuste pour la
reconnaissance de modulations numeH riques. Nous repreH sentons l'information transmise par la geH omeH trie de la constellation.
0165-1684/00/$- see front matter 2000 Published by Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
PII: S 0 1 6 5 - 1 6 8 4 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 1 2 7 - 9
A son tour, l'information rec7 ue est constitueH e par la forme de la constellation. qui est deH formeH e par le bruit, le canal et
l'impleH mentation du reH cepteur. Nous deH montrons tout d'abord qu'un clustering par l'algorithme c-means #ou est capable
de retrouver de fac7 on robuste une constellation inconnue. Pour e!ectuer une infeH rence BayeH sienne, la constellation
reconstruite est modeH liseH e par un champ aleH atoire spatial non-homoge` ne a` valeurs multiples discre` tes. Pour les
modulations candidates, leurs champs aleH atoires correspondants sont modeH liseH s horsligne. La forme de constellation
inconnue est ensuite classi"eH e par une re` gle ML baseH e sur la phase preH ceH dente de construction du mode` le. L'algorithme
est applicable a` des modulations numeH riques de taille et de dimensionnaliteH arbitraires. 2000 Published by Elsevier
Science B.V. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Modulation classi"cation; Constellation; Digital modulation; Shape recognition
1. Introduction
Recognition of the modulation type of an un-
known signal provides valuable insight into its
structure, origin and properties. Automatic modu-
lation classi"cation is used for spectrum surveil-
lance and management, interference identi"cation,
military threat evaluation, electronic counter
measures, source identi"cation and many others.
For example, if the modulation type of an intercep-
ted signal is extracted, jamming can be carried out
more e$ciently by focusing all resources into vital
signal parameters. Other applications may include
signal source identi"cation. This is particularly ap-
plicable to wireless and modem standards where
di!erent services follow well-known modulation
standards. Signal constellation has been the tradi-
tional means for digital modulation design and
analysis. Among many other attributes, constella-
tion diagram provides a graphical insight into sig-
nal structure and the relationship among various
modulation states. Given a digitally modulated sig-
nal, its constellation can be obtained by projecting
individual modulation states onto a set of ortho-
gonal basis functions the number of which is deter-
mined by the dimensionality of the signal. The most
common constellations in use are two dimensional
which map the signal onto a pattern of ampli-
tude/phase states scattered on the 2D plane.
Past work on modulation recognition has prim-
arily used signal properties in time and/or fre-
quency domain to identify the underlying
modulation. In this work we recognize that if con-
stellations can uniquely identify a modulation stan-
dard, they should also be able to reveal the
underlying modulation of unknown nature. This
approach practically casts modulation recognition
into a shape matching problem. The reason behind
this statement is that the recovered constellation
has a shape that may only resemble the original
constellation. The departure fromthe library model
is caused by a variety of reasons including noise,
multipath, carrier and clock recovery errors and
a host of others. In this work we model the recon-
structed constellation by a multidimensional ran-
dom "eld and match it to a library of constellation
shapes using an ML decision rule. Simulation re-
sults show that constellation shape is a global,
reliable and stable modulation signature. Fig. 1 il-
lustrates the general concept.
2. Outline of the solution
It is important to spell out what modulation
recognition is, and as importantly, what it is not.
Picking up on a point "rst articulated by Liedtke
[8], modulation recognition is an intermediate step
on the path to full message recovery. As such, it lies
somewhere between low-level energy detection and
a full #edged demodulation. Therefore, correct re-
covery of the message per se is not an objective, or
even a requirement. In fact, it is conceivable to
experience very high BERs and high correct modu-
lation classi"cation at the same time. Case in point
is modulation types with -fold ambiguity for
which constellation maps onto itself for a rotation
of $2K/ rad. In a nondi!erentially encoded
system, such rotations can cause very large BERs.
What is stable, however, is constellation shape;
252 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 1. In the proposed modulation recognition algorithm, transmitted information is the constellation shape. The problem is to infer
modulation type from the observation of a distorted constellation.
a signature that will be exploited throughout this
paper. This example also illustrates that modula-
tion classi"cation and symbol detection are poten-
tially two di!erent problems.
Constellation-based modulation identi"cation
depends on three main steps, (1) constellation shape
deformation modeling, (2) constellation reconstruc-
tion and (3) inference engine development. The ex-
tent of deformation of the constellation is strongly
determined by the underlying assumptions on the
channel as well as the receiver. In this work we rely
on standard toolboxes available to digital receivers
including baud rate, timing phase and carrier re-
covery. Carrier lock error, phase tracking loop
SNR and modulation classi"cation accuracy are
tied together in a single model. Multipath-induced
ISI, if present, is mitigated by appropriate channel
equalization prior to modulation recognition
stage[23]. One unique aspect of the approach here
is that there are no detection stages, i.e. no attempt
is made to perform a symbol-level detection. This
step is instead replaced by a corresponding stage
where the entire constellation, not the individual
symbols, is classi"ed in one shot. To classify the
underlying modulation, a statistical model of the
deformed constellation is needed. We have modeled
the received constellation by a nonhomogenous
multidimensional discrete random "eld. The last
step in the modulation identi"cation process is the
evaluation of an inference mechanismthat acts upon
the single observed constellation to make a decision.
Statistical modeling of the reconstructed constellation
allows for the implementation of a maximum likeli-
hood rule. The ML rule is essentially a shape recogni-
tion algorithm and has proved e!ective in other
applications[13]. Fig. 2 illustrates the above steps.
3. Previous work
Explicit use of constellation as a modulation
signature has been reported at least once before. In
a clever approach, Wood et al. [25] used Radon
transform to bring out the symmetry features of the
constellation. Closer examination of several other
techniques reveals an implicit use of constellation.
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 253
Fig. 2. Constellation shape matching paradigm.
Early on it was recognized that modulation classi-
"cation is a classi"cation problem well suited to
pattern recognition algorithms. A successful statist-
ical classi"cation requires the right set of features
extracted from the unknown signal. There have been
many attempts to extract such optimal feature. His-
tograms derived from functions like amplitude, in-
stantaneous phase, frequency or combinations
thereof have been used as feature vectors for classi-
"cation, [5,8,9]. Also of interest is the work of Ais-
bett [1] which considers cases with very poor SNR.
The current state of the art in modulation classi-
"cation is the decision theoretic approach using
appropriate likelihood functional or approxima-
tions thereof. Polydoros and Kim [15] derive
a quasi-log-likelihood functional for classi"cation
between BPSK and QPSK modulations. In a later
publication, Huang and Polydoros [8] introduce
a more general likelihood functional to classify
among arbitrary MPSK signals. They point out
that the S-classi"er of Liedtke, based on an ad hoc
phase-di!erence histogram, can be realized as
a noncoherent, synchronous version of their qLLR.
Statistical moment-based classi"er (SMBC) of
Solimon and Hsue [21] are also identi"ed as
special coherent version of qLLR. Wei and Mendel
[24] formulate another likelihood-based approach
to modulation classi"cation that is not limited to
any particular modulation class. Their approach is
the closest to a constellation-based modulation
classi"cation advocated here although they have
not made it the central thesis of their work. Carrier
phase and clock recovery issues are also not ad-
dressed. Chugg et al. [4] use an approximation of
log-ALF to handle more than two modulations
and apply it to classi"cation between OQPSK/
BPSK/QPSK. Lin and Kuo [11] propose a se-
quential probability ratio test in the context of
hypothesis testing to classify among several QAM
signals. Their approach is novel in the sense that
new data continuously updates the evidence.
Nonlinear operations on signals are probably the
most indigenous to communications theory but are
also ad hoc in many respects. For example,
a square-law classi"er produces bulges in the spec-
trum of a BPSK signal at twice the carrier fre-
quency. No such component appears for a QPSK
signal. Many have suggested this property to dis-
tinguish between the two. Square-law classi"er is
a special case of delay-and-multiply operation
r(t)r(t!A). The spectrum of this product can be
used as a harmonics detector. If energy is detected
at DC for A"0, but not at symbol rate for A"
half symbol rate, then the unknown modulation is
an OQPSK signal rather than a BPSK or QPSK
[13]. This approach is extended as the Mth law
nonlinearity and "ltering where the Mth power of
an MPSK signal produces a spectral bulge at Mf

Reichert [17] compiles these approaches under
nonlinear algorithms in modulation recognition.
There have been other approaches to modula-
tion classi"cation. Ta [22] uses the energy vectors
derived from wavelet packet decomposition as fea-
ture vectors to distinguish between ASK, PSK and
FSK modulation types. Hong and Ho [7] use
wavelet transform for modulation recognition.
Marinovich et al. [12] use singular value decompo-
sition to identify that part of the signal subspace
that separates the classes the most. They use this
approach to discriminate between MSK and
OQPSK signals. Beidas and Weber [3] use higher-
order statistics. The latter approach is applied to
MFSK signals only. Nandi and Azzouz [14] have
used neural nets for modulation classi"cation.
Their database is limited to 2/4/ASK/PSK/FSK. In
an earlier work they proposed using "ve key fea-
tures for discriminating among the same modula-
tion types. Recognition performance was reported
to be in excess of 90% at SNR"10 dB[2]. Yang et
al. [26] develop a log-likelihood function for M-ary
QAM signals that is based on the pdf of signal's
complex envelope.
254 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
4. Constellation recovery
Conventional receivers are designed to recover
transmitted bits of information. Here, we are not
interested in bit recovery. What we are interested in
is recovery of a global signature in the form of
constellation shape. Therefore, the main output of
the `receivera has to be the recovery of the constel-
lation. For proper implementation of the algo-
rithm, we need to rely on a number of standard
algorithms. They include methods for baud rate,
carrier phase and clock recovery as well as any
necessary channel equalization. The extent to
which these parameters can be successfully extrac-
ted from an `unknowna signal depends to some
degree on the a priori knowledge. Scenarios are
conceivable for a cooperative modulation recogni-
tion where the class of signals and their general
properties are known. One appropriate area for
modulation recognition is a `universala demodula-
tor where candidate modulation schemes are
known before hand. In a noncooperative setting,
some prior information may still be available
through intelligence or historical data. Other in-
formation may also be extracted with little or no
cooperation from the transmitter.
4.1. Model development
The focus in constellation-based modulation rec-
ognition is on the reconstructed constellation. To
achieve this goal, we must "rst layout a model for
the unknown modulation. Let the received signal be
modeled by arbitrary combinations of amplitude,
phase. There are no fundamental limitations to add
other dimensions such as frequency, however.


)e'`D R>F '



, (1)
where N is the number of symbols inside the obser-
vation interval , R
is kth symbol amplitude,
3(2/M)i, i"0,
, M!1, M is number of

is symbol duration, f

is carrier fre-
quency, 0

is carrier phase tracking error and p(t) is

the basic baseband pulse de"ned over 0)t)

. R
and 0
are constants during a symbol peri-
od. Noise is white Gaussian with a two-sided spec-
tral density of N
/2. The complex envelope portion
of (1) is given by
r`(t, 0


e'FI >F 'p(t!(k!1)

(t)eFL 'R'. (2)
A correlation receiver, of the type shown in Fig. 1,
integrates over a symbol length to recover the
transmitted amplitude/phase information. If per-
formed over N symbols, the result is the recovered
scatter diagram. A typical receiver is confronted
with carrier and clock recovery errors. In the pres-
ent model, we are assuming the presence of a phase
tracking loop operating with a slowly varying (rela-
tive to symbol time) phase error 0

. The clock
recovery circuit can be of the early}late gate variety
where it is reasonable to assume that timing phase
error c is a small fraction of symbol time, random
and zero mean.
Let us now look at the recovery of the mth
symbol from the data stream shown in (2). Accord-
ing to (2), the mth symbol begins at t"(m!1)

Correlation receiver operating with a symbol tim-
ing error c generates

, c)"r`

, c)#jr`

, c)

r`(t, 0

) dt


e'FI >F 'p(t!(k!1)

(t)eFL 'R'

, N. (3)
Assuming that carrier lock error is stable for the
duration of a symbol

, c)

e'FK >F 'p(t!(m!2)

) dt
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 255
Fig. 3. QPSK IQ scatter plot under carrier-noncoherent case
and random noise.
Fig. 4. QPSK IQ scatter plot under symbol-noncoherent case
and random noise.

e'FK>FA 'p(t!(m!1)

) dt

(t)eFL 'R'


#noise 0)c):

. (4)
: controls the peak receiver symbol timing error
and is expressed as a fraction of symbol width.
Symbol timing error expands the integration inter-
val across at most two adjacent symbols. The
resulting ISI can be explained vectorially by the
addition of two vectors. The desired symbol R
is pulled away from its original location by the
adjacent symbol. The extent of departure, however,
is controlled by :. Clock recovery error a!ects
constellations in a di!erent way. Phase tracking
error represented by eF
introduces a rotation of
the symbol. This rotation has a number of modali-
ties. In a coherent receiver there is either no phase
error or if there is it is assumed to be known. This
constant phase o!set introduces a "xed, known
rotation of the entire constellation. For matching
purposes, the entire constellation must "rst be de-
rotated. Exploiting symmetry properties of many of
the constellations under study, it is also possible to
determine constellation orientation even if rotation
angle is not known [25]. Two other situations,
carrier-noncoherent and symbol-noncoherent situ-
ations have been proposed in the literature [15]. In
the carrier-noncoherent case, 0

is random but con-

stant during the observation interval, (Fig. 3).
Similar to the carrier-coherent case, constellation
will rotate but the angle of rotation changes from
one reconstruction to another. Under a symbol-
noncoherent scheme, 0

remains "xed for the dura-

tion of a symbol only but varies slightly from sym-
bol to symbol. Repeated detection of the same
symbol sweeps an arc in the range of 0

(Fig. 4). As
shown in Fig. 1, a phase tracking loop keeps

within a small range. There is, of course, a strong

dependency between the available SNR and the
performance of phase tracking loop. As SNR drops,
the variance of 0

increases. Therefore, constella-

tion shape recovery not only su!ers from increased
noise, the increasing phase error adds to the smear-
ing of the constellation vertices. We have studied
this issue in some detail later on.
Modulation recognition presented in this paper
parts company with the existing approaches at this
point. We will not be working directly with the
individual r`
to form a decision theoretic func-
tional. Instead, we will use them only to reconstruct
the constellation. The available data for constella-
tion reconstruction appears at the output of the
correlation receiver in the form of an N;2 vector
256 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
of measurements. The constellation of the received
signal is a multidimensional, multiclass random
process. The number of modulation states, their
positions as well as the dimensionality of the signal
space are, of course, unknown. Without loss of
generality, we will limit our discussion to two-
dimensional signals covering a large array of servi-
ces. However, there is no fundamental limit to
its extensions to higher dimensions. In fact, one
of the strengths of the proposed algorithm is this
4.2. Clustering in the constellation space
Looking at the raw IQ scatter diagram of an
unknown modulation and recognizing that the en-
tire scatter may have come from a handful of
centers, the relevance of clustering emerges. The
method used here is fuzzy c-means [18]. This clus-
tering algorithm and many of its variants, such as
k-means, are minimum distance, minimum variance
iterative clustering algorithms. What the algorithm
needs as input are (1) the N;2 vector of measure-
ments at correlation detector output, (2) number of
expected clusters and (3) a termination threshold.
Using an appropriate distance metric, the classi"er
assigns a received vector r`
to the nearest cluster. At
the end of one iteration, each received modulation
vector is assigned to a modulation state. The pro-
cess iterates by reassigning received vectors to
other possible clusters with the goal of minimizing
an overall cost function. At the end of the process,
all N received symbols are assigned to their respect-
ive clusters. The centroids of the clusters de"ne the
reconstructed constellation. If clustering is repeated
over N di!erent symbols, the reconstructed shape
will look di!erent but similar to the one before.
Note that a priori information on the number of
modulation states is not necessary. To cover an
unknown number of modulation states, an initial
number larger than expected is speci"ed. A post-
processing merging step can eliminate clusters with
small membership. Knowledge of the number of
clusters, regardless of the underlying modulation
type, limits the search space in the follow up con-
stellation shape matching. For example, there is no
reason to match a 16 level modulation against
a library of modulations that have fewer or larger
than 16 states. What we have here is in e!ect
hierarchical recognition that screens modulation
types based on their number of states "rst.
4.3. Modeling reconstructed constellation shapes
De"ne "C

, C
, C
as K constellations
of expected modulations. The reconstructed con-
stellations are de"ned by "CK

, CK
, CK
Boldface notation indicates that the reconstructed
constellations are stochastic quantities with CK
a single realization of CK
. Consider an unknown
constellation C represented by M modulation
states u
; k"1,
, M. The output of fuzzy c-
means in response to C consists of M clusters
collectively referred to by "+

. Note that

contains signals that do not all necessarily be-
long to the kth modulation state. In general, mem-
bership of
may have originated from the
remaining k!1 modulation states resulting in
a mixture density function. Let N
be the number
of vectors from the ith modulation state assigned to
the kth cluster and N
the total number of symbols
classi"ed to
. These numbers are generally ran-
dom but experiments have shown that the aggreg-
ate cluster membership remain stable down to

&3 dB. The key piece of information de-
rived from
is the estimate of the kth modulation
state vector. This estimate is the sample mean
that is given by the weighted sum of the sample
means of sub clusters M






For high SNR cases, a large majority of vectors in

belong to the kth modulation state i.e.
,iOk . Therefore, EM
converges to
. When SNR is low or modulation states are
seriously disturbed, N
is generally not met
and a shift of M
occurs. This condition is at
the root of constellation shape deformation. What
is probably more critical is the stability of the
constellation shape under repeated reconstruction
attempts. This variability can be measured by the
variance of M
shown in (5). The variance of M
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 257
Fig. 5. 10 reconstructions of a 16-QAM constellation at

"10 dB. The original shape is accurately maintained.
Fig. 6. Reconstructed shape shows more departure from its orig-
inal con"guration but the 16-QAMstructure is still clearly visible.
Fig. 7. Decreasing E

3 dB, has further impacted recon-
struction. However, vertex positions and the overall shape of the
reconstructed constellation still reveal a 16-QAM structure.
inversely proportional to the corresponding cluster
size. Therefore, with all other factors remaining
unchanged, the recovered modulation exhibit less
variability with increasing sample size or equiva-
lently longer observation interval. The movements
of constellation shape can be examined by observ-
ing a stack of sample reconstructions. The key
question at this point is how faithfully the original
constellation can be reconstructed from the re-
ceived signal? To examine this point, we have re-
constructed the received constellation of a square
16-QAM signal subject to Gaussian noise. Impact
of additional e!ects such as carrier lock will be
investigated in the experimental section. Multiple
copies of a 16-QAM constellation is rebuilt over an
observation interval several hundred symbols in
length. Each reconstruction, consisting of 16
vertices, is a single realization of the underlying
random "eld describing the noisy 16-QAM model.
Reconstructed constellations, if superimposed, gen-
erate an eye pattern-like shape. This pattern can then
be used to gauge the stability of the constellation
under progressively worsening channel conditions.
To illustrate this point, we have shown 10 recon-
structed constellations on top of the clustered IQ
components, (Figs. 5}7). An undisturbed 16-QAM
constellation will have a perfect alignment of lines
joining the vertices. The departure of constellation
shape from its nominal state results in a smearing
much like closing of the eye. This closing can be
258 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 8. Raw IQ data corresponding to Fig. 7. The underlying
modulation is largely hidden.
used in a visual illustration of the robustness of the
constellation recovery.
Fuzzy c-means is run on the IQ data for
3 E

's of 10, 5 and 3 dB. For 10 dB and above,
the reconstruction is virtually perfect. Even for
lower signal-to-noise ratios the basic shape of the
constellation is preserved. This is true down to 3 dB
for which few modulation recognition algorithms
perform satisfactorily. To underscore the role of
fuzzy c-means, we have also shown the raw IQ
scatter at E

"3 dB in Fig. 8. Clearly, the
massive dispersion of data points hides the underly-
ing modulation.
5. Modulation recognition algorithm
At this point we have an algorithm for the recov-
ery of the constellation shape of the unknown
modulation. The recovered constellation is a single
realization from an as yet unspeci"ed random pro-
cess. To successfully extract the unknown modula-
tion, we need to complete two additional steps (1)
modeling of the reconstructed constellation shape
and (2) development of a shape-based decision metric.
5.1. Constellation shape modeling
Signal constellation is a discrete geometry. One
way to characterize this geometry is by a probabil-
ity mass function with zeros everywhere except on
modulation states. We can model the jth constella-
tion C
by the sum of spatial delta functions de"ned
over a discrete grid

), j"1,

1 ru
0 rOu
where r is the position vector and the ith signal
vector of the jth constellation is given by a position
vector u
. Note that regardless of the dimensionality
of the constellation, C
(r) is both scalar and binary
so that for r"u
only the mth term in (6) is one.
The reconstructed constellation has an identical
form. The di!erence is that the repeated reconstruc-
tion of the same constellation takes on a di!erent
shape each time. Collectively, they represent a ran-
dom "eld where any single reconstruction is simply
a sample function of the underlying random "eld.
The reconstruction model is similar to (6),

), j"1,
, K, (7)
where *
is the estimate of the ith constellation
vertex u
and is a random quantity. One inter-
pretation of *
is that it is the estimate of the center
of the ith cluster of the jth modulation. Note that
(r) can be a multiple valued random "eld. This is
clear from (7) since every term has a "nite probabil-
ity of equaling 1. There is also a more graphical
explanation shown in Fig. 9. For computational
purposes, we partition the constellation space into
a square grid. The location of a grid element is
speci"ed by vector r"r
. In an undisturbed con-
stellation, there is at most one modulation state per
resolution element. However, since *
's are ran-
dom, it is possible to have more than one recon-
structed vertex per resolution element. Therefore,
) can theoretically take on any value from the
set 0,
, M
. However, to have CK
, all
the reconstructed vertices must lie inside the box
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 259
Fig. 9. Dividing the signal space into a grid, each resolution
element in the original modulation space (left) can contain just
one modulation state. Reconstructed vertices, on the other hand,
have random positions thus may move to adjacent slots giving
rise to a multiple valued, scalar random "eld.
Fig. 10. In the reconstruction space, there is more than one
way for a resolution element to contain multiple vertices. On
the left, two recovered vertices originate from the neighbor-
ing modulation states. On the right, they are coming from
farther way. Clearly, the left reconstruction is more likely than
the right.
speci"ed by r
. This is a very unlikely, but possible,
At a speci"c location r"r
, CK
), is the sum of
binary random variables with the following
), (8)
where p
) is the probability that the ith recon-
structed vertex falls on a speci"c position r
. Fi-
nally, as a multiple valued discrete process taking
one of M
positive integers, the pdf of the recon-
structed constellation can be expressed as

(r)!m), j"1,
, K,
where P
(r) is the probability of having m re-
covered modulation states inside a single resolution
element at r. A training phase is required prior to
the classi"cation step. By histograming the number
of recovered constellation vertices within each res-
olution element, the spatial statistics of constella-
tion shape can be constructed. These pdf's are
obviously position-dependent. Therefore, CK
(r) is
a nonhomogenous process with a spatially depen-
dent mean. Clearly, the mean of CK
(r) is higher for
r close to the original modulation states. As shown
in Fig. 9, there can be more than one vertex per
resolution element. The interesting point is that
there are more than one way of realizing this possi-
bility. This idea is illustrated in
Fig. 10 showing two hypothetical reconstruc-
tions. The top-right resolution element contains
two modulation states that have been incorrectly
assigned. However, each incorrect assignment
arises from di!erent scenarios and each scenario
occurs with a di!erent probability. This is similar to
symbol detection error where any symbol can be
mistaken for any other although some errors are
more likely than others. There are (+H
) ways that
m modulation states can fall inside a resolution
element at r
. If each such occurrence happened
with equal probability, CK
(r) would have been a
binomial random process. However, CK
(r) is de-
pendent on the location r in the constellation
space. For example, in a 16-QAM constellation,
) is di!erent from P(*
). The reason
is that *
and *
, the estimates of the fourth and
eighth modulation states, are drawn from di!erent
distributions. Similarly, P(*
) is di!erent from

). As the dependence upon r indicates, the

random "eld model above is nonstationary one.
For example, the ensemble mean of the process at
, CK
), computed across the stack of recon-
structed constellations, is a location-dependent

), (10)
260 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
) can be interpreted as a spatial mass function;
high on locations close to the original constellation
vertices. Although CK
(r) is not by itself a su$cient
statistics for modulation classi"cation, it is a factor
in matching an unknown modulation type to those
in the library.
Modeling of the reconstructed constellation pre-
sented above is general. It does not depend on the
dimensionality of the signal or its modulation type.
Constellation reconstruction and its modeling con-
stitute two components of the proposed modula-
tion classi"cation. The shape of the received
constellation is essentially the equivalent of the
su$cient statistics in the form of LLR or qLLR
proposed elsewhere. The third component in this
chain is a shape classi"cation engine.
5.2. ML rule for constellation shape classixcation
To implement ML rule for the classi"cation of
the unknown modulation, we need two pieces of
information (1) the statistical model of the observa-
tion and (2) a single measurement from the obser-
vation. Given an observation vector X, the generic
form of a Bayes classi"er is given by
, (11)
the most likely population cH is given by
cH"arg max
Using CK as the single unknown observation we
. (12)
The conditional shape density functions are
precomputed during the training phase and prior
probabilities are considered equal. In order to
evaluate the conditional density function for a spe-
ci"c observation CK, a representation for CK is
needed. CK is de"ned by M vectors that are re-
covered by the constellation reconstruction mod-
ule. A representation for CK is given by the following
joint event:

)"1, CK(r
, CK(r
)"1. (13)
The shape density function of the jth constella-
tion evaluated for CK is then given by
), j31,
, K. (14)
A log-likelihood function derived from the above
decides the most likely modulation type based on
the shape of the reconstructed constellation.
"arg max



, K. (15)
Let us elaborate on (15). The model library consists
of K expected modulations each identi"ed by
a unique constellation. For each modulation type,
a shape model for the reconstructed constellation is
developed using (9). To identify an unknown modu-
lation type, the underlying constellation is ex-
tracted and represented by M recovered vertex
positions. What is being maximized in (15) is the
summation of M amplitudes. These amplitudes
come from M positions on the conditional density
surfaces of candidate constellations in (9). The con-
stellation model for which (15) is maximized is the
ML estimate of the unknown modulation.
5.3. Role of grid size in constellation shape modeling
Random "eld modeling of the recovered constel-
lation is constructed on a discrete grid structure
superimposed on the constellation space. As shown
in Fig. 10, the size and shape of the grid has a
signi"cant impact on the underlying model param-
eters and probability distributions of vertices. For
example, the probability that a reconstructed
modulation state falls within a resolution element is
greatly a!ected by the size of the resolution ele-
ments. Similarly, there is an interaction among the
number of modulation states and grid element size.
Too large a grid size will most likely not accurately
model constellations with a large number of
vertices whereas too small a grid size will generate
unnecessary computational load and a sparse den-
sity function. In this section we present a formal
methodology for discretizing the constellation
space and provide some experimental evidence for
choosing the appropriate grid size.
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 261
The problem we have in constructing a random
"eld model for the recovered constellations is sim-
ilar to the estimation of the probability density
function of randomdata. The conceptually simplest
method of building the density function is to con-
struct a histogram. Doing so however, requires the
selection of bin sizes, shapes and numbers. A formal
approach to histogram construction is Parzen es-
timator [6]. Let p(xc
) be the unknown class con-
ditional density. The information gained about p at
x after observing a measurement x
can be mea-
sured by a kernel k(x, x
) centered at x
. The kernel
peaks at x
and drops, or stays constant, for data
points farther away. Consider a multidimensional
data set of population size n. The estimate of the
underlying density function at point x can be writ-
ten by
p( (xc

k(x, x
). (16)
Note that contribution of neighboring data
points to the estimate at x is controlled by the
support of the kernel. The wider the base, the larger
the contribution of farther data points. This leads
to a density estimate that is smooth and does not
capture the detail of true density shape. Conversely,
a narrow kernel support leads to an estimate that is
too erratic because the small support base may
include few or no data points. This is the kind of
problem we face in our density estimation here.
Too large a grid size (kernel support) will smear the
density function and may not pick up all the modu-
lation states present in the received signal. Too
narrow a grid will lead to many empty resolution
elements and a spiky estimate.
The key questions are that what shape should the
kernel take and how large should they be? Pro-
posed shapes have been Gaussian, hyperspheric
and hypercubic, among others. For simplicity of
the implementation and low computational cost we
have adopted the widely used hypercubic kernel
de"ned by
k(x, x

(2j)B foro(x, x
0 foro(x, x
where o is the Chebychev distance, j is the base of
support and d is data dimensionality. The piece-
wise constant nature of the kernel as de"ned in (17)
produces a density estimate that is essentially pro-
portional to the number of data points at distance
j or less from x. The choice of j is ultimately an
empirical one. For a given dimensionality, j varies
in inverse proportion to the sample size n. For
small n, j needs to be large to include more data
points. Conversely, for large data sets, j needs to be
small to capture details. Parzen estimation adopted
here proposes a kernel support base given by
/(n where <
is the initial grid size and n is
the size of the data set [19].
We will now elaborate on the random "eld
model building phase of this work. The starting
point is the reconstructed constellation vertices for
a speci"c modulation class. For the sake of
example, consider a 16-QAM modulation subject
to strong additive Gaussian noise. Strong noise has
the added impact of absorbing other channel and
receiver disturbances. Repeated reconstructions of
the constellation of this 16-QAM signal de"ne
a random "eld consisting of 16 points per realiz-
ation. These vertices are generated by the fuzzy
c-means module described earlier. For implementa-
tion purposes, the ensemble of reconstructed con-
stellations are mapped onto a 64;64 discrete grid.
In e!ect, each reconstructed modulation state be-
comes a binary pixel on a 64;64 digital image. To
implement Parzen estimation technique, we use the
hypercubic kernel in (17). To select the initial cell
size <
, we start with the premise that the number
of cells must at least be equal to the number
of recovered modulation states. Any fewer and
we may not be able to capture the constellation
density function with su$cient detail. Therefore,
)64`/M where M is the constellation size. For
a 16-QAM signal on a 64;64 grid, the initial
kernel base <
is a 16;16 cell. To implement
Parzen estimate, each cell must be further sub-
divided into smaller cells to capture the details of
the distribution of individual vertices. In the
modeling phase, we have used 4096 points per
constellation resulting in 256 data points per ver-
tex. The support base for the kernel within each cell
is given by j"<
/(n where n"256. Therefore,
Parzen window size used to capture the density
function of individual vertices is a 4;4 cell. For
constellations with a di!erent size, the initial cell
262 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 11. Estimated pdf of a 16-QAM random "eld model at E

"0 dB. Cell sizes used for model reconstruction are 2;2 pixels on
a 64;64 pixels grid. The 16 modulation states are not as distinct as expected.
size may not work out to be a true square or cover
the 64;64 grid completely. For QPSK the initial
cell size is 32;32 but for 8-PSK cell size is not
a power of 2. In such cases we pick the smallest
power of 2 that is closets to <
Parzen windowis not without its limitations. For
example, a case may be made for a variable-size
kernel base; large for dense data locations and
small otherwise. This is in fact the k-NN approach
to density estimation where cell size is varied to
contain a "xed, but unspeci"ed, number of points.
However, we are replacing one ad hoc parameter
with another. Parzen estimation is a well-estab-
lished method and has worked well in our simula-
tions as well.
To investigate the impact of grid size on random
"eld model construction and classi"cation accu-
racy, we chose two test candidates, 16-QAM and
V.29. The raw data generated for each model con-
sists of a total of 4096 realizations (256 points per
cluster) of each constellation. Random "eld model
construction is then performed using three di!erent
cell sizes; 2;2, 4;4 and 8;8. The "rst observation
is that for E

down to 5 dB, classi"cation accu-
racy is not a!ected by the grid size. For such

, modulation states are de"ned by clusters
that retain their separability for all three cell sizes.
No change in error rates are observed. We then
lowered E

to 0 dB at which point cell size
begins to have an impact on classi"cation rate. The
estimated pdf's of a 16-QAM for three di!erent cell
size are shown in Figs. 11}13. The 2;2 cell size
produces a spiky pdf estimate where the expected
16 peaks are not readily apparent. At the other
extreme, the 8;8 cells generate an estimate that
lacks su$cient resolution to identify all 16 vectors
and may not be able to discern constellations of
similar geometry. The plot is simply too smoothed
out. The 4;4 grid size seems to be a happy middle
ground with added de"nition around most of 16
modulation centers. The key evidence is the inter-
actions between classi"cation error rate and grid
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 263
Fig. 12. Grid size is increased to 4;4. Note that pdf is showing more de"nition around the original modulation states. Peaks are more
prominent and drop o! more noticeably. This behavior should help with identi"cation.
size. To investigate this issue, 16-QAM is matched
against V.29 at E

of 0 dB. The probability of
correctly classifying a known 16-QAM signal is
then estimated using random "eld models pre-
viously constructed. After 1000 iterations, cor-
roborating Figs. 11}13, correct classi"cation rate
increases from 90% for 2;2 cells to 96.3% for 4;4
then declines to 81% for 8;8 cells (Fig. 14). For the
sample sizes used here, a 4;4 cell size was also
predicted by the Parzen estimator.
There might be arguments for choosing other cell
shapes, such as wedges or hypercones, to match the
geometry of the constellation. We have concluded
that rectangular cells, even for nonrectangular con-
stellations, perform well. In addition, Chebyshev
distances can be implemented more e$ciently on
a rectangular discrete grid. To investigate this issue
we considered two nonrectangular modulation
geometries. The question is how does a rectangular
grid interact with and impact classi"cation accu-
racy where decision boundaries are not aligned
with the grid structure. To investigate this phe-
nomena, we picked two circular modulations (1)
8-PSK and (2) V.29
fallback. V.29
fallback is V.29
dialed back to 7200 bps and shown in Fig. 21. Both
8-PSK and V.29
fallback are circular 8-level
modulations but di!er in the number of constella-
tion rings. Again we picked a low E

of 0 dB for
both cases. The simple scatter diagram after 256
observations per symbol are shown in Figs. 15 and
16. Using Parzen estimation, random "eld
modeling portion for each constellation shape is
completed using three di!erent cell sizes of 2;2,
4;4 and 8;8. The 8-PSK density function esti-
mates are shown in Figs. 17}19 respectively. The
trend observed previously is also evident here.
A 2;2 grid size generates pdf models that are too
busy and without signi"cant markers at the
8 modulation states. The 4;4 cell size shows more
de"nition but 8;8 is too smoothed out. In order to
264 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 13. Grid size is increased to 8;8. pdf has smoothed out considerably losing necessary de"nition around cluster centers. The large
footprint of cells will not be able to distinguish other modulations of similar construct if their vertices happen to fall inside the large 8;8
gauge the impact of grid size on classi"cation accu-
racy we ran 1000 simulations to decide between
a known 8-PSK in the presence of V.29
back. The result was that the number of times the
8-PSK signal was correctly classi"ed was exactly
1000 out of 1000 iterations. More remarkably, the
choice of rectangular grids and varying sizes made
absolutely no di!erence. Classi"er performed as
well for a 2;2 grid as it did for 8;8. The explana-
tion for this behavior goes to the root of the classi-
"cation algorithm. As a shape-based algorithm,
geometric dissimilarities between competing con-
stellation shapes are fully exploited. In this case
even though both constellations are of the same
size, V.29
fallback di!ers from 8-PSK by the place-
ment of modulation states on two separate circles.
This dissimilarity has canceled whatever ill-e!ects
grid size and shape may have had on the process.
Based on above investigation, we have selected
a 4;4 cell size for the rest of the experimental
6. Experimental results
We will test the proposed algorithm on three
fronts (1) recognition of two modulation types of
equal size (2) recognition among three di!erent size
modulations and (3) recognition of two equal size
modulations in the presence of carrier phase lock
error as well as Gaussian noise. 4;4 cell sizes are
used throughout.
6.1. V.29
fallback vs. 8-PSK
In this subsection we will match two circular
8-level modulations; 8-PSK vs. a 7200 bits/s V.29.
V.29 itself is a 9600 bits/s. standard using a 16-
QAM constellation in the con"guration shown in
Fig. 20. There is an 8-level `fallbacka provision for
V.29 shown in Fig. 21.
Constellation shape matching has to be scale-
invariant. However, signals are received with vary-
ing power levels. Therefore, an energy normalization
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 265
Fig. 14. Grid size impact on correct classi"cation rate of 16-QAM in the presence of V.29. To arrive at these results 1000 test 16-QAM
and V.29 at E

of 0 dB were generated and ran through the classi"er. In agreement with Figs. 11}13, the 4;4 cell size proved to be
most accurate. The low resolution 8;8 grid had the most di$culty distinguishing between 16-QAM and V.29.
Fig. 15. Raw scatter diagram for an 8-PSK modulation.
Fig. 16. Raw scatter diagram for V.29
fallback. Original modu-
lation states are completely smeared.
266 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 17. pdf of the random "eld model of an 8-PSK constellation at E

"0 dB using 2;2 cell sizes. The base is 64;64. Surface is
spiky and erratic with no clear de"nition around original vertices.
step is used as a preprocessing operation. At the
output of this stage all competing constellations
will have a unit average energy. Statistical descrip-
tions of the random "eld models were generated as
described in Section 5.3. For the recognition step,
1000 iterations of the unknown signal is processed
through the constellation reconstruction algorithm
and a single constellation is recovered. Following
this step, a decision is made on the modulation type
based on (15).
Fig. 22 shows the probability of correctly identi-
fying the modulation type of an 8-PSK signal for

ranging from negative 5}25 dB. It is signi"-
cant that the 90% correct classi"cation threshold is
crossed at E

"0 dB. This performance is even
more noteworthy considering the similarity of 8-
PSK and V.29
fallback both in the number of
modulation states as well as the circularity of their
respective constellations. The di!erence of course
arises from the fact that the 8-PSK is a single
amplitude signal. Therefore, in implementing (15),
the corresponding decision metric will pick up
values from the distribution of V.29
fallback where
no signi"cant amplitudes exist.
6.2. Multiple size modulation classixcation
A constellation-centric modulation recognition
is a two-layer operation; constellation recovery fol-
lowed by its identi"cation. There is a great deal of
information recovered in the "rst phase of this
operation even before a "nal identi"cation is made.
One piece of evidence is the number of modulation
states and their relative positions. If we are looking
for an 8 phase modulation, then this piece of in-
formation is already available at the end of constel-
lation reconstruction. Matching can be done with
only a subset of library modulations that meet the
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 267
Fig. 18. Same as Fig. 17 except for using 4;4 cells. Peaks show more de"nition.
8-modulation state prerequisite. Nevertheless, to
gauge the performance of the algorithm in a mixed
size modulation environment, a library consisting
of three di!erent size modulations, QPSK, 8-PSK
and 16-QAM constellations is constructed. To
generate correct classi"cation rates, signals of
`unknowna modulations are put through the clas-
si"cation rule in (15) and results are shown in Fig.
23. Recognition rates '90% are achieved at

of 5 dB and above. One problem with
matching modulations of di!erent size is that one
constellation may be a subset of another, e.g.
QPSK and 8-PSK. Such scenarios are potentially
more di$cult to resolve. Take the reconstructed
constellation of a QPSKsignal. The decision metric
in (15) will have four terms coming from the QPSK
constellation model and four terms from the 8-PSK
model. But the four terms arising from the 8-PSK
model are from the same locations. How would
then a decision in favor of QPSK result? The an-
swer is although the four locations are the same, the
amplitudes of the corresponding distributions are
di!erent. It is this disparity between constellation
model amplitudes that makes correct decision in
favor of QPSK still possible.
6.3. Impact of carrier phase lock error
The phase tracking error incorporated into the
received signal model in (1) is an additional factor
displacing the recovered modulation state from its
nominal position. The existence of this error has an
adverse e!ect on signal detection above and be-
yond random noise. It is therefore expected that
modulation recognition performance could also
su!er. Performance of PLLs in estimating the
phase of the carrier is a well-studied subject. In the
context of modulation recognition, we are interest-
ed in the variance of phase estimate and its relation-
ship with noise power particularly at low SNRs.
Under small angle approximation, the steady-state
variance of the tracked phase is proportional to
268 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 19. Same as Fig. 18 except for using 8;8 cells. Peaks are more smeared than Fig. 18 hence may have di$culty recognizing similarly
con"gured constellations due to lack of resolution.
Fig. 20. V.29 constellation model.
Fig. 21. The fallback rate (7200 bps) of V.29.
loop bandwidth or inversely proportional to SNR
[16]. When small error angle assumption is no
longer valid, nonlinear PLL model shows that in
a "rst-order loop, phase error "0!0K follows
the following density function [20]:
exp(j cos )
, (18)
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 269
Fig. 22. Probability of correct classi"cation of 8-PSK signal in
the presence of V.29
fallback. Both modulations are 8-level with
circular constellations.
Fig. 23. Correct classi"cation rates for modulations with un-
equal number of states. Recognition rates exceed 90% for E

of 5 dB and higher.
where j is the loop signal-to-noise ratio. Variance
of has direct bearing on the quality of the recon-
structed constellation. Since we are performing
constellation matching at varying SNRs, what is
important to know is how phase tracking error is
a!ected by the available SNR. Fig. 24 shows the 3D
plot of phase tracking error density function vs.
phase error and SNR. SNR range covers both the
linear and nonlinear portions of PLL operation.
Fig. 25 shows slices of this graph. As expected, the
density function tightens up as SNR is increased.
It is well known that at SNRs above 3, the
nonlinear and linear PLL models coincide. In this
region variance of the phase error is equal to the
inverse SNR. For lower SNRs the linear model is
no longer applicable. However, exact performance
curves relating phase variance to SNR for "rst-
order PLL are available [16]. In order to use these
curves, we "rst relate SNR to E

. For multi-
phase/amplitude modulations,



:"10 log
M) dB
For M"16 which is being looked at here we have



!3. (20)
The border case of SNR"3 translates to

"1.77 dB which in turn corresponds to
a phase error variance of 0.33 rad` or standard
deviation of 333. At SNR"0 dB (E

!3 dB), the nonlinear model predicts a phase
error variance of 1.6 rad` or standard deviation of
723. Table 1 shows phase tracking error variance vs.

obtained from density slices of Fig. 25.
Note that error variance of 1.6 rad` at E

!3 dB directly coincides with results in [16].
However, Table 1 also shows that a more accurate
boundary separating linear and nonlinear PLL
modes occurs at E

"4 dB. For this value, the
corresponding SNR is 5 which is close to the in-
verse of phase error variance. Either way, such
large phase tracking errors coupled with random
noise will make correct detection in high-density
constellations very di$cult. Question is how will
the combination of carrier lock error and random
noise impact constellation recovery? To simulate
270 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 24. 3D plot of the density function of carrier phase tracking error "0!0K [22] vs. SNR and phase tracking error.
this condition we use a 16-QAM constellation and
subject it to phase lock error that is now tied to the
prevailing E

. The starting point is the lin-
ear/nonlinear boundary at E

"4 dB and its
corresponding phase lock error variance. For each
simulation we use 800 symbols subjected to ran-
dom phase variations that are drawn from (18).
Results show that carrier lock error has a signi-
"cant impact on lowering the quality of the
reconstructed constellation. Fig. 26 shows 10 re-
constructions of a single 16-QAM constellation at

"4 dB with o
"27.33. The recovered
vertices are shown with black circles and are super-
imposed on one copy of clustered IQ diagram.
Figures similar to the above are produced using

of 4 through and 15 dB (Figs. 26}29). For
each case the phase error is drawn from (18) using
the corresponding SNR. Inspection of these "gures
isolates the impact of carrier phase tracking error
on constellation recovery. For example, Figs. 6 and
27 are identical except for the presence of carrier
lock error. Fig. 6 which assumes perfect lock pro-
duces a very usable constellation whereas the re-
covered shape in Fig. 27 shows a marked departure
from its nominal position. This is not unexpected
because o
"213 in a 16-level modulation is a very
signi"cant disturbance both in symbol detection
performance as well as modulation recognition.
Constellation shape matching can be observed
by inserting constellations derived from unknown
signals and matching them against a 16-QAM
model. For example, we can perform a visual shape
matching using a distorted V.29 as the `unknowna
modulation. Distortion agents are random noise
with E

"15 dB and o
"73. These numbers
are consistent with Fig. 29. Evaluation of (15) can
be graphically demonstrated by superimposing the
recovered V.29 on the 16-QAM constellation
model (Fig. 30). The decision function evaluated for
this case rejected 16-QAM as a possible modula-
tion. The opposite result is obtained for an un-
known modulation type of 16-QAM when used in
the 16-QAM constellation model (Fig. 31). Clearly,
lower E

accompanied by larger carrier phase
lock error will degrade the performance. For
example, the recovered 16-QAM constellation did
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 271
Fig. 25. Slices of Fig. 24 showing p() vs. phase error for running SNR's. Density functions clearly tighten up showing reduced error
variance for increasing SNR.
Table 1
Impact of signal-to-noise ratio on phase tracking error perfor-

(dB) o`
(rad`) o
!3 1.6 72.5
0 0.76 50.09
3 0.3 31.3
4 0.22 27.3
6 0.13 21.07
9 0.06 14.6
not produce a substantially larger decision function
than V.29 when both are matched against the
16-QAM model shown in Fig. 26. The reason of
course is the wide shape model variance at low
SNR and high phase error.
7. Comparison with previous work
There are many existing results in modulation
recognition. It turns out, however, that comparing
our performance levels with published results is not
straightforward. There are a number of reasons for
this: (1) There are no standard digital modulation
databases that the author is aware of. Hence, di!er-
ent authors have applied their algorithms to cases
of their own choosing. (2) Correct classi"cation rate
for a speci"c modulation type is strongly a!ected
by what other modulations are in the library. (3)
Classi"cation rates are frequently reported as
a function of signal strength relative to that of white
noise. There is no universally agreed upon index,
however. Examples that have been used in the
literature are SNR [10], symbol SNR [11], CNR
[21] and E/N
[4]. These indices are clearly related
272 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 26. 10 reconstructions of a 16-QAM constellation subject to E

"4 dB and o
"27.33. Each reconstruction results in 16
recovered modulation states for a total of 160 black circles. Wide dispersion of these circles indicates poor shape matching performance.
The impact of carrier phase lock error is dramatically illustrated by a comparison with Fig. 6 which assumes perfect tracking.
Fig. 27. Same as Fig. 26 except for using E

"6 dB and o
"213. Tightening of cluster centers are expected.
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 273
Fig. 28. Phase lock error standard deviation is reduced to 10.23 at E

"12 dB.
Fig. 29. For E

"15 dB, o
can be reduced to 73. The variance of the shape of the recovered constellation is considerably reduced.
274 B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277
Fig. 30. At E

"15 dB and o
"73, a single received V.29
fails to match the 16-QAM model. White circles indicate the
reconstruction of the unknown constellation.
Fig. 31. A received 16-QAM modulation is a much closer "t to
the 16-QAM model even under high noise and large phase lock
but unless classi"cation results are reconciled, nu-
merical comparisons will be di$cult.
The modern school of modulation recognition,
including this work, has relied on Bayesian infer-
ence in a variety of ways, most often LR or quasi-
LR tests. Polydodors and Kim [15] report 100%
correct classi"cation rate for BPSK, vs. QPSK for
SNR'0 dB. Dominguez [5], uses a 62-dimen-
sional feature vector extracted from 4PSK and re-
ports a 93% accuracy for SNR between 20 and
40 dB. Soliman's moment-based classi"er [21] for
8-PSK achieves its best rate of 99% for CNR of
0 dB. They report an overall rate of 90% at `sym-
bola-CNR of 0 dB. Competing modulation types
are CW, BPSK, QPSK and 8-PSK. Earlier, they
point out that moments area actually not very
sensitive to the number of modulation states and
hence not a reliable discriminate. Ta's wavelet
packets [22] achieves a combined 91% accuracy
for ASK, vs. PSK, vs. FSK. Huang and Polydoros
[8] report (50% for 8-PSK vs. 16-PSK at SNR of
0 dB, 70% at 10 dB. Beidas and Weber [3] test
their higher-order statistics approach on only
MFSK and report '90% rate for `per symbola
SNR of 5 dB. Marinovich's [12] SVD technique
exhibits a threshold e!ect at low SNR. In a match
of MSK vs. OQPSK, they report 80% performance
at `ENRa of 5 dB. Chugg [4] ML-based technique
claims 100% accuracy in a match between BPSK
and OQPSK for E/N
of 0 dB. Lin and Kuo's [11]
sequential LR test classi"es 3 8-phase modulation
types: 8-PSK, V.29(7200 bps) and Star 8-QAM. For
a symbol SNR of 5 dB, they report 80% correct
classi"cation rate for 8-PSK, 68% for Star 8 and
62% for V.29(7200 bps). The poor showing of the
fallback is attributed to the overlap of phase
and amplitude levels with both 8-PSK and Star-
QAM; two amplitudes and 8 phases. We have also
encountered similar problems in our approach
where a constellation is a subset of another, QPSK
vs. 8-PSK.
Comparable results using the proposed constel-
lation shape matching can be gleaned from Fig. 22.
We have been able to correctly recognize two sim-
ilar modulations (8-PSK vs. V.29
fallback) with
93% accuracy at E

"0 dB. This compares
B.G. Mobasseri / Signal Processing 80 (2000) 251}277 275
with 62% at symbol SNR of 5 dB reported in [11].
In the same work, V.29
fallback recognition
rate does not cross over the 90% range until
symbol SNR of 9 dB. Perfect synchronization is
assumed. In Fig. 19, we are showing 93% accuracy
at E

"3 dB for V.29 in the presence of /8
phase lock error and 99% at E

"5 dB.
At SNR"5 dB, correct classi"cation rate for a
16-QAM vs. 32-QAM is reported to be in the 50%
8. Conclusions
We have presented an approach to digital modu-
lation recognition that uses the shape of the rebuilt
constellation as the key signature. There is ample
evidence that shape, as a global signature, is
a stable feature of an unknown signal and more
resilient to channel e!ects and receiver imperfec-
tions. Beyond that, casting signal classi"cation as
shape recognition provides a more intuitive ap-
preciation of the process that is otherwise absent.
The algorithm also has the underpinnings of Bayes
inference assuring the desired optimality. By virtue
of being a constellation-centric approach, analog
modulations are not covered. For the same reason,
digital modulations of arbitrary size and dimen-
sions fall within the parameters of the proposed
The author gratefully acknowledges the support
of O$ce of Naval Research under grant N00014-
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