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Analog to Digital Converter: a Key Concept in the Implementation of

a 3G Software Defined Radio Receiver

V. Christofilakis1, A. A. Alexandridis1, P. Kostarakis2, K. Dangakis1

Tel: +30 10 6503145, email:

National Centre of Scientific Research “DEMOKRITOS”
Institute of Informatics and Telecommunications
15310, Ag.Paraskevi, Athens, Greece
Electronics-Telecommunications and Applications Lab., Physics Department
University of Ioannina, 45110, Ioannina, Greece

ABSTRACT required sampling rates [5]. The latest technology in

silicon integrated circuits (Si ICs) ADCs has reached
With the dawn of a new millennium we find ourselves such levels of sampling rates that can handle band
one step before the emergence of the third generation limited signals having no frequency components above
(3G) mobile communications systems in the world 750 MHz. It is noted that there are modules, III-V ICs
market. The implementation of the 3G and furthermore (semiconductors are synthesized using elements from
4G mobile communications systems is included within third and fifth group of periodic table) and SuperC
the intentions of the so-called software defined radio (superconductors) ADCs [6] which can handle band
(SDR) systems [1]. The design, development and the limited signals with frequency components above 750
implementation of SDR systems are based on a MHz, but even if the sampling frequency satisfies the
combination and evolution of technologies and Nyquist criterion, there are other parameters affecting
techniques including mainly: smart antennas, radio the performance of an ADC. Some of these parameters
frequency (RF) down/up converters, analog to digital are bit resolution, aperture jitter, differential
converters (ADCs) and digital to analog converters nonlinearity error (DNL), integral nonlinearity error
(DACs), digital signal processors (DSPs), modelling (INL), full-power analog input bandwidth (FPBW),
and system description languages. In this paper a spurious free dynamic range (SFDR), effective number
quantitative analysis of the basic parameters of one of of bits (ENOB). The parameters just mentioned can play
the most important segments of an SDR receiver, the a significant role in real situations and can affect the
Analog to Digital Converter, is presented. ADC's of the performance of an ADC and thereby the implementation
latest technology and their basic specifications are also of an ideal SDR receiver.
indicated. In this paper, we consider the ADC as a physically
realizable system with a performance depending on
I. INTRODUCTION various parameters. More specifically, in section II there
is a theoretical analysis considering three of the basic
The ADC constitutes an essential component for the parameters of an ADC, which are: the sampling rate, the
implementation of an SDR receiver. In figure 1 we can bit resolution and the aperture jitter. In section III,
see the block diagram of an ideal SDR receiver, in through appropriate simulation programs, a quantitive
which the ADC is placed as close to the antenna as relation among these three basic parameters of the ADC
possible. As we can see, the ideal case is the one in is derived. Besides, it becomes clear that these
which the digitization of the incoming high frequency parameters affect the performance of the ADC, and as a
signal (RF) occurs just after the antenna [2,3]. measure we use the Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) at the
The question evidently arisen is whether the established ADC's output. Finally, in section IV, the sampling rate
technology can succeed the right sampling and of ADCs (Si ICs) of the latest technology is given
quantization of RF signals that come from 3G mobile versus bit resolution and a comparison with older ADCs
communication systems, also known as Universal (Si ICs) is presented.
Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS). Taking
into account that the frequency band of 3G mobile Antenna
communication systems lies around 2.5 GHz, we
conclude that we need ADCs with sampling rate at least ADC DSP

5 GHz, according to the sampling theorem [4]. In

practical SDR solutions, ADCs are placed after the first
Figure 1: Block diagram of an ideal SDR receiver.
down-conversion stage thus significantly reducing the

A. Sampling Rate

According to the sampling theorem, every band-limited

signal of finite energy, having no spectral components
above a frequency of fc, may be reproduced from its
samples taken at a rate exceeding twice the highest
frequency in the band [4]. The sampling rate fs=2fc is
called the Nyquist rate (fNyquist). The sampled signal xs(t)
is given by the relation:
xs (t ) = x(t ) ∑ δ (t − nTs ) (1)
n = −∞
where x(t) is the analog signal, δ(t) stands for Dirac Figure 2: (a) Spectrum of the analog signal x(t), (b)
delta function, Ts is the sampling period and is equal to Spectrum of the sampling signal xs(t), with sampling
1/fs. The Fourier transform Xs(f) of the sampled signal rate fs= fNyquist.
xs(t) is given by the relation:
X s ( f ) = fs ∑ X ( f − nf )
n = −∞
s (2)

where X(f) is the Fourier transform of the analog signal

x(t). For sampling rate fs = fNyquist, if the Fourier
transform X(f) of the analog signal x(t) is the one shown
in figure 2(a), then the Fourier transform Xs(f) of the
sampled signal is as shown in figure 2(b). It is obvious
that with the help of a Low Pass Filter (LPF), the
retrieval of the initial signal is possible. In practice it is
rather preferred not to use sampling rates fs=fNyquist, but
fs=kfNyquist with k>1, for the following reasons:
• to avoid aliasing of the sampled signal
• easier implementation of the appropriate filter
• decrease of quantization noise.
We will work out these parameters in the following
Aliasing of the sampled signal: Let's consider the
Fourier transform X(f) in figure 2(a). If in that spectrum
there was an interfering (spectral) frequency
component, for example, fc0=1.1fc as shown in figure
3(a) and if the sampling was performed at the Nyquist
rate then the spectrum of the sampled signal would be Figure 3: (a) Spectrum of the analog signal with
the one in figure 3(b). It would therefore be impossible undesirable component, (b) Distortion in the spectrum
to retrieve the initial signal, without the disturbance of sampled signal (fs=fNyquist), (c) Spectrum of the
caused by the specific spectral component. But if the sampled signal (fs=1.5fNyquist).
sampling was performed with frequency 1.5fNyquist, then
the spectrum of the sampled signal would be as shown
in figure 3(c). Then, using the appropriate filter, we
could retrieve the initial signal.
Easier filter implementation: An ideal low pass filter has
an orthogonal response, while the response of a real
LPF of the same cut off frequency is different (figure 4).
If the spectrum of the analog signal was as the one
shown in figure 5(a) with frequency fc=100 KHz, then
with sampling frequency equal to 1.5fNiquist (300 KHz),
the spectrum of the sampled signal is shown in
figure 5(b). Using the LPF which has cut-off frequency
128 KHz [7], we cannot take the initial signal, because,
as shown in figure 4, there is a transition area of high
gain in the filter from 128 KHz – 1000 KHz, which
disables the reproduction of the initial signal. That Figure 4: Response of width of an ideal and a real
problem could easily be solved if we had the ability to transit filter of low frequencies.
perform a sampling with frequency 6fNyquist.
output. For a sinusoidal signal which does not exceed
the FSR of the ADC, the SNR due to the quantization
error is:
 f 
SNRq = 6.02b + 1.76 + 10 log10  s  (dB) (5)
 2 fc 
where b stands for the bit resolution of the ADC, fs is
the sampling rate, fc is the maximum frequency of the
analog signal at the ADC’s input [10].
In relation (5), if fs is replaced by kfNyquist (k≥1), we

SNR q = 6.02b + 1.76 + 10 log 10 (k ) (6)

Figure 5: Spectrum of the analog signal x(t) with fc = For a sampling rate equal to the Nyquist rate (k=1), the
100 KHz, (b) Spectrum of the sampled signal xs(t) (fs= relation (6) becomes:
300 KHz).
SNR q = 6.02b + 1.76 (7)
B. Bit Resolution

An ADC, except for taking samples of the analog Decrease of quantization noise: the term 10log10(k) in
signal, quantizes them as well. Quantization, in an (6) indicates that it is preferable to use sampling rates as
ADC, is the procedure of transforming the samples of greater than the Nyquist rate as possible (oversampling)
continuous amplitude range into samples of discrete because the SNRq is increased. In figure 6 we can see
amplitude levels [8]. According to the uniform the SNRq versus k for 4 different bit resolutions 6, 8, 10,
quantization method the area of continuous amplitude 12 bits. From that figure it becomes obvious that an
range is divided in Q=2b parts of width increase of 2 bits in the bit resolution implies an
∆=x(t)max-x(t)min/Q, where x(t)min, x(t)max is the increase of the SNRq of approximately 12 dB. The same
minimum and the maximum values of the analog signal improvement in the SNRq maybe obtained when
respectively and b stands for the number of the bit fs=16fNyquist.
resolution of the ADC.
The process of transforming the sample amplitude of
continuous amplitude range x(nTs) of an analog signal
x(t) into a discrete amplitude qi follows the rule:

x(nTs ) → qi , if si −1 < x(nTs ) ≤ si (3)

si −1 + si
where, qi = , si = x (t ) min + i∆ and
s0 = x(t ) min , i =1,2,….,Q
The variation between the quantized value and that of
the analog signal is called quantization error. Therefore, Figure 6: SNRq versus k, for b=6, 8, 10, 12 bits.
during the analog signal conversion into digital, the
quantization error or quantization noise, being the
C. Aperture jitter
difference between the input and the output signal
should be taken into account.
In the analysis till now we have considered that there is
It can be proved [9] that if the analog signal amplitude
not sampling instant uncertainty and the duration of
does not exceed the Full Scale Range (FSR) of the ADC
samples is infinitesimal. For the case of simplicity we
and quantization error is a uniformly random variable,
still consider that the duration of samples tends to 0.
the variance of the quantization error (σ2q) is given by
Thus, there is only uncertainty concerning the sampling
the relation:
instant. The uncertainty in sampling instant is denoted
∆2 by a random amount of time τ, which maybe considered
σ 2q = (4)
as a random variable with zero mean value, following
normal distribution. The root mean square (RMS) value
From equation (4), we can conclude that when b tends of τ is what we specified as aperture jitter or aperture
to infinity, then σ2q tends to zero. time uncertainty taj. Assuming that the analog signal is
Usually, as a measure for the performance of an ADC, x(t) = sin(2πfct), we will try to find out how the aperture
we use the signal to noise ratio (SNR) in the ADC’s
jitter affects the sampled signal. The uncertainty in 2
 RMS[ y ] 
sample time nTs (ut) implies an uncertainty ux in the SNR =   (11)
amplitude of the signal (figure 7). The relation between  RMS[ x − y ] 
ut and ux is:
The equation (11) in dB becomes:
ux = u t = 2πf c cos(2πf c t )u t (8)  RMS[ y ] 
dt SNR = 20 log (dB) (12)
 RMS[ x − y ] 
Therefore, we conclude that the uncertainty ux is
proportional to the frequency of the input analog signal We can, furthermore, assume that the ADC consists of 2
and to the uncertainty ut expressed by the aperture jitter subsystems: the sampling subsystem and the
[11]. It can be proved that the SNR of an ADC is also quantization subsystem, as shown in figure 8(b) where
affected by the aperture jitter. xs is the output of the sampling subsystem.
It can be proved [10] that the SNR due to the aperture The SNR has been estimated at the output of the whole
jitter error is: ADC system using a simulation program.
Simulations were made for the following three cases:
 1  • Jitter error and no quantization error.
SNRaj = 20 log10   (9) • Quantization error and no jitter error.
 2πf t 
 c aj  • Quantization error and jitter error.
For the simulation it is assumed that the analog signal at
where taj is the aperture jitter and fc is the maximum the input of the ADC system is x=cos(2πfct) and the
frequency of the analog signal at the input of the ADC. number of samples is 104.

Figure 7: Uncertainty in sample time nTs (ut) causes an

uncertainty ux in the amplitude of the sampled signal.
Figure 8: Block diagram of an ADC.

III. SIMULATION A. Jitter error and no quantization error

In order to survey how the sampling rate, the Keeping the analog input signal frequency fixed at
quantization error and the aperture jitter error affect the fc=100 MHz and assuming that the aperture jitter is
performance of the ADC, we consider it as a physically constant and equal to 2 ps, we let the sampling rate fs
realizable system, having an analog signal, x, as input vary from 200 MHz to 300 MHz in steps of 1 MHz.
and a signal y as output (figure 8(a)). A measure of the Only the aperture jitter error is present in this case, so
ADC performance is the SNR at the system’s output, the SNR ratio is denoted by SNRaj. We estimate the
given by: SNRaj at the system’s output as a function of fs. From
the diagram of figure 9, it is obvious that the SNRaj is
E{ y 2 } independent of the sampling rate, thus complying with
SNR = (10)
E{( x − y ) 2 } the theory (equation (9)).
Keeping the sampling rate fixed at fs=200 MHz and the
where E{y2} is the mean square value of y. aperture jitter error also fixed at taj=2 ps, we let the
2 2 frequency of the analog signal fc vary from 1 to 100
By definition E{y2}= RMS [ y ] , where RMS [ y ] is MHz in steps of 1 MHz. The estimated SNRaj at the
the root mean square value of y. system’s output is shown in figure 10 as a function of fc.
Therefore, the relation (10) can be written as: It is clear that increasing the frequency fc, the SNRaj is
decreasing. In the same figure the plot of
equation (9) is also given where taj equals to 2 ps. The
coincidence of the two curves, representing theory B. Quantization error and no jitter error
(ideal) and simulation, is obvious.
Keeping the sampling rate fixed at fs=200 MHz and the It is assumed that the error is due only to quantization
input analog signal also fixed at fc=100 MHz, we let the and not to aperture jitter. We estimate the SNR at the
aperture jitter taj vary from 1 ps to 100 ps with in steps ADC’s output for an input frequency fc and a sampling
of 1ps. The estimated SNRaj at the system’s output is frequency fs=2fc, while varying the bit resolution. The
shown in figure 11 as a function of taj. From the diagram of the SNRq (SNR due to quantization) as a
diagram, we conclude that an increase in aperture jitter function of bit resolution is shown in figure 12. As we
leads to a decrease of SNRaj. In the same figure the plot can see, the values approach the theoretical (ideal) ones
of the equation (9) is also given where fc equals to obtained from equation (7).
100 MHz. As we can see, the theoretical curve and the For frequencies above the Nyquist rate, the equation (5)
one of the simulation coincide. is valid. An increase in the sampling rate leads to an
increase in the SNRq. That happens because the power
of the quantization noise, which is fixed and
independent of the sampling rate, is spread over a wider
bandwidth when the sampling rate is increased.

Figure 9: SNRaj versus sampling rate fs of ADC.

Figure 12: SNRq versus bit resolution.

C. Quantization error and jitter error

With this simulation we estimate the overall SNR

(SNRt) at the ADC system’s output considering that
both the aperture jitter error and the quantization error
are not negligible. It is assumed that the frequency of
the analog signal at the ADC’s input is equal to 100
MHz and the sampling rate is equal to Nyquist rate,
fs=200 MHz. The SNRt at the output of the ADC is
Figure 10: SNRaj versus frequency fc of the analog estimated as a function of the bit resolution for aperture
signal at the input of ADC. jitter values taj=0.25, 0.5, 1.0 and 2.0 ps. The
corresponding diagram is shown in figure 13. From this
we conclude that for all 4 curves there are 3 zones.
Specifically, for the lower curve (taj=2.0 ps) the first
zone reaches 9 bits and the SNRt increases linearly with
b (linear zone). The second zone is from 9 to 11 bits,
where SNRt continues to increase but not linearly with b
(transition zone). In the third zone from 11-16 bits
SNRt remains constant and independent of b (constant
zone). In the linear zone SNRq is less than SNRaj, hence
SNRt depends mainly on SNRq (figure 14). In the
transition zone, the SNRt values depend on both SNRaj
and SNRq since in that area the SNRaj values are
comparable with the SNRq values (figure 14). Finally, in
the constant zone SNRt depends exclusively on SNRaj
Figure 11: SNRaj versus aperture jitter taj of ADC. which is independent of the bit resolution (figure 14).
From these 4 curves it is concluded that as taj increases,
the linear zone becomes narrower and SNRt in the
constant zone decreases. This is expected since, as we
saw earlier, SNRaj is inversely proportional to taj. By
repeating the procedure for frequencies of the analog
signal fc=200, 300, 400 and 500 MHz (figure 15(a), (b),
(c) and (d) respectively) it is concluded that as fc
increases the linear zone become narrower and the SNRt
in the constant zone decreases since the SNRaj is
inversely proportional to fc.
From the above diagrams it is obvious that, for a fixed
frequency fc and sampling at the Nyquist rate, there is a
specific value of bit resolution (b0) above which the
performance of ADC depends only on the aperture jitter
error, which becomes greater than the quantization
error. In this case, an increment in aperture jitter implies
a degradation of the ADC performance. As shown in
figure 14 for this specific value b0 of bit resolution we (a)
have the SNR due to aperture jitter (SNRaj) equal to
SNR due quantization (SNRq). Therefore, from
equations (7) and (9) it is derived that:

 1 
b0 = −2.94 + 3.32 log  (13)
ft 
 c aj 


Figure 13: SNRt as a function of bit resolution for 4

aperture jitter values and for frequency fc=100 MHz


Figure 14: SNRt, SNRq, SNRaj as a function of bit

resolution for fc=100 MHz.


Figure 15: SNRt as a function of bit resolution for 4

aperture jitter values and for frequencies fc (a)200 MHz,
(b)300 MHz, (c)400 MHz, (d)500 MHz.
In Table 1 we give a comparison of aperture jitter values V. CONCLUSIONS
(taj) requirements for an ideal SDR receiver for systems
operating in UHF, GSM-900, GSM-1800 and UMTS In this paper we present a quantitative analysis of some
frequency bands. It is assumed that the desired SNRt is basic parameters of an ADC, which is one of the most
60 dB and sampling is done at the Nyquist rate. important parts of a SDR receiver. Summarizing the
Therefore it is derived (equation 7) that the minimum simulation results it is concluded that: An increase in
required bit resolution is 10 bits. It is can be seen that the sampling rate upgrades the performance of the ADC
for 3G systems as well as for some 2G systems (e.g. and also increases the maximum frequency value of the
GSM1800) the required performance is far away from analog signal that can be handled. An increase in bit
that of current state-of-the-art ADCs [6]. resolution, which means a decrease in quantization
error, does not always improves the performance of the
Table 1 ADC. For a specific frequency of input signal and
SNR=60dB, f s = 2fc, b=10bits sampling at Nyquist rate, an increase in bit resolution
Frequency band fc (MHz) taj (ps) upgrades the performance of the ADC only when the
UHF 500 0.32 error due to aperture jitter is less than the quantization
GSM900 900 0.18 error. Furthermore, there is a bit resolution value above
GSM1800 1800 0.088 which the performance of ADC improves only by
UMTS 2500 0.064 decreasing the aperture jitter.

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Figure 16: State of the Art ADCs (Si ICs) for the years
1997, 2001.