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An Innovative Synchronization Preamble for UHF MILSATCOM

Mark Miller Mark A. Harris Donald R. Stephens

ViaSat, Inc. Raytheon Systems Company CommLargo, Inc.
2290 Cosmos Court 1501 72nd St. N. 3094 Oxbow Court
Carlsbad, CA 92009-1585 St. Petersburg, FL 33733-2248 Clearwater, FL 33761-4029

Abstract-4–ary, multi-h Continuous Phase Modulation (CPM) rates of 4800, 6000, 8000, and 9600 bps for 5-kHz channel
has been added to MIL-STD-188-181B for dedicated mode UHF operation [3]. Rates of 9600, 19200, 28800, 38400, 48000,
SATCOM operation to provide greater throughput capacity for and 56000 bps are specified for the 25 kHz channels.
this power- and bandwidth-restricted communications network.
The physical layer of the waveform is designed to occupy the
The CPM waveforms specified in MIL-STD-188-181B
entire channel bandwidth at all data rates, optimizing power
and spectral efficiency, but presenting challenges for
optimize the power and spectral efficiency within the channel
acquisition. As an example, at low data rates the waveform has bandwidth by using different modulation indices for each
a 4 dB processing gain relative to binary phase shift keying data rate. These waveforms essentially double the user data
(BPSK). Hence this waveform is expected to be acquired rate without requiring additional transmitter power.
successfully at an Eb/No 4 dB lower than that of BPSK. To Although of great benefit to the users, the reduced Eb/No
acquire the CPM waveform, the modem must be capable of presents a challenge for the terminal equipment to initially
acquiring at low signal-to-noise, in the presence of large acquire the waveform.
unknown frequency and timing offsets, and with the band-
limiting and hard-limiting channel impairments introduced by The constellation in orbit has relatively low EIRP that is
the satellite. To promote interoperability and reliability, the exacerbated with low-gain antennas for many mobile
Joint Interoperability and Engineering Organization (JIEO)
terminals. To provide compatibility with high speed mobile
requested a synchronization method that would provide reliable
platforms, UHF SATCOM terminals must be able to acquire
acquisition at an E b/No corresponding to a 1 × 10–3 bit-error-rate
the signal with ±1200 Hz of frequency uncertainty. Since the
and also provide automatic data rate and waveform parameter
detection. The resulting preamble achieves the aforementioned
frequency offset is a sizable percentage of the data rates, it is
objectives and, in addition, is short enough in length to allow it difficult to design carrier phase and symbol timing
be implemented as the burst preamble for future incorporation synchronization loops with an adequate signal-to-noise
of the CPM waveform into the MIL-STD-188-182 and -183 (SNR) ratio for reliable waveform acquisition. Typically, a
demand assigned multiple access modes of operation. In this synchronization loop SNR of at least 35 dB is needed to track
paper the design philosophy and implementation of the a 4-ary, multi-h CPM waveform [4].
preamble are presented.
It is possible to obtain initial acquisition at a lower SNR, but
I. INTRODUCTION the operational Eb/No is typically less than 6 dB, making it
difficult to reliably acquire the waveform with 1200 Hz of
The frequency spectrum for the DOD's UHF SATCOM
carrier frequency uncertainty. Previously, parallel frequency-
constellation has not been increased, but technology insertion
offset phase-locked loops have provided narrow loop
has allowed the existing constellation to provide service to
bandwidths to obtain the high loop SNR necessary to acquire
additional users. Demand Assigned Multiple Access
the CPM waveform [5]. Unfortunately, parallel loops
(DAMA) for the 5-kHz and 25-kHz channels allocates the
increase the probability of false acquisition. Alternative
time-bandwidth product of the channels efficiently so that
synchronization methods were explored, and it was
seamless communications between multiple users is possible
determined that a customized preamble would permit open
on the same channel [1-2].
loop acquisition techniques and would allow signal
processing algorithms to be exploited for acquisition.
To provide increased data rates for bandwidth-expensive
Internet protocol applications, the Joint Interoperability and
Because JIEO's technology insertion path for UHF SATCOM
Engineering Organization (JIEO) requested industry to
is to embed CPM within the DAMA waveforms (MIL-STD-
demonstrate alternative modulation techniques that could co-
188-182A and MIL-STD-188-183A), an additional
exist with legacy waveforms and terminal equipment. A
requirement was placed upon the preamble. The preamble
government panel determined that 4-ary, multi-h continuous
needed to provide automatic data-rate selection at the user
phase modulation (CPM) offered the best performance at the
terminal. Legacy DAMA waveforms are quickly depleting
time of selection. MIL-STD-188-181B provides CPM data

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the spare bits in their orderwire messages, and a new set of performing a FFT (fast Fourier transform) [6]. The
modulation waveforms could not be integrated if explicit frequency of the term corresponding to n=0 can be used to
orderwire commands were necessary. If the preamble was estimate the carrier frequency. The phase of the term
very short and could provide the automatic data rate and corresponding to n=0 can also be used to estimate the carrier
waveform parameter selection, then the new CPM waveforms phase. The phase of the terms corresponding to n=±1 can be
could be quickly incorporated within the DAMA used in conjunction with the phase of the n=0 term to
specifications. estimate the symbol phase (timing). Besides allowing the
length of the preamble to be minimized, this approach has the
To provide reliable acquisition statistics, the preamble's following advantages:
frequency spectrum had to exhibit unambiguous carrier and
data rate tones. • By examining the tone spacing between the n=0 and n=±1
tones, the symbol rate can be determined, allowing
Fig. 1 shows the format of the CPM waveform preamble for automatic data rate detection.
MIL-STD-188-181B. A Start of Message (SOM) and header
field provides the modulation indices and other waveform • By correlating in the frequency domain with the expected
parameters so that the higher network layers can spectral signature of the signal, the receiver is no longer
automatically adapt to the transmitted modulation waveform. sensitive to false acquisition due to a small continuous
wave interfering signal or a radio front-end spurious

The CPM preamble uses a single-h modulation and a The modulation index controls the magnitude of each of the
repeating 1-1-0-0 data pattern. The data symbols are drawn tones. By performing a Fourier analysis, the magnitude and
from the set {–1, +1} instead of the set {–3,–1,+1,+3} used phase of each of the tones can be determined. The magnitude
for multi-h transmission. A bit value of “1” indicates the use of each of the tones versus modulation index is shown in
of the symbol +1 and the bit value of “0” indicates the use of fig. 2 for the terms n=0, n=±1, and n=±2.
the symbol –1. This results in a binary Continuous Phase
Frequency Shift Keying (CPFSK) transmission. As previously stated, the tones corresponding to n=0 and
n=±1 are used for signal detection and parameter estimation.
The transmitted data pattern yields a line spectra with tones The tones located at n=±2 (and higher) are nuisance tones.
centered at Fo +nF sym /4 where Fo is the channel center Not only are they not needed to estimate the phase of symbol
frequency, F sym is the symbol rate that will used during the timing, but they can also cause problems in the burst
4-ary multi-h transmission, and n is any integer. Typically acquisition if the level of these tones is too large. This is
only the terms corresponding to n=0, ±1, and ±2 have because of the non-zero probability of selecting the incorrect
significant energy in them. To minimize the preamble length, tone as the center frequency. Ideally, the level of the tones
a burst acquisition algorithm is used that simultaneously located at n=0, and n=±1 would be as large as possible and
detects the presence of the burst and jointly estimates carrier all other tones would have a very small level, or vanish
frequency, carrier phase, and symbol phase. All the completely. A modulation index that approximates the ideal
information necessary for such an estimate is developed by situation is 0.5 (h=8/16). The three tones of interest comprise

Transmitter Preamble Start Header Data

Start-up/ Bit Pattern of Traffic
Power-up Message
12 header bits × 3
1,1,0,0,1,1,0,0 … plus
6 fill bits

50 ms
192 bits 16 bits 42 bits
Binary Binary Binary Specified
Single-h Single-h Single-h Modulation
Key Down

Fig. 1. 4-ary multi-h CPM preamble for MIL-STD-188-181B

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-5 n=0
Level (dBc)



0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9 1
Modulation index (h )

Fig. 2. Magnitude of preamble tones with varying CPM preamble modulation index

of over 90 percent of the total power. The first nuisance tone the total power in an adjacent channel located at 10 kHz is
is located at n=2 and is more than 7 dB below the three tones the sum of the power in the n=8 and the n=10 tones. This
of interest. Selection of h=0.5 also has the advantage that it sum is –38.4 dBc, well below the MIL-STD-181-181B
is the well known minimum shift keying (MSK) waveform, requirement of –30 dBc. Compliance is also obtained for the
enabling demodulation of the Start of Message with a low channel at a 20 kHz offset and for the 56 kbps data rate on
complexity demodulator. the 25-kHz channels.

A preamble bit pattern of 1-0-1-0… could have been used, III. START OF MESSAGE
however, this generates a spectrum that a) exceeds the
adjacent channel emissions requirements [1] and b) generates As discussed earlier, a SOM is needed to establish superbaud
tones, corresponding to n=±1, that fall outside of the timing and frame or message synchronization. The relevant
passband of the UHF satellite filter bandwidth [7]. For properties for a good SOM is a sequence that has low
example, consider the maximum data rates of 9600 bps on a correlation sidelobes. However, the relevant correlation is a
5-kHz channel and 56 kbps on a 25-kHz channel. Using a correlation of the SOM sequence with all possible time shifts
repeating 1-0-1-0… causes the n=±1 tones to be located at of the 1-1-0-0… pattern followed by the SOM. Maximal
±2.4 kHz and ±14 kHz respectively for the 5-kHz and 25-kHz length sequences, which have very good autocorrelation
channels. The filters in the transponder are only slightly properties, do not provide low sidelobe levels when
wider than 5 kHz and 25 kHz respectively. Thus the tones correlated with time shifts of the received data (1-1-0-0…
corresponding to n=±1 are located in the area of the passband followed by SOM) pattern. The SOM must be defined such
where the phase is not very linear. This may have an adverse
effect on estimation algorithms that determine phase and TABLE I
symbol timing based upon the received phase of the n=±1
tones. The problem is further complicated when one 5-kHz Channel ACE 25-kHz Channel ACE
n Level (dBc) ∆f (kHz) Limit (dBc) ∆f (kHz) Limit (dBc)
introduces the uplink frequency error that will be present
0 –3.9 0.0 N/A 0.00 N/A
because of terminal oscillator error and platform Doppler. 1 –6.0 1.2 N/A 6.75 N/A
The selected 1-1-0-0… pattern eliminates this problem by 2 –13.5 2.4 N/A 13.50 N/A
placing the n=±1 tones at ±1200 Hz and ±7000 Hz for 3 None 3.6 N/A 20.25 N/A
maximum data rates of 9600 bps and 56 kbps respectively. 4 –27.4 4.8 N/A 27.00 N/A
5 None 6.0 N/A 33.75 N/A
6 –34.8 7.2 N/A 40.50 –22
The level and location of the preamble spectral tones (for 7 None 8.4 –30 47.25 –22
9600 bps and 56 kbps) is shown in Table I to verify that this 8 –39.9 9.6 –30 54.00 –22
preamble meets the MIL-STD-188-181B adjacent channel 9 None 10.8 –30 60.75 –22
emissions (ACE) requirements. For the 9600 bps waveform, 10 –43.8 12.0 –30 67.50 –22

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that premature SOM detection is not declared. An optimal implicitly a row-column interleaver [8], with the interleaver
SOM pattern based upon the 1-1-0-0 pattern preceding it was field specifying the number of interleaver rows. The number
determined by a brute force computer search. For a 16-bit of columns is determined by the size of the Reed-Solomon
SOM sequence, the pattern $AC3B (1010 1100 0011 1011, code such that one code symbol resides on a single row.
from first bit to last bit), was one of only three patterns that
produced early correlation sidelobes no larger than 2 in To allow a Viterbi demodulator for the MSK-modulated
magnitude. The correlation properties for the selected header, 6 flush bits conclude the 36 bits of configuration data.
$AC3B SOM are shown in fig. 3. All early correlation The purpose of the flush bits is twofold: a) return the
sidelobes are 18 dB or greater below the main peak. modulator to a known phase state, and b) allow some time for
the receiver to process the header. For MSK modulation,
IV. HEADER there are four possible phase states, 0, π/2, π and –π/2
radians. An input symbol of +1 increased the phase state by
Since one of the attributes of the new preamble is automatic π/2 radians and an input symbol of –1 decreases the phase
rate detection, interoperability is much improved by state by π/2 radians. At the end of the 36 encoded bits, the
including a header that has additional information about the phase state will be either 0 or π radians, depending on the
data traffic modulation and coding to follow. The header is header data. The ending phase state will be 0 radians if there
modulated with the same h=8/16, binary MSK modulation as is an even number of +1’s in the 36 bits of configuration data.
the earlier sections of the preamble. Because the header The phase state will be π if there is an odd number of +1’s in
information is absolutely critical to receive the data traffic, the header. If the ending phase state is π radians, the next
some form of error coding was necessary. A short Reed- symbol will be +1 to force the state to –π/2 radians. If the
Solomon code was considered, but rejected by the joint ending state was 0 radians, then the next symbol would be –1
government/industry working group because of terminal which also forces the phase state to –π/2 radians. This
complexity. As a compromise, a repetition code was process is equivalent to determining the first flush bit such
selected. The 12 information bits of the header are repeated that even parity results. The following five flush bits will all
three times, which permits a simple majority-vote decoding assume a value of –1 which will result in a final phase state
algorithm to be implemented in the terminals. of π radians.

An initial design for the header had multiple fields for all of V. SUMMARY
the possible waveform options. Although providing
unlimited growth and flexibility, this design required too A new synchronization preamble for the UHF MILSATCOM
many overhead bits, reducing the actual data payload. standard CPM modulation waveform provides improved
Instead, it was decided to use the configuration codes from acquisition at a reduced Eb / No commensurate with the
MIL-STD-188-181B to provide an entire waveform message portion of the waveform and supports higher level
configuration with only 8 bits. An additional 4-bit field network layer processing functions. A tailored MSK
provides interleaver information for the optional Reed- repeating pattern provides a unique spectral signature for the
Solomon encoding of the CPM data. The interleaver is CPM waveform permitting the modem to distinguish a valid
signal from external- or self-interference. This initial
preamble pattern also allows simultaneous phase/
20 frequency/timing estimation with a FFT process that has been
demonstrated to provide greater than 99 percent probability
16 of acquisition at less than 0 dB E b/No . A short framing
12 sequence and data header provide the modulation indices,
forward error correction, interleaving, and other waveform

8 parameters for the following CPM data traffic so that higher

network layer processes can automatically adapt to the
transmitted modulation waveform. The results of this
0 preamble development have been incorporated into MIL-

-20 -18 -16 -14 -12 -10 -8 -6 -4 -2 0
Symbol Timing

Fig. 3. Start-of-message correlation performance

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R EFERENCES [4] Premji, A. and Taylor, D., “Receiver structures for

multi-h signaling formats”, IEEE Transactions on
[1] Defense Information Systems Agency, MIL-STD-188- Communication, vol. 35, No. 4, April 1987, pp. 439-451.
181B, “Interoperability standard for single-access 5-kHz [5] Stephens, D.R., and Kreitzer, K.C., “High data rate UHF
and 25-kHz UHF satellite communications channels”, 20 SATCOM”, IEEE MILCOM ‘97, Monterey, CA.
March 1999. [6] Yuan, W. Shaw and Georghiades, Costas N., “Rapid
[2] Defense Information Systems Agency, MIL-STD-188- carrier acquisition from baud rate samples”, IEEE
182A, “Interoperability standard for 5-kHz UHF DAMA Transactions on Communications, vol. 47, No. 4, April
terminal waveform”, 31 March 1997. 1999, pp. 631-641.
[3] Defense Information Systems Agency, MIL-STD-188- [7] SPAWAR-S-746, “Contract specification for UHF
183A, “Interoperability standard for 25-kHz TDMA/ follow-on satellite system”, Space and Naval Warfare
DAMA terminal waveform (including 5- and 25-kHz Systems Command, PMW 146, April 26, 1988.
slave channels)”, 20 March 1998. [8] Proakis, J.G., Digital Communication, Third Edition,
Boston, MA: WCB/McGraw-Hill, 1995.

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