Digital Signal Process in IF RF Data Converters

Alex Zou
Applications Engineer,
Analog Devices, Inc.
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To meet the ever increasing data demands of smartphone functionality, the infrastructure architecture of modern digital mobile
communication systems must constantly evolve to accommodate
wider bandwidths and faster data conversion. Functional processing
blocks that are now being utilized in data conversion architectures
to achieve faster data rates are digital IF processing, DDC (digital
downconverter), and DUC (digital upconverter). These digital
functions can be realized in DSPs and FPGAs and some big
companies also build their own digital IF processing ASICs. ADI is
integrating more and more of these digital IF processing blocks into
high speed converter ICs, which significantly relieves design work
and provides cost and power savings in the system. This article
explores the integrated DDC and DUC channels in ADI’s IF and RF
converters and explains how they work in real-world applications.
After the mixer, modulator, or demodulator—which are all frequency shifting
stages—the RF signal will be shifted to a lower frequency around dc to less
than 300 MHz. From the data converter to the mixer, the process module
includes converters (ADCs or DACs), analog filters, and IF amplifiers.
We call this stage the analog IF stage.
After the converters, in fact, after the quantizer portion of the converters,
the signal becomes digital, and together with the subsequent FPGA or
ASIC, we called this the digital IF stage. The common term for individual
digital signal processing blocks in this stage is the DUC (digital upconverter) for Tx path and the DDC (digital downconverter) for R x path.
An exception is in a direct RF architecture where data converters sample
RF signals directly, so the analog IF stage will be omitted and the signal
chain will consist of the RF stage and digital IF stage only.
and Filter
Analog IF
and Filter
Digital IF
No Analog IF Stage in DRF Architecture
High speed converters are one of the key functions in a modern wireless
base station system. More and more such converters are integrated with
complex digital signal processing blocks to simplify the FPGA’s work in
the system design. Digital signal processing blocks in converters provide
valuable benefits to system designs, but these benefits are still not widely
understood by many engineers. This article will hopefully give a clear
view of DDC and DUC functionality in data converters and enable system
designers to fully utilize the benefits that ADI converters can provide to the
transceiver architecture. Note that this article will focus on digital processing blocks in ADCs and DACs, so the transmitter and receiver blocks are
combined in some descriptions. Please omit the signal flow direction if it
causes confusion.
Figure 1. Typical block diagram of transmitter or receiver.
In modern digital mobile communication systems, the transmission
and receive paths (including observation receive path in the following
description) can be divided into three major stages based on the signal’s
properties: the RF stage, the analog IF stage, and the digital IF stage.
Multiple stages of DDCs and DUCs are often cascaded respectively for
flexibility. Independent DDCs and DUCs requires dealing with multiple
carriers in parallel and combining them together before outputting the
transmission signal or separating them in the received signal.
Figure 1 shows the block diagram of typical transmitter and receiver.
The RF stage deals with the RF signal, which generally includes the signal
frequency range of 700 MHz to 3.8 GHz in the current LTE standard.
A typical DDC module includes the carrier selection, frequency downconverter, filter, and decimator. These function blocks work in sequence or
can be bypassed respectively and finally generate a complex signal at dc
or a real signal based on the requirements of the following FPGA or ASIC
with lower sampling rates.
A typical DUC module includes interpolation, a filter, a frequency upconverter, and a carrier combiner. A DUC will generate a complex signal at
dc, IF-based, or RF directly depending on the system architecture design.
The DUC processing is almost converse with that of the DDC.
Digital Signal Processing in IF/RF Data Converters
In the R x chain, higher sampling rates are necessary to avoid signal
aliasing, easy analog filter design, and to provide wider signal band.
But on the other hand, lower data rates on interface are preferred to
save power, cost, and high speed logics in FPGAs/ASICs. The converter’s
integrated DDC will address the previous requirements.
In the Tx chain, there are the same requirements as in R x chain: high
sampling rates are desired to ease filter design, place the signal on high
IF or RF directly, and push the image far away, but lower data rates are
preferred for the interface. The converter’s integrated DUC will address
these requirements.
Figure 2 shows the block diagram of a typical DDC.
Figure 3 shows the block diagram of a typical DUC.
NCO = f1
Interpolation and Filtering
The simplest digital interpolation algorithm is called zero padding, which
means inserting zero into every other sample. The sampling rate is doubled
but an image is also generated at Fs – Fif in the resulting spectrum.
Therefore, following the interpolator with a filter stage is necessary
to remove the image or the original carrier based on the application.
If the original carrier is removed, the result is an interpolation and coarse
modulation with Fs /2.
Figure 2. DDC block diagram.
As in the DDC, the interpolation by two and the filter are combined as a
block. This functional block is then copied, pasted, and cascaded three to
four levels for flexibility. Other interpolation factors more than two are also
used for additional flexibility, especially in RF DACs.
NCO and Mixer
NCO and Mixer
To choose the desired carriers from interferences (blockers and other carriers), the output frequency of an NCO is mixed with input IF signal to shift
the desired carriers to dc. This will ease the complexity of the followed
filter and decimator stage.
Very similar to this block in the DDC, but converse in function, the following NCO and Mixer stage in the DUC are used to shift the carrier to the
desired IF or RF frequency depending on the requirements of the system
architecture. In a ZIF architecture, this block can be bypassed to keep
the carrier at dc.
DC f1
f2 Fs /2
Fs /2
Fs /2
DC Fs /4
Filter and Decimation
Following the NCO and Mixer stages, a low-pass filter is used to pick up
the desired carriers and suppress other unwanted signals. Following the
filter, a decimator will reduce the data rate by a factor of two to lower
the data rate. To save resources and provide flexibility to the customer,
a half-band FIR filter plus decimator by two functions are combined
in one block; the block is copied and pasted to cascade three to four
levels. System designers can choose to use some or all of them based on
the application. Decimation by other numbers more than two are also
used for additional flexibility, especially in RF ADCs.
Gain, Phase, I/Q Offset, and Inverse Sinc
The gain, phase adjust, I/Q offset, and inverse sinc blocks are accessories
in many IF/RF DACs.
Gain and phase adjust, I/Q offset often work together to tune the output
signal I/Q channel independently, compensate different kinds of I/Q
mismatch (caused by the DAC, analog filter, and modulator), and finally get
a perfect complex signal from the analog modulator with low LO leakage
and image.
Filter and
Gain, Phase,
Inverse Sinc
NCO = IF-f1
DC f1 FDATA / 2
DC f1
Figure 3. DUC block diagram.
Inverse sinc filter compensates the sinc roll-off caused by the DAC,
which affects the flatness and signal’s amplitude, especially in wideband
applications on high IF or in DRF architecture.
In this article, we have a brief description of typical DDC and DUC integrated in current IF/RF converters, what they are, why, and how they work
in signal chain. Proper understanding of these and correctly making use
of them will relieve resources and code works in FBGAs/ASICs, as well as
save power and cost in system. Additional details and descriptions can
be found in the following references.
About the Author
Alex Zou graduated from the University of Electronic Science
and Technology of China in 1999 with a Master of Radio Physics.
He previously worked as a hardware design engineer at China
Telecom and as an applications engineer at NXP Semiconductors
before joining Analog Devices in 2007 as a senior field applications engineer supporting wireless infrastructure applications.
Online Support
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support community. Ask your
tough design questions, browse
FAQs, or join a conversation.
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