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The paper contains a systematic investigation of practical coding strategies for noncoherent communication over fading channels, guided by explicit comparisons with information-theoretic benchmarks. Noncoherent reception is interpreted as joint data and channel estimation, assuming that the channel is time varying and a priori unknown. We consider iterative decoding for a serial concatenation of a standard binary outer channel code with an inner modulation code amenable to noncoherent detection. For an information rate of about 1/2 bit per channel use, the proposed scheme, using a quaternary phase-shift keying (QPSK) alphabet, provides performance within 1.6-1.7 dB of Shannon capacity for the block fading channel, and is about 2.5-3 dB superior to standard differential demodulation in conjunction with an outer channel code. We also provide capacity computations for noncoherent communication using standard phase-shift keying (PSK) and quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) alphabets; comparing these with the capacity with unconstrained input provides guidance as to the choice of constellation as a function of the signal-to-noise ratio. These results imply that QPSK suffices to approach the unconstrained capacity for the relatively low information and fading rates considered in our performance evaluations, but that QAM is superior to PSK for higher information or fading rates, motivating further research into efficient noncoherent coded modulation with QAM alphabets.
Date of Publication: Oct. 2003