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Performance analysis and receiver architectures of DCF77 radio-controlled clocks

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1 Author(s)
Daniel Engeler ; Zühlke Engineering AG, Schlieren, Switzerland

DCF77 is a longwave radio transmitter located in Germany. Atomic clocks generate a 77.5-kHz carrier which is amplitudeand phase-modulated to broadcast the official time. The signal is used by industrial and consumer radio-controlled clocks. DCF77 faces competition from the Global Positioning System (GPS) which provides higher accuracy time. Still, DCF77 and other longwave time services worldwide remain popular because they allow indoor reception at lower cost, lower power, and sufficient accuracy. Indoor longwave reception is challenged by signal attenuation and electromagnetic interference from an increasing number of devices, particularly switched-mode power supplies. This paper introduces new receiver architectures and compares them with existing detectors and time decoders. Simulations and analytical calculations characterize the performance in terms of bit error rate and decoding probability, depending on input noise and narrowband interference. The most promising detector with maximum-likelihood time decoder displays the time in less than 60 s after powerup and at a noise level of Eb/N0 = 2.7 dB, an improvement of 20 dB over previous receivers. A field-programmable gate array-based demonstration receiver built for the purposes of this paper confirms the capabilities of these new algorithms. The findings of this paper enable future high-performance DCF77 receivers and further study of indoor longwave reception.

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics, and Frequency Control  (Volume:59 ,  Issue: 5 )