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Digital implementation of an upstream DOCSIS QAM modulator and channel emulator



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The concept of cable television, originally called community antenna television (CATV), began in the 1940's. The information and services provided by cable operators have changed drastically since the early days. Cable service providers are no longer simply providing their customers with broadcast television but are providing a multi-purpose, two-way link to the digital world. Custom programming, telephone service, radio, and high-speed internet access are just a few of the services offered by cable service providers in the 21st century. At the dawn of the internet the dominant mode of access was through telephone lines. Despite advances in dial-up modem technology, the telephone system was unable to keep pace with the demand for data throughput. In the late 1990's an industry consortium known as Cable Television Laboratories, Inc. developed a standard protocol for providing high-speed internet access through the existing CATV infrastructure. This protocol is known as Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification (DOCSIS) and it helped to usher in the era of the information superhighway. CATV systems use different parts of the radio frequency (RF) spectrum for communication to and from the user. The downstream portion (data destined for the user) consumes the bulk of the spectrum and is located at relatively high frequencies. The upstream portion (data destined to the network from the user) of the spectrum is smaller and located at the low end of the spectrum. This lower frequency region of the RF spectrum is particularly prone to impairments such as micro-reflections, which can be viewed as a type of multipath interference. Upstream data transfer in the presence of these impairments is therefore problematic and requires complex signal correction algorithms to be employed in the receiver. The quality of a receiver is largely determined by how well it mitigates the signal impairments introduced by the channel. For this reason, engineers developing a receiver require a piece of equipment that can emulate the channel impairments in any permutation in order to test their receiver. The conventional test methodology uses a hardware RF channel emulator connected between the transmitter and the receiver under test. This method not only requires an expensive RF channel emulator, but a functioning analog front-end as well. Of these two problems, the expense of the hardware emulator is likely less important than the delay in development caused by waiting for a functional analog front-end. Receiver design is an iterative, time consuming process that requires the receiver's digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms be tested as early as possible to reduce the time-to-market. This thesis presents a digital implementation of a DOCSIS-compliant channel emulator whereby cable micro-reflections and thermal noise at the analog front-end of the receiver are modelled digitally at baseband. The channel emulator and the modulator are integrated into a single hardware structure to produce a compact circuit that, during receiver testing, resides inside the same field programmable gate array (FPGA) as the receiver. This approach removes the dependence on the analog front-end allowing it to be developed concurrently with the receiver's DSP circuits, thus reducing the time-to-market. The approach taken in this thesis produces a fully programmable channel emulator that can be loaded onto FPGAs as needed by engineers working independently on different receiver designs. The channel emulator uses 3 independent data streams to produce a 3-channel signal, whereby a main channel with micro-reflections is flanked on either side by adjacent channels. Thermal noise normally generated by the receiver's analog front-end is emulated and injected into the signal. The resulting structure utilizes 43 dedicated multipliers and 401.125 KB of RAM, and achieves a modulation error ratio (MER) of 55.29 dB.



DOCSIS, QAM, CATV, channel emulator, hardware, implementation, FPGA, DSP, micro-reflections, AWGN



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Electrical and Computer Engineering


Electrical Engineering


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