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Hybrid Reed-Solomon data decoder

Improved bit error performance in satellite signal transmissions

Communications

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A block diagram of a communication system using RS FEC coding and M-ary hyper phase-shift keying modulation is shown.

Reed-Solomon (RS) codes are used for data error detection and forward error correction (FEC) to improve the performance of communication systems. Applications that use this technique include hard drives and telecommunication satellite links. Practical satellite communications systems use FEC coding to improve bit error rates at low received energy levels – errors resulting from the large distances involved between satellites and earth terminals. In satellite communications, the received signal strength is comparable to that of noise. Consequently, non-linear power amplifiers in satellites must add as little noise as possible in order to allow recovery of the message signal.

Communication systems also use some form of FEC coding to reduce the received signal power required to close the link. Generally, coding gain is improved when a soft decision (SD) decoding is used instead of hard decision (HD) decoding. While soft decision decoding is a mature technology for convolutional codes, practical soft decision decoding for RS non-binary block codes has only recently been developed and is currently limited to use with bandwidth efficient modulation schemes.

Naval researchers have developed a hybrid decoding approach in which traditional HD RS decoding is used, and only in the event of a decoding failure is SD reliability information used. Hence, this decoding technique is referred to as hybrid HD/SD decoding. The SD reliability information is used to estimate which received code symbols have a low probability of being correctly received. This information is used to generate new code symbol estimates which are subsequently used in the traditional RS decoding algorithm.

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