ACM: Automatic Coding and Modulation


Automatic Coding and Modulation (ACM) in Microwave Links

Microwave Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM)
Microwave Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM)

Link adaptation, or Adaptive Coding and Modulation (ACM), is a term used in wireless communications to denote the matching of the modulation, coding and other signal and protocol parameters to the conditions on the radio link (e.g. the pathloss, the interference due to signals coming from other transmitters, the sensitivity of the receiver, the available transmitter power margin, etc.). For example, EDGE uses a rate adaptation algorithm that adapts the modulation and coding scheme (MCS) according to the quality of the radio channel, and thus the bit rate and robustness of data transmission. The process of link adaptation is a dynamic one and the signal and protocol parameters change as the radio link conditions change.

The goal of Adaptive Modulation is to improve the operational efficiency of Microwave links by increasing network capacity over the existing infrastructure – while reducing sensitivity to environmental interferences.
Adaptive Modulation means dynamically varying the modulation in an errorless manner in order to maximize the throughput under momentary propagation conditions. In other words, a system can operate at its maximum throughput under clear sky conditions, and decrease it
gradually under rain fade.  For example a link can change from 1024QAM or 256QAM down to QPSK to keep “link alive” without losing connection.  Prior to the development of Automatic Coding and Modulation, microwave designers had to design for “worst case” conditions to avoid link outage The benefits of using ACM include:

  • Longer link lengths (distance)
  • Using smaller antennas (saves on mast space, also often required in residential areas)
  • Higher Availability (link reliability)

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