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2014

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

Framework for Mixed-Signal Devices:

Presenting the D-parametersTM

Diogo C. Ribeiro, Student Member, IEEE, Pedro Miguel Cruz, Member, IEEE,

and Nuno Borges Carvalho, Senior Member, IEEE

mixed-signal circuits and devices to higher frequencies and

forcing system integration in a single chip. This means that

signals are now converted to the digital domain and vice versa

much closer to the antenna than before, which forces radio

engineers to understand and cope with the new mixed-signal

(analog and digital together) paradigm.

In this paper a new framework for mixed-signal behavioral modeling is presented and discussed. It is an extension

of the well-known scattering parameters and will be termed

as D-parametersTM . In this work, both linear and nonlinear

methodologies will be considered and analyzed.

Furthermore, examples showing the application of this novel

framework to some mixed-signal devices are also presented.

Index TermsLinear characterization, mixed-signal systems,

nonlinear modeling, software defined radio.

I. I NTRODUCTION

and analog systems, devices and components, in a way

that they will become inseparable. Until now, this division was

clear, since digital domain engineers were focused solely on

the digital design part (bit stream evaluation and binary level

evaluations), and analog or the self-called radio-frequency

(RF) engineers worked on the analog portion of the wireless

radio front-end.

Traditionally, RF engineers focused exclusively on the analog part mainly because in a typical transceiver the signal

was dealt first at RF (high frequency) and then converted

to baseband (sometimes called video bandwidth or low frequency). Recent advances in the radio hardware, based on the

concepts of software defined radio (SDR) and cognitive radio

(CR) are pushing the limits of the analog-to-digital converters

(ADCs) and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) to very high

frequencies. As a result, lesser or no frequency conversions are

D-parameters is a registered trademark of Instituto de

Telecomunicaco es.

This work was supported by the Fundaca o para a Ciencia e Tecnologia (F.C.T.) under Project EXCL/EEI-TEL/0067/2012: Cognitive Radio

Transceiver Design for Energy Efficient Data Transmission (CReATION).

The work of D. Ribeiro was supported by the Fundaca o para a Ciencia e

Tecnologia (F.C.T.) under the Ph.D. grant SFRH/BD/85163/2012. The work

of P. Cruz was supported by the Fundaca o para a Ciencia e Tecnologia (F.C.T.)

under the Post-Doc grant SFRH/BPD/92452/2013.

The authors are with the Departamento de Electronica,

Telecomunicaco es e Informatica, Instituto de Telecomunicaco es, Universidade

de Aveiro, Campus Universitario de Santiago, 3810-193 Aveiro, Portugal

(e-mail: dcribeiro@ua.pt; pcruz@av.it.pt; nbcarvalho@ua.pt).

into the digital domain.

These new advances are imposing that RF engineers start

to think in a higher level of complexity. For example, figures

of merit (FoMs), [1], as the error vector magnitude (EVM),

noise power ratio (NPR), signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), source

or load matching obtained using the voltage standing wave

ratio (VSWR), intermodulation distortion (IMD) or adjacent

channel power ratio (ACPR), effective number of bits (ENOB)

and many others should now be carefully re-thought, since

the RF signal is actually a digital replica of the received

electromagnetic waveform.

Furthermore, the circuits and systems are becoming inseparable [2]. In a typical design, each component of a mixedsignal system can be separated and evaluated individually, but

recent integrated circuits are joining all these components by

creating a single integrated device, usually called as a systemon-a-chip (SoC). Some examples include entire transmitting

and receiving chains, [3], and fully integrated RF transceivers,

[4], [5], high-speed wideband DACs, [6], wideband sampling

and converting circuits (known as high-speed ADCs) [7]. Thus,

RF engineers are now facing a paradigm change and should be

aware on how to design, model and characterize such mixedsignal systems.

This paper will focus on how to characterize and model

these emerging sub-systems from a system-level point of view,

so that analog RF system engineers can continue to use and

design communication transceivers employing approaches they

are familiar with.

The paper is divided into a first approach to mixed-signal

systems evaluation, followed in section III by the discussion

on how to characterize mixed-signal systems for its linear and

nonlinear operation supported on a system behavioral point of

view. Then, in section IV, laboratory approaches and necessary

calibration schemes for mixed-signal characterization will be

addressed. Finally, section V will conclude with some practical

examples being shown and discussed.

II. C HARACTERIZATION OF M IXED -S IGNAL S YSTEMS

System identification, characterization and modeling, are

scientific research areas that have registered an important

growth in recent years. The new digital communication standards have been pushing the limits of radio systems specifications. This continuous demand for higher and higher

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

Digital

Word

log and the other is digital (a bus of bit lines). So, the problem

on how to characterize and define a group of FoMs for RF

design in mixed-signal systems is raised. In fact, there are two

ways of analyzing this kind of systems: 1) the complete analog

approach or sometimes called the signal integrity approach,

and 2) the system-level behavioral approach.

In the first approach, the signal integrity, all ports are

considered as analog ones (see Fig. 2(a)), i.e., each bus

line is considered as an independent port (Port 3 through

Port N), in the same way the RF port (Port 1) and the

clock (CLK) port (Port 2) are considered. In this case,

the engineer is searching for the signal quality, called signal

integrity, mainly when the mixed-signal device is connected

to a signal processing unit, either a field-programmable gate

array (FPGA) or digital signal processing (DSP) board.

As well, it should be highlighted that now each line of the

digital bus is indeed working at gigabit per second (Gbps).

This brings the design engineer to discuss and design carefully

each bit line path, which should now be considered as a

transmission line. The main objective is to guarantee not only

that the signal maintains its format, but also that it delivers

all bits with similar delays to each bus line. This is becoming

very important not only in truly digital circuits, but also in

new SDR/CR configurations. Some authors have dedicated a

significant amount of work to this characterization problem,

[9].

In the second case, the system-level behavioral approach,

the design engineer is focused not on the bit line operation,

but rather on the information the overall bit-stream contains.

The objective in this situation is to evaluate the overall bitstream as a complete waveform in order to compare each and

both sides of the device (analog and digital). The final goal is

then to give tools to RF engineers so that they can characterize

the mixed-signal system using similar approaches to complete

analog circuits, i.e., using system level FoMs.

It should be referred here that in order to evaluate the

digital stream coming out or entering a data converter as an

equivalent voltage signal, signal integrity in the digital bus

must be assumed. Thus, it is considered that the bit stream is

being received or transmitted correctly by the processing unit,

i.e., the definition of the bit been equal to a logic 1 or 0

is correctly defined at the sampling instant.

In this work a strategy based on scattering waves will be

employed to truly capture the behavior of the mixed-signal

device under characterization. From a design engineer point

of view, one of the crucial advantages in having this characterization is that several procedures could be implemented

to overcome the non-idealities that the overall mixed-signal

system incorporates. For example, the implementation of postdistortion algorithms to compensate for interferes in receiver

sub-systems [10], or pre-distortion algorithms for digital-based

transmitters [11], [12].

Several advantages come from the use of a scattering

wave strategy for the behavioral characterization of mixedsignal devices. Among others, the direct interpretation of some

behavior metrics, in a way similar to what RF engineers are

already used to deal with analog S-parameters, as it will be

shown later on. And also, the immediate readiness of CAD

Sampler

(Clock Pad)

a1

LNA

b1

Quantization

t

BPF

a2

b2

Clock input

Figure 1.

bit1

bit2

bit3

bit4

Binary

Value

10

0

signal processing techniques together with more efficient and

accurate computer-aided design (CAD) tools.

The complete identification of linear and nonlinear systems

is a challenging topic not only from the formal modeling point

of view but also from the practical extraction side where the

impairments of the real systems have to be accounted for.

As stated in the introduction we will focus our attention

in the characterization of radio transceivers, especially the

emerging mixed-signal designs. The methods and approaches

to characterize some of these types of components are deeply

studied and presented in [8]. For instance, concepts as VSWR

are there defined for ADCs by considering the associated input

impedance (ADCs and DACs can be considered the simplest

mixed-signal systems).

Specific digital FoMs have also been used intensively for

ADCs and DACs, metrics like gain offset, integral nonlinearity

(INL), differential nonlinearity (DNL), among others. However, these figures are inherently associated to the bit stream

progress in the data converter, and are considered static FoMs

[8]. For example, one possible approach to the measurement of

these quantities is by using the converters output amplitude

histogram [8]. Therefore, this measurement is insensitive to

the different temporal dynamics that may be present in the

characterized device.

In a radio frequency approach scenario, this is not conceivable, since the signal actually varies with time, and so

time variation exists, and important dynamic effects should be

observable, as for instance spectrum characteristics, different

response to multisine or modulated signal excitations, etc. [8].

Despite that, in this scenario, if a RF designer has to

project a mixed-signal system, where amplifier and filters are

combined with data converters, the engineer sees himself in

a cumbersome problem. Since, on one side it has an analog

port, but on the other side it has a digital bus with several

bits, with an added complexity of a sampling clock pad that

will impose the time sampling periods and subsequently the

discrete-time scale, Fig. 1. This scenario is even more realistic

when one considers that sometimes an analog terminal is

directly connected to an antenna.

It is exactly in this situation where the RF engineer should

have a complete picture of how those mixed-signal black-box

arrangements behave from a RF point of view, and also from

a signal information point of view.

In a mixed-signal sub-system, one terminal is actually ana-

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

a1

Port 1

b1

Mixed-signal

Component

a3

b3

Port 3

a4

b4

Port 4

a5

b5

Port 5

a6

b6

Port 6

receiver

a1

Port 1

b1

Mixed-signal

Component

Binary

value to

voltage

ideal

converter

db3

Port 3

da3

transmitter

b2

a2

Port 2

Clock

Port 2

(a)

Figure 2.

(b)

Mixed-signal characterization approaches: (a) signal integrity and (b) system-level behavioral.

Therefore, the mixed-signal system will be characterized

and modeled in a similar way of the signal integrity analysis,

but in this case the bus is considered as a single integrated

port. This approach is depicted in Fig. 2(b). As can be seen,

the considered device has at least three ports (more can be

included), in which two of them are analog corresponding to

the RF analog input and to the clock input, being the third

port the digital bus evaluated as an overall signal.

Thus, for the characterization of this mixed-signal component, it can be considered that at the RF analog port (Port 1)

incident and reflected scattered waveforms (a1 , b1 ) exist and

can be evaluated. In the same way, at the CLK port (Port 2),

a2 and b2 , can be also considered.

At the third port, the digital bit-stream can be evaluated to

obtained a state value using (1), this is the binary representation of each sample word sent or received from the mixedsignal device, through the digital bus. The sequence of state

values over time represent a conceptual digital waveform, as

can be seen in Fig. 3. This waveform can yet be converted to

a digital-equivalent voltage wave using (2).

StateV alue(t) = bitN (t) 2(N 1) + bitN 1 (t) 2(N 2) + . . .

Vdig (t) =

(1)

(2N 1)

(2)

that will allow the comparison to the analog port. An important

inference is that the da3 only exists in a receiver configuration

bit1

bit2

BinaryValue(t) = bit4(t)23 +

bit3(t)22 + bit2(t)2 + bit1(t)

bit3

bit4

sampling times

Figure 3.

b2

a2

sampling times

Convert a bit word onto a binary word value for a 4-bit bus.

match having no reflected signal, see Fig. 2(b).

Nevertheless, similar properties of waveforms continue to

exist, as for instance the digital received signal will account

for the bus line length between the mixed-signal component

and the processing unit, which will correspond to a specific

delay in time for a given length. Once again, we should be

aware that in each bus line the bit-stream is travelling at Gbps

speeds, imposing that the overall signal (each digital sample

word) is evaluated at frequencies in order of GHz values.

III. M IXED -S IGNAL S CATTERING PARAMETERS

R EPRESENTATION

This section will be devoted to the representation of linear

and nonlinear characterization approaches for mixed-signal

operation, by taking a strategy based on scattering waves.

A. Linear Characteristic Formulation

Remembering the traditional S-parameters definition [13]

that is applied to entirely analog components, the same approach can be expanded to a mixed-signal scenario.

The analog Port 1 in Fig. 2(b), can be described accordingly to the incident and reflected waveforms. The incident

power will be Pincident = |a1 |2 and the reflected power

Pref lected =|b1 |2 . The voltage at Port 1 can also be defined

by V1 = Z0 (a1 + b1 ). It is curious to understand that

the signals a1 and b1 does not actually define any power or

voltage by themselves, they are actually defined for a system

presenting a characteristic impedance of Z0 , and can be called

power-waves as in [13].

At this point, the system will be assumed as a 2-port

mechanism by incorporating the CLK port into the model.

This is similar to what was done for a mixer [14], where

the local oscillator (LO) imposes the operation regime. The

same happens here with the clock signal. Besides, based

on the methodology proposed in [14], wherein it should be

guaranteed a clock signal amplitude sufficient to excite the

sampling stage and having a known frequency value.

In the third port, the digital one, a voltage representation

of the digital state can be obtained using its binary value

as expressed in (2). Since, RF engineers are not used to

deal with voltage values, a conversion to power-waves, da3

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

are the most important quantities to be measured and have

more significance than voltages or currents. It should be stated

that these scattering waves, da3 and db3 , are not actually

true power-waves in the analog sense, but rather a conceptual

representation of those.

Nonetheless, when talking about power-waves we should

calculate them for a specific system characteristic impedance.

But, in the digital world, which characteristic impedance value

should be used? Remember that we are not considering the

analog waves that travel on the digital bus, but rather the state

value that the entire bus represents. So, this value does not have

to be the characteristic impedance of the digital bus. Actually,

a hypothetic characteristic impedance will be used instead. In

order, to have an easy interpretation of the kernels that relate

the analog and the digital sides, the characteristic impedance

value of the RF analog input port (Z0 analog ) will be used. In

this basis, the waveforms da3 and db3 can be defined as:

transmitter chain.

Not much relevance is being given to the clock port apart

from its phase information. Nonetheless, the reflection coefficient (D22 ) can also be defined for this analog clock port in an

isolated fashion. This approach is actually similar to the one

used for the local oscillator port in a mixer characterization,

[14], as said before.

It should be stressed that the digital signal in a mixed-signal

solution can appear in a different carrier frequency of the

analog side provided that a higher than the first nyquist

zones (NZs) is used. Thus, the power-wave at the digital

version can operate on a different frequency of the analog

counterpart, wherein a relationship between these frequencies

is straightforwardly obtained by knowing the clock sampling

frequency. This phenomenon encounters a similar operation in

a mixer conversion approach.

B. Nonlinear Characteristic Formulation

Vdig

, only in transmitter mode

da3 = p

Z0 analog

db3 = p

Vdig

, only in receiver mode

Z0 analog

(3)

equivalence to the analog part, but any other value can be

used, since this is a pure conceptual waveform.

Using this scattering waves approach, several FoMs can be

3

calculated, as for instance, the quantity db

a1 can be evaluated

in amplitude and phase and swept over the frequency. The

variation with would thus be included in the developed

formulation, which will be called D-parametersTM :

D11 () = S11 () = ab11()

()

a2 =e

,da3 =0

db3 ()

31a2CLK () = a1 ()

a2 =e

,da3 =0

(4)

b1 ()

D13a2CLK () = da3 ()

a2 =e

,a1 =0

D33 () = 0

where

e is the clock complex waveform value.

The value D31a2CLK () is similar to S21 () in a typical

two-port analog network, but again it should be understood

that a conceptual power-wave is being evaluated and not a

real one in the analog sense, the a2CLK subscript means that

these measures were calculated for a specific clock condition

e.

These values are calculated for a certain frequency grid of

the input signal excitation. In this case, D11 is equivalent

to the S11 measured for the analog counterparts. Also, it is

important to stress that D31a2CLK () is actually a frequency

dependent gain that varies with the input signal a1 () for

a specific a2 =

e. This measure is exactly similar to the

available gain traditionally defined for amplifiers. Again, it

should be referred that D31a2CLK only exists in receiver

as the generation of spectra components that are not included

in the input signal excitation. One of the most well known

demonstration of these are the harmonics of the input signal.

In a mixed-signal system such a behavior is also representative of nonlinear distortion phenomenon, concept addressed

in [8], [15]. The main difference in a mixed-signal system

arises from the fact that if the harmonics are generated in

NZs higher than the first, those harmonics will not appear as

in a traditional fully-analog system, all organized sequentially,

but will follow a different approach based on the sampling

frequency. This is true for receiving and transmitting mixedsignal systems, see Fig. 4 as an illustrative example. So, each

nonlinear distortion calculation should be evaluated having in

mind where the nonlinear components will fall.

Again the definition of a variety of FoMs (e.g. total harmonic distortion (THD), ACPR, NPR, third order intercept

point (IP3 ), IMD) becomes quite similar to fully-analog systems, but with the evaluation of power defined as before,

Pdig = |db3 ()|2 . This approach is employed in the IEEE

standard for analog to digital converters [8] for NPR evaluation, and is utilized in several vendor application notes [15]

[17].

Other FoMs inherent to mixed-signal environments continue

to be used, as for instance the definition of signal to noise and

distortion ratio (SNDR), which is typically measured for fullscaled data converters (DAC or ADC) and accounts for the

overall noise and distortion being produced.

Recent trends in analog components modeling are incorporating nonlinear behavior of fully analog components and

systems. The approaches with an higher spotlight are the ones

based on the Poly-Harmonic Distortion (PHD) modeling [18],

the so called S-functionsTM and X-parametersTM .

These models are a linearization of a device response around

a large-signal operation point (LSOP) [19]. They consider the

device under test (DUT) stimulated by a large signal condition

and try to catch its behavior under the assumption that the

harmonic superposition principle stands true.

2nd NZ

3rd NZ

1st NZ

Discrete-Time

Digital Domain

1st NZ

f1

2f1

3f1

fCLK/2

fCLK

f1

3fCLK/2

Discrete-Time

Digital Domain

f1

2f1

1st NZ

f1

fCLK/2

Figure 4.

fCLK/2

Continuous-Time

Analog Domain

1st NZ

3f1

2f1

Sampling Process

Continuous-Time

Analog Domain

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

2nd NZ

2f1

2f1

fCLK/2

3rd NZ

fCLK f1

fCLK

+ f1

fCLK

3fCLK/2

Illustrative example of nonlinear phenomenon occurring in receiving (left) and transmitting (right) mixed-signal systems.

where a small signal stimulus is assumed and only the fundamental frequency is considered, the PHD large signal models

will also look to the harmonics produced by the device and

its relationship and/or dependence on the harmonics at each

port of the device. Thus, the produced model will contain information describing the influence between all cross harmonic

frequencies from the input to the output and vice-versa (linear

and nonlinear information).

In the same way of the linear characteristic formulation,

these nonlinear models can also be defined within this novel

framework, assuming that all the previously defined quantities

and characteristics remain equally suited.

Additional benefits of the PHD modeling characterization

include efficient load-pull prediction [20]. This is also an advantage for mixed-signal scenarios, especially for a transmitter

device where the output is analog. In this case, as in a power

amplifier (PA), the load-pull simulation capabilities could be

exploited to improve the desired device performance during

its design stage.

Two different approaches based on the PHD theory can be

followed. The first one does not take into account the CLK port

information, which is similar to what was done for the linear

characterization, but assuming a large signal stimulus and

considering harmonic signals relation. The second approach

considers the CLK port as a common input for the system to

be characterized.

1) Formulation without CLK port: Considering the CLK

signal inside the model without trying to represent it, (5) can

be used to relate incident and reflected waves.

F

Bpm = Dpm

|A11 |P m +

S

Dpm;qn

|A11 | P mn Apm;qn

qn

T

Dpm;qn

qn

and the scattered waves respectively, both these wave values

being applied to model a transmitter or a receiver, as in the

linear characterization case. The index q and p correspond to

the considered port for the incident wave and for the scattered

wave respectively and the n and m correspond to the harmonic

index of the incident and scattered waves respectively.

Moreover, the component P = e+j(A11 ) will assure a

phase normalization, introduced for simplification proposes.

This approach only allows the characterization of the first

NZ, which is a limitation. For instance if one is attempting to

model the complete nonlinear behavior of a DAC, only harmonics that fall inside the considered NZ can be characterized.

Thus, information about harmonics that fall in different NZs or

even replicas of the fundamental cannot be represented using

this approach.

A similar approach to this formulation had been used

in [21], for the case of an integrated transmitter having a

reconstruction filter at the output.

2) Multi-port formulation: One of the possibilities to

characterize mixed-signal systems using these powerful

large-signal models is by exploit its multi-port describing

capabilities. Thus, all the three ports will be considered,

contrary to what have been done previously.

Doing so, the analog CLK port will not be ignored and, for

example, its VSWR will also be described inside the model.

As it was already explained, in mixed-signal systems, frequency conversion occurs due to the sampling circuit. PHD

models inherently support frequency conversion by mapping

all the cross harmonic frequencies of all the considered fundamentals (one from the CLK port and one or more from the

analog ports), at all the ports of the DUT. The only limitation

is that a maximum harmonic index has to be imposed, in order

to have a computable model.

With this approach, the real behavior of mixed-signal devices is inherently mimic by the model, since all the mixtures

between the input signal and the CLK signal will be considered. Furthermore, the level of folding considered in the model

(number of NZs modeled) can be controlled by the maximum

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

F

m

Bp[m,h] = Dp[m,h]

(|Ain[1,0] |, |Aclk[0,1] |)P[1,0]

+

o

X n

mn

S

Dp[m,h];q[n,k]

(|Ain[0,1] |, |Aclk[1,0] |) P[1,0]

Ap[m,h];q[n,k]

q[n,k]

o

X n

m+n

T

Dp[m,h];q[n,k]

(|Ain[0,1] |, |Aclk[1,0] |) P[1,0]

conj(Ap[m,h];q[n,k] ) (6)

q[n,k]

From what has been described it is easy to conclude that

by taking this approach, one can compare the mixed-signal

device as a mixer. Where the CLK port is in the place of the

LO port and the digital port follows the previously established

characteristics.

The input, output relations between the several ports of the

mixed-signal device can then be expressed as in (6). Where,

apart from the components that have the same notation as in

(5), n and m correspond to the harmonic index of the input

fundamental frequency at the considered port for the incident

and for the scattered waves respectively, h and k correspond

to the harmonic index of the CLK fundamental frequency at

the input port and at the considered port for the incident and

for the scattered waves respectively.

Once again, P[1,0] = e+j(A1[1,0] ) will assure a phase

normalization for the zero phase of the fundamental input

signal.

Moreover, (|Ain[1,0] |, |Aclk[0,1] |) corresponds to the considered LSOP, which depends on the amplitude of the fundamental large signal at the input port, |Ain[1,0] |, as well as on the

amplitude of the CLK signal, |Aclk[0,1] |.

Taking a closer look to (6) and comparing it to the expression for multi-port fully analog devices, [22], the differences

are on the name of the parameters (for simple identification

purposes only) and on the absence of the P[0,1] which in this

case would correspond to the phase normalization of the CLK

signal.

case of mixed-signal systems. Once, as already explained

before, to preserve the assumed signal integrity of the digital

signal, it has to be acquired at the same phase of the CLK

signal. Thus, during the parameters extraction procedure the

CLK phase will be always the same.

However, this direct representation of a mixed-signal device

by a multi-port PHD model can arise some issues. The main

one is its unnecessary excessive complexity.

Since the digital signal only has a representation from 0

to fS /2, by doing a complete frequency mapping in all ports

there will exist a large quantity of model parameters that will

not be used.

One can consider, for example, the case of a mixed-signal

receiver represented in Fig. 5. It is easily denoted that, it is

impossible to have any value in the majority of the mapped

frequencies (all above fS /2) at the digital port.

As a result, the parameters of the model associated to

the mixing products that appear inside the 1st NZ on the

digital port will have an associated complex value that could

be different from zero. While all the other parameters that

correspond to all the other spectral components will always

have a value of zero, and thus, are unused and unnecessary.

3) Kernels extraction: The parameters from the equations

expressed in (5) and (6) can be extracted using a procedure

similar to what is employed in [21] and [23], as it will be

briefly described next:

dBm

Input

50

100

dBm

0

0

fs/2

fs

3fs/2

2fs

5fs/2

3fs

CLK

50

100

dBm

0

0

fs/2

fs

3fs/2

2fs

5fs/2

3fs

Output

50

100

0

fs/2

fs

3fs/2

2fs

5fs/2

3fs

Characterized Freqs.

fs/2

fs

3fs/2

2fs

5fs/2

3fs

mixed-signal receiver (with ADC), and representation of frequencies that the

PHD model will characterize. Considered orders: Input=3, CLK=2, Mixing=5.

so that, they can operate properly. Thus, a large tone

needs to be applied at the CLK port of the mixed-signal

DUT. Additionally, another large tone is applied to each

of the other DUT ports. In this condition, it is considered

that the DUT is being stimulated without perturbations.

From these non-perturbed measures, the X F kernels can

be directly extracted.

After, a perturbation needs to be applied to the DUT, a so

called tickle tone. This tickle is a lower power continuous wave (CW) signal at the same frequency or at the

harmonics of the previous large tones but, with different

relative phases (from 0 to 2). The tickle needs to be

applied to all the ports of the DUT individually, even at

the digital port when a transmitter is being characterized.

The X S and X T kernels are computed from the measurements with the tickle present. In order to extract

each kernel value, a least mean squares method can be

employed as in [19] and [24].

only CW excitation signals are required.

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

Phase

Reference

Local

Oscillator

Processing Unit

Vector Correction Kernels

Comb

Generator

ADC

CLK STIMULUS

DIGITAL BUS

RF STIMULUS

Binary value to

voltage ideal

converter

Calibration Planes

analog and digital measurements, which is suitable for linear and nonlinear

characterization of mixed-signal receivers or transmitters.

Figure 7.

instrument, a calibration scheme is necessary. Moreover, an

additional issue is raised because of the combination of analog

and digital signal domains into the same characterization tool.

The next subsection will handle this situation by showing a

couple of options to try surpassing such conditions.

A. Instrument Calibration Details

procedure is fundamental to measure wave quantities that

represent what is really happening at the ports of the DUT,

this topic that will be addressed later on.

IV. I NSTRUMENTATION FOR M IXED -S IGNAL S YSTEMS

Undoubtedly, the devices to be tested are moving away

from single-purpose, hardware-centric entities with limited

capabilities, to multi-purpose, software-centric entities with

endless capabilities. Thus, it is important that the test and

measurement systems evolve in the very same way. It is

necessary to switch from traditional instruments commonly

divided by the type of signal to measure (RF analog, RF

digital, DC, optical, and so on) to an unified architecture that

integrates all the relevant measurement capabilities in a single

instrument.

In [25] a first iteration for this kind of emerging approaches was presented, wherein it was suggested a synchronous laboratory-based mixed-signal test bench tailored to

the characterization of mixed-signal components or systems.

Later, a more detailed overview of measurement strategies

and solutions suitable for the characterization and behavior

modeling of mixed-signal systems was presented in [26].

There is yet some open issues to be solved, as for instance,

create a more widespread solution for the measurement setup.

Having this in mind, Fig. 6 shows a generalized architecture

for this kind of mixed-signal instrumentation that is capable

to perform linear and nonlinear characterization of mixedsignal receivers or transmitters. As can be observed, the analog

channels share the configuration of a network analyzer. The

remaining port is a digital channel taking the properties of a

logic analyzer, in which the signals are no longer analog, but

are actually bit sequences.

In Fig. 7 a picture of the proposed instrument prototype is

depicted.

(VNA) using more than one port, a standard that can relate

the response between ports must be used in order to obtain a

traceable relationship between all the ports [27]. For example,

in traditional calibration strategies as Short Open Load Thru

(SOLT) or Thru Reflective Line (TRL), the Thru, in the first

case, and the Line, in the second case, were the calibration

standards responsible for this error correction.

Moreover, in nonlinear analog characterization, using for

instance a Nonlinear Vector Network Analyzer (NVNA), more

complex calibration methods have to be employed in order to

get cross-frequency relationship, both magnitude and phase

relationships [28]. For this purpose, a power meter is used for

magnitude and a phase reference for phase (typically a Comb

Generator (CG)). Using this strategy the Thru standard can

be left out of the calibration procedure, but both magnitude

and phase standards need to be applied at all the ports of the

instrument [29].

Contrary to analog-based approaches, in a mixed-signal

system it is more difficult to develop a calibration strategy

able to correct all the measurement errors. This is mainly

because a calibration reference for the mixed-signal Thru (a

connection between the analog and the digital ports) is totally

non-existent.

Either way, in the last few years, several attempts have

been taken to surpass this limitation when approaching diverse mixed-signal laboratory arrangements for mixed-signal

receivers and transmitters characterization, as presented in

[21], [30].

The employed strategy, in [21], was similar to the one

discussed before for nonlinear analog measurements, using

a mixer-based instrument [28], [29]. This analog calibration

strategy is usually called as Absolute Calibration, since it

establishes an absolute magnitude and phase value at the

analog calibration plane.

Since, the digital waves are conceptual power-waves, their

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

Digital domain

ITx

Analog domain

R

90

Quadrature

NCO

IFb

90

Quadrature

NCO

V. A PPLICATION E XAMPLES

This new approach to the characterization of mixed-signal

systems, allows to combine analog and digital parts in a

seamless way, so that digital and analog RF engineers can

work on a common language and framework.

Actually, the outcome behavioral model of this characterization will allow engineers to integrate these devices with

a great confidence inside CAD/CAE simulators, and optimize

the overall system performance. Besides, it will also allow real

time RF systems to be able to adapt and to compensate for

non-ideal behaviors appearing during real operation.

In this respect, the first application example is the characterization of an RF DAC. Predictions suggest that these

devices will be strongly used in the next generation of wireless

communications, not only at the terminal side, but actually at

the base station side, through the use of remote radio head

units [12]. Besides, RF DACs are already being used in SDR

solutions and digital pre-distorter systems, see Fig. 9. Thus,

a characterization of these components is a crucial point in

order to allow a more agile, faster and cheaper design stage

of the end product.

QFb

RF ADC

Atten.

employing high-speed mixed-signal devices.

0

10

dB

20

30

Normal Mode 2.5GSPS

Mix Mode 2.5GSPS

Normal Mode 2.2GSPS

Mix Mode 2.2GSPS

Normal Mode 1.8GSPS

Mix Mode 1.8GSPS

40

50

60

0

500

1000

1500

MHz

2000

2500

3000

(a)

0

dB

magnitude value can be directly related to the absolute corrected analog waves.

However, the use of this method is not enough to correct for

phase measurement errors. In other words analog and digital

waves will not appear fully synchronized. Because, the phase

reference device cannot be employed at the digital port and

the phase of a wave is a temporal non-static measurement that

does not have any absolute meaning, i.e., a phase of a wave

can only be defined in relation to other wave or to a time

reference. Thus, additionally procedures have to be employed

to surpass this issue. One way to handle this, can be based on

[31] where a mixed-signal synchronization was obtain for a

sampler-based instrument (in that case an oscilloscope) with

the use of a reference signal and a trigger.

It is important to stress that for both linear and nonlinear

characterizations the absolute calibration method must be

employed at the analog side. Thus, the power meter and the

CG must be always used.

In the current prototype, a commercial power meter is

being used to calibrate for the absolute power, while an inhouse developed CG is being used for the absolute phase

calibration step. In Fig. 8, it is shown a photo of the used CG.

Moreover, the CGs performance was evaluated in [32], where

its applicability for instrument calibration was also discussed.

PA

BPF

180

10

20

180

Mag.

Phase

30

40

0

500

1000

deg

Figure 8.

QTx

RF DAC

360

1500

MHz

2000

2500

540

3000

(b)

Figure 10. Measured linear D-parametersTM extracted from an RF DAC at

different operating modes: (a) magnitude of gain (D31 ), and (b) magnitude

and angle of D33 .

shows the variation of the |D31 | with frequency, as it is visible

the output signal varies from operation mode to operation

mode. If for instance, the RF DAC is used in a DPD system,

this behavior can degrade completely the implemented digital

algorithm. In Fig. 10(b), the output matching (D33 ) can also

be depicted. Naturally, both its magnitude and phase vary

over frequency. Once again, this behavior is of paramount

importance when designing a system, since it can degrade the

matching between the RF DAC and the antenna or PA, and

thus, impact strongly the FoM of the overall system.

8. CONGRESSO DO COMITE PORTUGUES

10

DS310,110

DS311,110

DS311,110

DS

312,110

10

15

10

5

Input Power dBm

20

250

40

200

50

0

(a)

200

400

600

Freq. (MHz)

20

30

(b)

Figure 11. Several nonlinear multi-port D-parameter kernels obtained from

measurements, value over input power: (a) Magnitude of 4 kernels which

relate the input at the fundamental with the output at the fundamental of 4

consecutive NZs; (b) Magnitude of 4 kernels which relate the input at the

fundamental with the output at the second and third harmonics of 2 NZs.

will be employed to characterize a complete digital transmitter,

a system as the one represented in the upper branch of Fig. 9

without the filter at the output. Several of the measured kernels

are shown on Fig. 11, over a sweep of the input power.

Fig. 11(a) shows the equivalent magnitude gain (from the

digital input to the analog output) of the fundamental at four

consecutive NZs. As expected, with the progression to higher

NZs the overall gain value decreases. It can also be observed in

Fig. 11(b) that the output 2nd and 3rd order harmonics increase

with the increase of the input power, for two different NZs (the

1st and the 3rd ), which again represents an expected behavior.

The information gathered with this type of characterization

would allow design engineers to improve their pre-distortion

techniques to linearize the overall system, and like that improving the outcome of the system.

As mentioned before, the receiver side can also be characterized by this framework. As a last example, in Fig. 12

it is shown the D11 and the D13 linear D-parametersTM over

frequency, from a medium CLK frequency ADC. The results

shown here are from [30].

VI. C ONCLUSIONS

In this paper a complete framework for characterizing

mixed-signal devices is presented (for both SoCs and full

discrete component systems). This type of characterization is

of fundamental importance, not only for SDR system designers, but also for DPD designers for PA optimization. Actually

the correct characterization of the mixed-signal components

Mag. (dB)

DS320,110

DS321,110

DS330,110

DS331,110

10

5

Input Power dBm

150

1000

150

Mag.

Group Delay 120

0

10

15

800

(a)

40

300

30

10

Mag dB

350

Mag.

Phase

90

60

30

8

0

Freq. (MHz)

GD (nsec)

20

400

10

Mag. (dB)

Mag dB

20

Phase (deg)

30

(b)

Figure 12. Measured linear D-parametersTM of an ADC over frequency, from

[28]: (a) magnitude and phase of D11 ; (b) magnitude and group delay of D13 .

circuits [12].

In short, the D-parametersTM framework was presented, instrumentation for its extraction was discussed, and some

examples were given to show the importance of the proposed

approach.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors would like to thank National Instruments,

especially Dr. Marc Vanden Bossche, for the support given

to this work.

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[11] J. Wood, Modeling and Simulation of RF and Microwave Systems,

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2012.

10

do Zezere, Portugal in 1988. He received the M.Sc.

degree in Electronics and Telecommunications Engineering in December 2011 at Universidade de

Aveiro. He is now a PhD student in the same

university, since September 2012.

Mr. Ribeiro has as main interest software-defined

radio measurement and nonlinear mixed-signal characterization. In 2012, he was recognized with the

Best Student Paper Award 2012 at the 6th Congress

of Portuguese Committee of URSI, and with the 2nd

prize in the IMS2013 Measurement Student Design Competition.

Portugal in 1982. He received a M.Sc. in Electronics

and Telecommunications Engineering (2008) and a

PhD in Electrical Engineering (2012), both from

Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal.

From Sept. 2006 to April 2007, he has worked at

Portugal Telecom Inovaca o as a trainee in a project

of localization systems based in wireless devices.

Currently, he is a post-doctoral researcher with the

Instituto de Telecomunicaco es (IT) being involved

in the characterization and modeling of nonlinear

distortion in software defined radio and cognitive radio front ends, as well as,

high-speed data converters (A/D & D/A).

He is a reviewer for IET Electronics Letters, IEEE TCAS-I, TCAS-II and

JETCAS and co-authored more than 20 international and national papers

including book chapters, journals and conferences. He has been recognized

with the 3rd place in the GAAS Association PhD Student Fellowship for

EuMIC 2009.

born in Luanda, Angola, in 1972. He received the

Diploma and Doctoral degrees in electronics and

telecommunications engineering from the University

of Aveiro, Aveiro, Portugal, in 1995 and 2000,

respectively.

He is currently a Full Professor and a Senior

Research Scientist with the Institute of Telecommunications, University of Aveiro. He co-authored

Intermodulation in Microwave and Wireless Circuits

(Artech House, 2003) and Microwave and Wireless

Measurement Techniques (Cambridge University Press, 2013). He has been

a reviewer and author of over 100 papers in magazines and conferences.

He is associate editor of the IEEE Transactions on Microwave Theory

and Techniques, IEEE Microwave Magazine and Cambridge Wireless Power

Transfer Journal.

He is the co-inventor of four patents. His main research interests include

software-defined radio front-ends, wireless power transmission, nonlinear distortion analysis in microwave/wireless circuits and systems, and measurement

of nonlinear phenomena. He has recently been involved in the design of

dedicated radios and systems for newly emerging wireless technologies.

Dr. Borges Carvalho is the chair of the IEEE MTT-11 Technical Committee

and the chair of the IEEE Portuguese Section. He is the chair of the URSIPortugal Metrology Group. He was the recipient of the 1995. University of

Aveiro and the Portuguese Engineering Association Prize for the best 1995

student at the University of Aveiro, the 1998 Student Paper Competition (Third

Place) of the IEEE Microwave Theory and Techniques Society (IEEE MTT-S)

International Microwave Symposium (IMS), and the 2000 IEE Measurement

Prize.

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