Carrier loop architectures for tracking weak GPS signals

Alireza Razavi, Demoz Gebre-Egziabher, Dennis M. Akos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations


The performance of various carrier recovery loop architectures (phase lock loop (PLL), Doppler-aided PLL, frequency lock loop (FLL), and Doppler-aided FLL) in tracking weak GPS signals are analyzed and experimentally validated. The effects of phase or frequency detector design, oscillator quality, coherent averaging time, and external Doppler aiding information on delaying loss of lock are quantified. It is shown that for PLLs the metric of total phase jitter is a reliable metric for assessing low C=N performance of the tracking loop provided the loop bandwidth is not too small (∼ 5 Hz). For loop bandwidths that are not too small, total phase jitter accurately predicts carrier-to-noise ratio (C=N) at which loss of lock occurs. This predicted C=N is very close to the C=N predicted by bit error rate (BER). However, unlike BER, total phase jitter can be computed in real-time and an estimator for it is developed and experimentally validated. Total phase jitter is not a replacement for BER, since at low bandwidths it is less accurate than BER in that the receiver loses lock at a higher C=N than predicted by the estimator. Similarly, for FLLs operating at small loop bandwidths, it is found that normalized total frequency jitter is not a reliable metric for assessing loss of lock in weak signal or low C=N conditions. At small loop bandwidths, while total frequency jitter may indicate that a loop is still tracking, the Doppler estimates provided by the FLL will be biased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)697-710
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Aerospace and Electronic Systems
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2008


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