Performance Monitoring for Live Systems with Soft FEC and Multilevel Modulation
Journal article, 2020

Performance monitoring is an essential function for margin measurements in live systems. Historically, system budgets have been described by the Q-factor converted from the bit error rate (BER) under binary modulation and direct detection. The introduction of hard forward error correction (FEC) did not change this. In recent years, technologies have changed significantly to comprise coherent detection, multilevel modulation and soft FEC. In such advanced systems, different metrics such as (nomalized) generalized mutual information (GMI/NGMI) and asymmetric information (ASI) are regarded as being more reliable. On the other hand, Q budgets are still useful because pre-FEC BER monitoring is established in industry for live system monitoring. The pre-FEC BER is easily estimated from available information of the number of flipped bits in the FEC decoding, which does not require knowledge of the transmitted bits that are unknown in live systems. Therefore, the use of metrics like GMI/NGMI/ASI for performance monitoring has not been possible in live systems. However, in this work we propose a blind soft-performance estimation method. Based on a histogram of log-likelihood-values without the knowledge of the transmitted bits, we show how the ASI can be estimated. We examine the proposed method experimentally for 16- and 64-ary quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) and probabilistically shaped 16-, 64-, and 256-QAM in recirculating loop experiments. We see a relative error of {3.6}\%, which corresponds to around 0.5\,\mathrm{dB} signal-to-noise ratio difference for binary modulation, in the regime where the ASI is larger than the assumed FEC threshold. For this proposed method, the digital signal processing circuitry requires only the minimal additional function of storing the L-value histograms before the soft FEC decoder.

optical fiber communication

forward error correction

Bit error rate

bitwise decoding

probabilistic shaping

mutual information

performance monitoring



Tsuyoshi Yoshida

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation

Mikael Mazur

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Jochen Schröder

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Magnus Karlsson

Chalmers, Microtechnology and Nanoscience (MC2), Photonics

Erik Agrell

Chalmers, Electrical Engineering, Communication and Antenna Systems, Communication Systems

Journal of Lightwave Technology

0733-8724 (ISSN)

Vol. 38 11 2912-2921 9043534

Subject Categories


Control Engineering

Signal Processing



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