Analysis of the PLL phase error in presence of simulated ionospheric scintillation events

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The functioning of standard phase locked loops (PLL), including those used to track radio signals from Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS), is based on a linear approximation which holds in presence of small phase errors. Such an approximation represents a reasonable assumption in most of the propagation channels. However, in presence of a fading channel the phase error may become large, making the linear approximation no longer valid. The PLL is then expected to operate in a non-linear regime. As PLLs are generally designed and expected to operate in their linear regime, whenever the non-linear regime comes into play, they will experience a serious limitation in their capability to track the corresponding signals. The phase error and the performance of a
typical PLL embedded into a commercial multiconstellation GNSS receiver were analyzed in presence of simulated ionospheric scintillation. Large phase errors occurred during scintillation-induced signal fluctuations although cycle slips only occurred during the signal re-acquisition after a loss of lock. Losses of lock occurred whenever the signal faded below the minimum C/N0 threshold allowed for tracking. The simulations were performed for different signals (GPS L1C/A, GPS L2C, GPS L5 and Galileo L1). L5 and L2C proved to be weaker than L1. It appeared evident that the conditions driving the PLL phase error in the specific case of GPS receivers in presence of scintillation-induced signal perturbations need to be evaluated in terms of the combination of the minimum C/N0 tracking threshold, lock detector thresholds, possible cycle slips in the tracking PLL and accuracy of the observables (i.e. the error propagation onto the observables stage).
Original languageEnglish
Article numberRS3006
Number of pages21
JournalRadio Science
Issue number3
Early online date17 May 2012
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2012


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