A Channel-Aware Adaptive Modem for Underwater Acoustic Communications

Giovanni Ettore Galioto, Daniele Croce, Stefano Mangione, Ilenia Tinnirello, Daniele Croce, Stefano Mangione, Giovanni Ettore Galioto, Ilenia Tinnirello, Chiara Petrioli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Acoustic underwater channels are very challenging, because of limited bandwidth, long propagation delays, extended multipath, severe attenuation, rapid time variation and large Doppler shifts. A plethora of underwater communication techniques have been developed for dealing with such a complexity, mostly tailoring specific applications scenarios which can not be considered as one-size-fits-all solutions. Indeed, the design of environment-specific solutions is especially critical for modulations with high spectral efficiency, which are very sensitive to channel characteristics. In this paper, we design and implement a software-defined modem able to dynamically estimate the acoustic channel conditions, tune the parameters of a OFDM modulator as a function of the environment, or switch to a more robust JANUS/FSK modulator in case of harsh propagation conditions. The temporal variability of the channel behavior is summarized in terms of maximum delay spread and Doppler spread. We present a very efficient solution for deriving these parameters and discuss the limit conditions under which the OFDM modulator can work. In such scenarios, we also calibrate the prefix length and the number of sub-carriers for limiting the inter-symbol interference and signal distortions due to the Doppler effect. We validate our estimation and adaptation techniques by using both a custom-made simulator for time-varying underwater channels and the well-known Watermark simulator, as well as real in field experiments. Our results show that, for many practical cases, a dynamic adjustment of the prefix length and number of sub-carriers may enable the utilization of OFDM modulations in underwater communications, while in harsher environments JANUS can be used as a fall-back modulation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)76340-76353
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Access
Publication statusPublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Computer Science
  • General Materials Science
  • General Engineering


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