Iterative Timing Recovery for Magnetic Recording Channels with Low Signal-to-Noise Ratio
Nayak, Aravind Ratnakar
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Digital communication systems invariably employ an underlying analog communication channel. At the transmitter, data is modulated to obtain an analog waveform which is input to the channel. At the receiver, the output of the channel needs to be mapped back into the discrete domain. To this effect, the continuous-time received waveform is sampled at instants chosen by the timing recovery block. Therefore, timing recovery is an essential component of digital communication systems. A widely used timing recovery method is based on a phase-locked loop (PLL), which updates its timing estimates based on a decision-directed device. Timing recovery performance is a strong function of the reliability of decisions, and hence, of the channel signal-to-noise ratio (SNR). Iteratively decodable error-control codes (ECCs) like turbo codes and LDPC codes allow operation at SNRs lower than ever before, thus exacerbating timing recovery. We propose iterative timing recovery, where the timing recovery block, the equalizer and the ECC decoder exchange information, giving the timing recovery block access to decisions that are much more reliable than the instantaneous ones. This provides significant SNR gains at a marginal complexity penalty over a conventional turbo equalizer where the equalizer and the ECC decoder exchange information. We also derive the Cramer-Rao bound, which is a lower bound on the estimation error variance of any timing estimator, and propose timing recovery methods that outperform the conventional PLL and achieve the Cramer-Rao bound in some cases. At low SNR, timing recovery suffers from cycle slips, where the receiver drops or adds one or more symbols, and consequently, almost always the ECC decoder fails to decode. Iterative timing recovery has the ability to corrects cycle slips. To reduce the number of iterations, we propose cycle slip detection and correction methods. With iterative timing recovery, the PLL with cycle slip detection and correction recovers most of the SNR loss of the conventional receiver that separates timing recovery and turbo equalization.