Understanding Phase noise and jitter

  • 31 May, 2024
  • by Roland Teoh

Understanding phase noise and jitter is essential in the fields of telecommunications, electronics, and signal processing, as they both represent imperfections in signal timing that can affect the performance and reliability of systems.

Phase Noise:

• Definition: Phase noise refers to the rapid, short-term, random fluctuations in the phase of a waveform, caused by time domain instabilities.

• Representation: It is usually represented in the frequency domain and shown as the spectral density of phase deviations from an ideal carrier wave.

• Impact: High phase noise can degrade the performance of communication systems, radars, and precision measurement instruments by causing errors in signal interpretation and reducing signal-to-noise ratio (SNR).

• Applications: In RF (Radio Frequency) communications and radar systems, low phase noise is crucial for maintaining the clarity and integrity of signals, especially in narrowband applications where signal quality is paramount.


• Definition: Jitter is the deviation from true periodicity of a presumably periodic signal, often in relation to a reference clock signal. It encompasses variations in both the timing of the pulse edges and the signal’s phase.

• Types: Jitter can be categorized into several types, including random jitter (intrinsic to electronic systems), deterministic jitter (predictable and repeatable), and total jitter (the combination of all jitter components).

• Impact: Jitter can cause bit errors in digital communication systems by leading to timing errors, resulting in the corruption of data. In high-speed data transmission, even small amounts of jitter can be significant.

• Applications: Jitter is a critical parameter in digital communications, data converters (ADCs/DACs), and any system relying on precise timing for data transmission and processing.

Relationship Between Phase Noise and Jitter:

• Phase noise and jitter are related concepts but from different perspectives. Phase noise is viewed in the frequency domain, whereas jitter is observed in the time domain.

• In many cases, especially in oscillators and clock signals, phase noise can be converted to jitter. High phase noise in the frequency domain implies high jitter in the time domain, impacting the timing accuracy of digital signals.

• For applications requiring high precision and stability, such as high-speed data transmission, satellite communication, and precision measurements, minimizing both phase noise and jitter is essential to ensure system performance and reliability.

In summary, both phase noise and jitter are critical in evaluating the quality and performance of electronic and communication systems, and efforts to minimize these factors are vital in the design and optimization of such systems.

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