Pulse Code Modulation (PCM) | web4study

Pulse Code Modulation (PCM)

Category: Bachelor of Computer Science , Data Communications and Networking ,

The most common technique to change an analog signal to digital data (digitization) is called pulse code modulation (PCM). A PCM encoder has three processes, as shown in Figure 4.21.

Components of PCM encoder
  • 1. The analog signal is sampled.
  • 2. The sampled signal is quantized.
  • 3. The quantized values are encoded as streams of bits.


The first step in PCM is a sampling. The analog signal is sampled every Ts s, where Ts is the sample interval or period. The inverse of the sampling interval is called the sampling rate or sampling frequency and denoted by fs, where fs = 1/Ts. There are three sampling methods—ideal, natural, and flat-top—as shown in Figure 4.22.

Three different sampling methods for PCM

In ideal sampling, pulses from the analog signal are sampled. This is an ideal sampling method and cannot be easily implemented. In natural sampling, a high-speed switch is turned on for only the small period of time when the sampling occurs. The result is a sequence of samples that retains the shape of the analog signal. The most common sampling method, called sample and hold, however, creates flat-top samples by using a circuit.


The result of sampling is a series of pulses with amplitude values between the maximum and minimum amplitudes of the signal. The set of amplitudes can be infinite with nonintegral values between the two limits. These values cannot be used in the encoding process. The following are the steps in quantization:

  • 1. We assume that the original analog signal has instantaneous amplitudes between Vmin and Vmax.
  • 2. We divide the range into L zones, each of height Δ (delta).
  • 3. We assign quantized values of 0 to L − 1 to the midpoint of each zone.
  • 4. We approximate the value of the sample amplitude to the quantized values.

As a simple example, assume that we have a sampled signal and the sample amplitudes are between −20 and +20 V. We decide to have eight levels (L = 8). This means that Δ = 5 V. Figure 4.26 shows this example.

Quantization and encoding of a sampled signal


The last step in PCM is encoding. After each sample is quantized and the number of bits per sample is decided, each sample can be changed to an nb-bit code word. In Figure 4.26 the encoded-words are shown in the last row. A quantization code of 2 is encoded as 010; 5 is encoded as 101; and so on. Note that the number of bits for each sample is determined from the number of quantization levels. If the number of quantization levels is L, the number of bits is nb = log2 L. In our example L is 8 and nb is therefore 3. The bit rate can be found from the formula

Bit rate = sampling rate * number of bits per sample = fs * nb

Original Signal Recovery:

The recovery of the original signal requires the PCM decoder. The decoder first uses circuitry to convert the code words into a pulse that holds the amplitude until the next pulse. After the staircase signal is completed, it is passed through a low-pass filter to smooth the staircase signal into an analog signal. The filter has the same cutoff frequency as the original signal at the sender. If the signal has been sampled at (or greater than) the Nyquist sampling rate and if there are enough quantization levels, the original signal will be recreated. Note that the maximum and minimum values of the original signal can be achieved by using amplification. Figure 4.27 shows the simplified process.

Components of a PCM decoder

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