Abstract

A detailed analysis and comparison is carried out for optical wireless communications (OWCs) with coherent and subcarrier-intensity-modulation-based systems, which are the two major implementations for detection-threshold-free operation without irreducible error floors. Error rate performance is studied for communications with binary phase-shift keying, differential phase-shift keying, and noncoherent frequency-shift keying over weak-to-strong (gamma–gamma distributed) turbulence conditions. Series-form error rate expressions are also derived for diversity reception schemes, including maximum ratio combining, equal gain combining, and selection combining. Based on our analysis, it is found that coherent OWC systems typically outperform subcarrier intensity modulation systems, with 24–30 dB improvements in sensitivity, mainly due to their elimination of thermal and background noise effects. The performance improvements of coherent systems are confirmed through numerical studies. The findings can offer significant benefits for future OWC systems that are subject to transmitted power limitations.

© 2013 Optical Society of America

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