The average bit error rate (BER) of optical communication systems is considered in the presence of random angular jitter. First, the received power and the BER in the absence of jitter are reviewed. Then the average BER is obtained in the presence of circularly symmetric, normally distributed jitter by using the probability density function of the optical signal. By minimizing the power penalty for average BER, the optimum ratio of the divergence angle of the laser beam to the random angular jitter at the desired BER is obtained. An analytic approximation of the optimum ratio is derived as a function of the desired average BER. The results can be used for designing the link budget of optical communication and tracking channels in the presence of jitter.
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