In section VII: The Capacity of a channel in the presence of white thermal noise in his 1949 paper Communication in the presence of noise, C.E.Shannon says, that for a signal with average power P, the total number of reasonably distinguishable amplitudes in the presence of white noise with average power N, is given by



K is a small constant in the neighborhood of unity depending on how the phrase reasonably well is interpreted.

I wonder where above formula comes from and if it has any deeper theoretical background, since for me it seems just like a simple metric: The Rx signal's amplitude has a standard deviation of


the noises amplitude standard deviation is

$$\sigma_\text{Tx} = \sqrt{N},$$ so above formula gives the factor by which the Rx's signals amplitude is larger than the noise amplitude that corrupts that signal on average. But why not compare the Tx signal's amplitudes to the noise amplitudes?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Probaly this is rather a question for dsp.SE? \$\endgroup\$ – Andy Ef Apr 9 at 10:33
  • \$\begingroup\$ What is Shannon's criteria for "reasonably distinguishable amplitudes"? This sounds like "bit error probability" metric. Also, his paper appeared before the work on "maximum likelihood detection" theories. Has this part of Shannon's philosophy (not to criticize him, but concepts do evolve) been superseded? \$\endgroup\$ – analogsystemsrf Apr 9 at 11:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ @analogsystemsrf They haven't. \$\endgroup\$ – MBaz Apr 9 at 20:00

Because the signal levels at the transmitter are irrelevant at the receiver. The only thing the receiver sees are the signal levels after they have been attenuated by the channel — and have had noise added to them.


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.