Noise level

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Electronic noise is a random fluctuation in an electrical signal, a characteristic of all electronic circuits. Noise generated by electronic devices varies greatly, as it can be produced by several different effects. Thermal and shot noise are unavoidable and due to the laws of nature, rather than to the device exhibiting them, while other types depend mostly on manufacturing quality and semiconductor defects.

In communication systems, the noise is an error or undesired random disturbance of a useful information signal, introduced before or after the detector and decoder. The noise is a summation of unwanted or disturbing energy from natural and sometimes man-made sources. Noise is, however, typically distinguished from interference, (e.g. cross-talk, deliberate jamming or other unwanted electromagnetic interference from specific transmitters), for example in the signal-to-noise ratio (SNR), signal-to-interference ratio (SIR) and signal-to-noise plus interference ratio (SNIR) measures. Noise is also typically distinguished from distortion, which is an unwanted alteration of the signal waveform, for example in the signal-to-noise and distortion ratio (SINAD). In a carrier-modulated passband analog communication system, a certain carrier-to-noise ratio (CNR) at the radio receiver input would result in a certain signal-to-noise ratio in the detected message signal. In a digital communications system, a certain Eb/N0 (normalized signal-to-noise ratio) would result in a certain bit error rate (BER).

While noise is generally unwanted, it can serve a useful purpose in some applications, such as random number generation or dithering.


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