Underwater acoustic communication channels: Propagation models and statistical characterization Academic Article uri icon


  • Acoustic propagation is characterized by three major factors: attenuation that increases with signal frequency, time-varying multipath propagation, and low speed of sound (1500 m/s). The background noise, although often characterized as Gaussian, is not white, but has a decaying power spectral density. The channel capacity depends on the distance, and may be extremely limited. Because acoustic propagation is best supported at low frequencies, although the total available bandwidth may be low, an acoustic communication system is inherently wideband in the sense that the bandwidth is not negligible with respect to its center frequency. The channel can have a sparse impulse response, where each physical path acts as a time-varying low-pass filter, and motion introduces additional Doppler spreading and shifting. Surface waves, internal turbulence, fluctuations in the sound speed, and other small-scale phenomena contribute to random signal variations. At this time, there are no standardized models for the acoustic channel fading, and experimental measurements are often made to assess the statistical properties of the channel in particular deployment sites.

publication date

  • January 2009