Fundamentals of Communications Technology

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This Course Guide has been taken from the most recent presentation of the course. It would be useful for reference purposes but please note that there may be updates for the following presentation.


Fundamentals of Communications Technology

ELEC S211 Fundamentals of Communications Technology is a one-year, ten-credit, middle-level course that serves as a core module of the BSc and BSc (Hons) in Communications Technology and the BSc (Hons) Communications Technology with Management. It is also suitable as a 'one-off' course for anyone who does not intend to complete an HKMU qualification, but who wants to learn the fundamentals of communications technology.

Although there are no compulsory prerequisites for this course, you are advised to have taken MATH S122 or equivalent, and have a basic knowledge of operating computers in a compatible Microsoft Windows environment. You will also need English and mathematics skills at university level to complete the course.

This course consists of a study guide comprising nine units involving basic communications, signal analysis in time-domain and frequency-domain, the principles of analogue modulations, the analogue-to-digital conversion process, and the principles of digital baseband modulation and transmission. All nine units are based on readings from a custom textbook.


What you will learn in this course

The overall aim of ELEC S211 Fundamentals of Communications Technology is to introduce you to the fundamental principles and applications of communications technology.

At the beginning of the course you will learn about the fundamental principles of communications, including the development history and transmission media of analogue and digital communications. To understand the theory of communications, you will see that signal analysis is important. Both signals and systems in time-continuous and discrete-time domains are introduced. In addition, a set of functions including signum, step, ramp, and impulse are examined, and the effects of operations on systems are discussed.

In communications theories, the Fourier series and its properties must be introduced. Extending to aperiodic function, the Fourier series is generalized to the Fourier transform, which will also be discussed and analysed, and the properties of the Fourier transform will also be examined in the context of their use and application.

Signal transmission requires various forms of modulation, in particular amplitude modulation and frequency modulation. This course explores various modulation schemes, including conventional AM, DSB-SC AM, SSD AM, and vestigial-sideband. Their spectra, power content, and demodulation are evaluated, and multiplexing is also explored.

Frequency modulation (FM) is introduced. Its basic concept, spectrum, and power content are evaluated. Narrowband FM and its spectral characteristics are also evaluated. Various techniques of demodulation are considered, such as bandpass limiters and frequency discriminators. The phase-locked loop is an important application for the demodulation of FM signals; this is also explained and discussed.

Noise inevitably happens during signal transmission. This course introduces different types of noise, including thermal and shot noise, and characteristics of system noise are discussed. To reduce noise in communication systems, different filters will be contrasted. The power spectrum showing filter performance is also examined, and Bode plots and their graphical representation of frequency responses will also be discussed.

The conversion of analogue signals to digital signals in communication systems will then be introduced. Sampling theory, aliasing, quantization, and encoding processes for the conversion of signals are discussed. Pulse Code Modulation (PCM), differential PCM, delta modulation, and sigma-delta modulation will be analysed.

In digital baseband modulation, different line-coding that produce different spectra will be contrasted. Pulse shaping to improve spectral efficiency is important, and will also be evaluated.

Finally, the fundamental concepts and techniques of digital carrier modulation are introduced. Alternative representations of digitally-modulated bandpass signals are considered, and various forms of demodulation are reviewed.

As you can see, after you have finished this course, you should have gained a broad understanding of communications technology, from its origins to today's digital information transmission.


Course aims

Skills relating to concept building and reasoning are the main objectives to be achieved in this course. These skills will be beneficial if you pursue your studies beyond this course. The overall aims of ELEC S211 Fundamentals of Communications Technology are therefore to:

  • teach you the basic principles, technologies, and practices of communication systems;
  • enable you to describe signals in the time domain and the frequency domain;
  • equip you with a basic understanding of conversion from analogue to digital signals; and
  • illustrate to you how digital baseband signals are modulated and transmitted.

Course learning outcomes

Upon completion of ELEC S211 Fundamentals of Communications Technology, you should be able to:

  • analyse and evaluate basic communications systems;
  • describe and analyse signals in both the time domain and the frequency domain;
  • evaluate the principles of operations in AM and FM;
  • analyse the analogue-to-digital conversion process; and
  • explain the principles of digital modulation and transmission.

Course overview

The following table gives a general overview of the course structure. It suggests the amount of time you should allow for completing units and provides a broad schedule for you to plan your work. This estimation includes time for reading the units and custom textbook, completing activities, self-tests and assignments, attending tutorials and surgeries, and preparing for your final examination.


UnitUnit titleFace-to-face supportSummative assessment
1Principles of communicationTutorial 1
Surgery 1
2Mathematical description of signalsTutorial 1
Surgery 1
3Time-domain system analysisTutorial 2
Surgery 2
Assignment 1
4Frequency-domain system analysisTutorial 3
Surgery 3
5Amplitude modulationTutorial 4
Surgery 4
Assignment 2
6Frequency modulationTutorial 5
Surgery 5
7Noise and filtersTutorial 6
Surgery 6
Assignment 3
8Conversion of analogue signals to digital signalsTutorial 7
Surgery 7
9Digital modulationTutorial 8 and 9
Surgery 8 and 9
Assignment 4

To complete this course, you are required to read the study guide, custom textbook, and other materials provided by HKMU.

Your study pathway through the custom textbook is set out in an HKMU-produced study guide. Each unit contains self-assessment exercises that you are encouraged to complete so that you understand the course content thoroughly. You will also have access to course materials on HKMU's Online Learning Environment (OLE), and regular face-to-face meetings for surgeries and tutorials.

In addition, you are required to submit assignments for assessment purposes. The course ends with a final examination.

This next section introduces you to the teaching materials for the course.


Study guide

The study guide serves two functions. First, it provides you with information on the aims, learning outcomes, assessment strategies, and means of support for this course. Second, it sets out your study pathway through the custom textbook and other course learning resources, and provides supplementary material and additional self-assessment opportunities.

The study guide for ELEC S211 consists of nine units:

Unit 1 Principles of communication

Unit 2 Mathematical description of signals

Unit 3 Time-domain system analysis

Unit 4 Frequency-domain system analysis

Unit 5 Amplitude modulation

Unit 6 Frequency modulation

Unit 7 Noise and filters

Unit 8 Conversion of analogue signals to digital signals

Unit 9 Digital modulation


Custom textbook

Selections from the following two books are included in your custom textbook for this course:

  • Mesiya, M F (2013) Contemporary Communication Systems, International Edition, New York: McGraw-Hill Education
  • Roberts, M J (2017) Signals and Systems: Analysis Using Transform Methods and MATHLAB, 3rd edn (International Edition), New York: McGraw-Hill Education

The first book introduces basic principles of communications, analogue modulation, the conversion process from analogue to digital signals, and principles of digital modulation and transmission. The second book focuses on signal analysis of the time and frequency domains.


Assignment File

The Assignment File will be posted on the OLE in due course. This file provides all the details of the work you must submit to your tutor for marking. The marks of assignments that you obtain will be counted towards the final mark of this course. Further information on assignments can be in the Assignment File itself, and later in this Course Guide in the section on assessment.


Presentation schedule

The presentation schedule is available on the Online Learning Environment (OLE). It gives you the important dates for the year in completion of assignments and attending tutorials.

You are required to submit the assignments by the due dates. You should guard against falling behind in your work.

This course is designed to assist you in moving easily from the stated objectives, through the study units, readings and materials to the assignments and examination. You will be expected to apply concepts and techniques acquired during the course when completing assignments. You will also undertake regular activities and self-tests while working your way through the study units, textbook and readings.

  • Formative assessment includes various activities, self-tests, and online discussions that you will undertake while working your way through the study units, textbook, and readings.
  • Summative assessment consists of assignments and a final examination.


There are four compulsory assignments for the course. Each one is worth 12.5% of the total marks for the course. The assignments' unit coverage and learning outcomes are outlined in the course marking scheme below.


Final examination and grading

The final examination for ELEC S211 Fundamentals of Communications Technology will be a written examination which is worth 50% of the total course grade. The purpose of the examination is to assess your understanding of the material covered in the entire course, achieving all five of the course learning outcomes. The duration of the examination will be three hours.


Course marking scheme

The summative assessment items are outlined in the following table:


Course learning outcomes (LO)Assessment item
(coverage and question types)
LO1 and LO2Assignment 1 — Units 1 to 3
(short and long answer questions)
LO2 and LO3Assignment 2 — Units 4 to 5
(short and long answer questions)
LO1 and LO3Assignment 3 — Units 6 to 7
(short and long answer questions)
LO4 and LO5Assignment 4 — Units 8 to 9
(short and long answer questions)
LO1 to LO5Final examination50%

Face-to-face support

There are several face-to-face tutorials and surgeries to support you in this course. You will be notified of the dates, times, and location of these tutorials, as well as the name and phone number of your tutor when your tutorial group is assigned.


E-submission of assignments

There are four assignments for this course all of which are in the form of exercises. You are required to submit your assignments via the e-submission system provided on the OLE. You must submit your assignments on or before the corresponding due date. You can prepare your assignments using word processing software (e.g. Word) and then upload a pdf file to the OLE, or you can complete your assignments on paper and convert them to soft copy by scanning or taking pictures. The recommended format is pdf, jpeg or png (note that the file size should be less than 10 Mb).

Your tutor will mark and comment on your assignments. Keep a close watch on progress and on any difficulties that you may have encountered. The assignments will be marked and returned as soon as possible.

Do not hesitate to contact your tutor by telephone, email, or discussion forum if needed. Contact your tutor if:

  • any part of thestudy units or the assigned readings is confusing to you;
  • you have any difficultywith the self-tests or exercises; or
  • there is a questionor problem with an assignment, or your tutor's comments on an assignment, orwith the grading of anassignment.

You are strongly advised to attend all tutorials. This is your only chance to have direct contact with your tutor and to get instant answers to your questions. To gain maximum benefit from course tutorials, prepare a question list before attending. You will learn a lot from participating in the discussions.

You will be supported throughout the course by ten tutorials and ten surgeries as follows:


UnitFace-to-face sessionsHours
1Tutorial 1: 2 hours
Surgery 1: 2 hours
2Tutorial 2: 2 hours
Surgery 2: 2 hours
3Tutorial 3: 2 hours
Surgery 3: 2 hours
4Tutorial 4: 2 hours
Surgery 4: 2 hours
5Tutorial 5: 2 hours
Surgery 5: 2 hours
6Tutorial 6: 2 hours
Surgery 6: 2 hours
7Tutorial 7: 2 hours
Surgery 7: 2 hours
8Tutorial 8: 2 hours
Surgery 8: 2 hours
9Tutorial 9: 2 hours
Surgery 9: 2 hours
RevisionTutorial 10: 2 hours
Surgery 10: 2 hours
Total 40


The Online Learning Environment (OLE)

Use of the Online Learning Environment (OLE) is mandatory in this course. Useful course information, your assignments, a discussion board, and the presentation schedule are available through the OLE.

This course provides nine study units in distance learning mode. You can study the units at your own pace in order to best fit your work and leisure schedule, but it is highly recommended that you follow the suggested timetable for assignments and tutorials.

Each unit in the Study Guide follows the same format, beginning with an introduction, then moving on to concepts, theories, and applications. You are advised to read the Study Guide at the beginning of a topic for a brief overview, then follow its guidance as you work through the custom textbook for details. If you have difficulties with the material in the custom textbook, go back to the Study Guide to see if the explanations it provides can help you to understand.

It is strongly recommended that you go through the examples in the custom textbook as they are the best way to understand the relevant concepts and theories. The Study Guide will remind you when examples are especially worth paying attention to.

Some self-test activities are given in the Study Guide with answers. You are advised to complete all of the questions assigned in the Study Guide because they will help to improve your understanding and preparation for assessment.

If you have any problems, you can telephone or email your tutor, or post the question on the OLE's discussion forum.

The following suggests a step-by-step guideline for working through the course.

  1. Read this Course Guide thoroughly.
  2. With reference to the 'Course overview', organize a personal study schedule which factors in the study hours per day for each unit and the tutorial timetable. You are advised to collate all the information in one place, such as in your diary or a wall calendar, and then to stick to your prefered method to compile your schedule for each unit.
  3. Once your study schedule is complied, try your best to stick to it. The reason that many students fail is that they fall behind on their course schedules and cannot catch up. If you have any difficulty with your own schedule, you are advised to let your tutor know before it is too late for help.
  4. Assemble the study materials you will need. You are advised to keep your custom textbooks on hand whenever you plan to study.
  5. Turn to Unit 1 and read the introduction.
  6. Work through the unit. The content of the unit provides a sequence to follow. As you work, you will be instructed to read sections from the custom textbook. Use the unit to guide your reading and learning.
  7. Keep an eye on the OLE; you should visit it at least twice a week. Up-to-date course information will be continuously posted there.
  8. Well before the relevant assignment due dates (about four weeks before the due dates), access the Assignment File on the OLE and download the next required assignment. Assignment questions will be made available for downloading from the OLE about four weeks before the corresponding due dates. Keep in mind that you will learn a lot by doing the assignments carefully. Make sure you submit your assignment by the due date.
  9. Review your study material regularly.
  10. When you are confident that you have mastered the material in a unit, you can prepare to go on to the next unit. Proceed unit by unit through the course and try to keep pace with your study schedule.
  11. When an assignment has been submitted for marking, do not wait for its return before starting next unit. Just keep to your schedule. When your assignment is returned, pay particular attention to your tutor's comments. Consult your tutor as soon as possible if you have any questions or problems.
  12. After completing the last unit, review the course materials to prepare for the final examination. Check if the course learning outcomes listed in this Course Guide have been achieved.

ELEC S211 introduces you to the fundamental principles and applications of communication systems. Upon completing this course, you will be equipped with basic knowledge of modern communication systems, and will be able to answer the following questions:

  • What are the functional components, types of transmission media, and development history of analogue and digital communication systems?
  • How can we analyse continuous-time and discrete-time signals using a mathematical approach?
  • How do signal functions operate?
  • How do we evaluate steps, impulse responses, and convolution?
  • How do we analyse the Fourier series and transform?
  • What are the principal operations of AM and FM transmissions?
  • What types of noise can occur in communication systems?
  • How can we contrast different types of noise filters?
  • How can we apply noise figures and the Friis formula in,communication systems?
  • How do we convert an analogue signal to a digital signal?
  • What are the principles of digital modulation and transmission?

Of course, the list of questions relevant to this course is not limited to only the above. To gain the most from this course, you should try to apply the principles you have learned about to the telecommunications products and systems that you encounter in daily life.

We wish you success with your study of this course, and hope that you find it both interesting and useful.

Ir Mak Kin-hing

Ir Mak is a member of the HKIE and is a CEng of IET. He received his BEng(Hons) degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from the University of Portsmouth (formerly Portsmouth Polytechnic) and MSc in Systems Engineering from the University of Surrey in 1986 and 1987, respectively. Later, he joined Ove Arup and Partners as an engineer in 1988, and Asia Satellite Telecommunication Company Limited as satellite control centre manager and customer service centre manager in 1989, focusing on satellite communications. He then joined the Vocational Training Centre as a lecturer teaching at IVE in 1994. His expertise is in signals and systems, control engineering, and communications engineering. He has also been a course leader in the Higher Diploma of Electronic and Communication Engineering, leading to the successful validation and accreditation of the HKIE and the HKCAA.