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Fit curve to nonsmooth empirical bit error rate (BER) data


fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber)
fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo)
fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo,options)
fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo,options,fittype)
[fitber,fitprops] = berfit(...)


fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber) fits a curve to the empirical BER data in the vector empber and returns a vector of fitted bit error rate (BER) points. The values in empber and fitber correspond to the Eb/N0 values, in dB, given by empEbNo. The vector empEbNo must be in ascending order and must have at least four elements.


The berfit function is intended for curve fitting or interpolation, not extrapolation. Extrapolating BER data beyond an order of magnitude below the smallest empirical BER value is inherently unreliable.

fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo) fits a curve to the empirical BER data in the vector empber corresponding to the Eb/N0 values, in dB, given by empEbNo. The function then evaluates the curve at the Eb/N0 values, in dB, given by fitEbNo and returns the fitted BER points. The length of fitEbNo must equal or exceed that of empEbNo.

fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo,options) uses the structure options to override the default options used for optimization. These options are the ones used by the fminsearch function. You can create the options structure using the optimset function. Particularly relevant fields are described in the table below.

options.DisplayLevel of display: 'off' (default) displays no output; 'iter' displays output at each iteration; 'final' displays only the final output; 'notify' displays output only if the function does not converge.
options.MaxFunEvalsMaximum number of function evaluations before optimization ceases. The default is 104.
options.MaxIterMaximum number of iterations before optimization ceases. The default is 104.
options.TolFunTermination tolerance on the closed-form function used to generate the fit. The default is 10-4.
options.TolXTermination tolerance on the coefficient values of the closed-form function used to generate the fit. The default is 10-4.

fitber = berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo,options,fittype) specifies which closed-form function berfit uses to fit the empirical data, from the possible fits listed in Algorithms below. fittype can be 'exp', 'exp+const', 'polyRatio', or 'doubleExp+const'. To avoid overriding default optimization options, use options = [].

[fitber,fitprops] = berfit(...) returns the MATLAB structure fitprops, which describes the results of the curve fit. Its fields are described in the table below.

fitprops.fitTypeThe closed-form function type used to generate the fit: 'exp', 'exp+const', 'polyRatio', or 'doubleExp+const'.
fitprops.coeffsThe coefficients used to generate the fit. If the function cannot find a valid fit, fitprops.coeffs is an empty vector.
fitprops.sumSqErrThe sum squared error between the log of the fitted BER points and the log of the empirical BER points.
fitprops.exitStateThe exit condition of berfit: 'The curve fit converged to a solution.', 'The maximum number of function evaluations was exceeded.', or 'No desirable fit was found'.
fitprops.funcCountThe number of function evaluations used in minimizing the sum squared error function.
fitprops.iterationsThe number of iterations taken in minimizing the sum squared error function. This is not necessarily equal to the number of function evaluations.

berfit(...) plots the empirical and fitted BER data.

berfit(empEbNo,empber,fitEbNo,options,'all') plots the empirical and fitted BER data from all the possible fits, listed in the Algorithms below, that return a valid fit. To avoid overriding default options, use options = [].


A valid fit must be

  • real-valued

  • monotonically decreasing

  • greater than or equal to 0 and less than or equal to 1

If a fit does not confirm to this criteria, it is rejected.


collapse all

These examples illustrate the syntax of the berfit function, but they use hard-coded or theoretical BER data for simplicity. For an example that uses empirical BER data from a simulation, see Curve Fitting An Error Rate Plot.

Best fit for a sample set of data

EbN0 = 0:13;
berdata = [.2 .15 .13 .12 .08 .09 .08 .07 .06 .04 .03 .02 .01 .004];

Plot the best fit. The curve connects the points created by evaluating the fit expression at the values in EbN0. To make the curve look smoother, use a syntax like berfit(EbN0,berdata,[0:0.2:13]). This alternative syntax uses more points when plotting the curve, but it does not change the fit expression.

Fit for a BER curve with an error floor

We generate the empirical BER array by simulating a channel with a null (ch = [0.5 0.47]) with BPSK modulation and linear MMSE equalizer at the receiver. We run the berfit with the 'all' option. The 'doubleExp+const' fit does not provide a valid fit, and the 'exp' fit type does not work well for this data. The 'exp+const' and 'polyRatio' fits closely match the simulated data.

EbN0 = -10:3:15;
empBER = [0.3361 0.3076 0.2470 0.1878 0.1212 0.0845 0.0650 0.0540 0.0474];
figure; berfit(EbN0, empBER, [], [], 'all');

Use of the options input structure as well as the fitprops output structure

The 'notify' value for the display level causes the function to produce output when one of the attempted fits does not converge. The exitState field of the output structure also indicates which fit converges and which fit does not.

M = 8; EbN0 = 3:10;
berdata = berfading(EbN0,'psk',M,2); % Compute theoretical BER.
noisydata = berdata.*[.93 .92 1 .59 .08 .15 .01 .01];
% Say when fit fails to converge.
options = optimset('display','notify');

disp('*** Trying exponential fit.') % Poor fit
*** Trying exponential fit.
[fitber1,fitprops1] = berfit(EbN0,noisydata,EbN0,...
Exiting: Maximum number of function evaluations has been exceeded
         - increase MaxFunEvals option.
         Current function value: 2.749919 
fitber1 = 1×8

    0.1247    0.0727    0.0376    0.0168    0.0064    0.0020    0.0005    0.0001

fitprops1 = struct with fields:
       fitType: 'exp'
        coeffs: [4x1 double]
      sumSqErr: 2.7499
     exitState: 'The maximum number of function evaluations has been exceeded'
     funcCount: 10001
    iterations: 6193

disp('*** Trying polynomial ratio fit.') % Good fit
*** Trying polynomial ratio fit.
[fitber2,fitprops2] = berfit(EbN0,noisydata,EbN0,...
fitber2 = 1×8

    0.1701    0.0874    0.0407    0.0169    0.0060    0.0016    0.0003    0.0001

fitprops2 = struct with fields:
       fitType: 'polyRatio'
        coeffs: [6x1 double]
      sumSqErr: 2.3880
     exitState: 'The curve fit converged to a solution'
     funcCount: 554
    iterations: 331


The berfit function fits the BER data using unconstrained nonlinear optimization via the fminsearch function. The closed-form functions that berfit considers are listed in the table below, where x is the Eb/N0 in linear terms (not dB) and f is the estimated BER. These functions were empirically found to provide close fits in a wide variety of situations, including exponentially decaying BERs, linearly varying BERs, and BER curves with error rate floors.

Value of fittypeFunctional Expression



The sum squared error function that fminsearch attempts to minimize is

F=[log(empirical BER)log(fitted BER)]2

where the fitted BER points are the values in fitber and the sum is over the Eb/N0 points given in empEbNo. It is important to use the log of the BER values rather than the BER values themselves so that the high-BER regions do not dominate the objective function inappropriately.


For a general description of unconstrained nonlinear optimization, see the following work.

[1] Chapra, Steven C., and Raymond P. Canale, Numerical Methods for Engineers, Fourth Edition, New York, McGraw-Hill, 2002.

Introduced before R2006a