Joint Coding-Modulation for Digital Semantic Communications via Variational Autoencoder

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Joint Coding-Modulation for Digital Semantic Communications via Variational Autoencoder


Yufei Bo, Yiheng Duan, Shuo Shao, Meixia Tao


Semantic communications have emerged as a new paradigm for improving communication efficiency by transmitting the semantic information of a source message that is most relevant to a desired task at the receiver. Most existing approaches typically utilize neural networks (NNs) to design end-to-end semantic communication systems, where NN-based semantic encoders output continuously distributed signals to be sent directly to the channel in an analog communication fashion. In this work, we propose a joint coding-modulation framework for digital semantic communications by using variational autoencoder (VAE). Our approach learns the transition probability from source data to discrete constellation symbols, thereby avoiding the non-differentiability problem of digital modulation. Meanwhile, by jointly designing the coding and modulation process together, we can match the obtained modulation strategy with the operating channel condition. We also derive a matching loss function with information-theoretic meaning for end-to-end training. Experiments conducted on image semantic communication validate that our proposed joint coding-modulation framework outperforms separate design of semantic coding and modulation under various channel conditions, transmission rates, and modulation orders. Furthermore, its performance gap to analog semantic communication reduces as the modulation order increases while enjoying the hardware implementation convenience.

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