I'm sorry if the question is too philosophical or makes no sense, but I need to be able to explain why it doesn't make sense. When we take the in-phase and quadrature-phase base-band components of an intermediate frequency signal, it's very easy to show that any one of the two orthogonal components alone would be insufficient to distinguish the variations in a single-carrier phase from variations in its amplitude. This tutorial makes it quite clear. The Q component, although real, carries the imaginary component of the phasor $A(t)\exp(2\pi f_I\cdot t + \phi(t) )$.

However, when we pass the RF signal through a mixer, there is no Q component lost. No phase modulation will be lost in the base-band signal obtained later. Why not? A figure to help create context.

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1 Answer 1


The receiver's mixer introduces a phase-shift to the in-phase and quadrature components. In very general terms, assume we have a signal $$a(t)e^{j(2\pi f_0 t + \phi(t))},$$ which is mixed with a local oscillator of frequency $f_{lo}$ and phase $\delta$: $$e^{j(2\pi f_{lo}t + \delta)}.$$ The output signal is

\begin{align} a(t)e^{j(2\pi f_0 t + \phi(t))}e^{j(2\pi f_{lo}t + \delta)} &= a(t)e^{j(2\pi (f_0+f_{lo})t + \phi(t) + \delta)} \\ &= a(t)e^{j(2\pi (f_0+f_{lo})t + \phi(t))} e^{j\delta}. \end{align}

In other words, even though the frequency has been shifted and a phase-shift equal to $\delta$ has been introduced, $a(t)$ and $\phi(t)$ are still present in the signal and that means that all the information carried by the original signal is still there.

Usually the phase-shift is corrected in the digital back-end in the receiver, or you can use a differential encoding (such as DBSK), in which the phase-shift becomes irrelevant.

  • $\begingroup$ I get it, this is good. It would be even better if it better did not rush to base band, say, if you made $f_O=f_c+f_I$, and the final signal $A(t)e^{-2\pi f_I t +\phi(t) - \delta}$ since my question specifically mentions Intermediate frequency stage. What you made obvious to me is that both I and Q components, as well as the IF signal carry the whole signal, but each (of the IQ) keeps a different complementary part of it on the Real axis (which is what we can directly observe). Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – Benari
    Jul 15, 2017 at 19:48
  • $\begingroup$ @Benari You're welcome. I went with direct conversion instead of using intermediate frequency because the equations are slightly shorter and, as you found out, the effect is the same. Just as a note, many modern receivers are direct-conversion. $\endgroup$
    – MBaz
    Jul 15, 2017 at 21:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Lots of $j$'s missing in your equations.... $\endgroup$ Jul 16, 2017 at 14:28
  • $\begingroup$ @DilipSarwate Thanks for the heads up, I wonder how I could miss them... $\endgroup$
    – MBaz
    Jul 17, 2017 at 21:53

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