Electrons generated by signal, background, and dark current shot noise are well modeled in PIN diodes as Poissonian statistical processes. In APDs, on the other hand, the amplifying effects of the device result in statistics that are distinctly non-Poissonian. Thermal noise is well modeled as Gaussian. In this paper, we appeal to the central limit theorem and treat both the variability of the signal and the sum of noise sources as Gaussian. Comparison against Monte-Carlo simulation of PIN diode performance (where we do model shot noise with draws from a Poissonian distribution) validates the legitimacy of this approximation. On-off keying, M-ary pulse position, and binary differential phase shift keying modulation are modeled.
We conclude with examples showing how the equations may be used in a link budget to estimate the performance of optical links using linear receivers.