Method and systems for characterizing an optical signal propagating along a communication link are disclosed. The signal includes a data-carrying signal contribution, modulated at a symbol frequency, and a noise contribution. The method includes measuring an optical power spectrum of the signal, which includes a data-carrying signal spectrum component and a noise spectrum component. The method also includes determining a measured spectral correlation function within pairs of spectral components of the signal as a function of center frequency of the pairs, the spectral components in each pair being spectrally separated from each other by the symbol frequency. The method further includes obtaining a solution for the data-carrying signal spectrum component based on the measured optical power spectrum, such that a calculated spectral correlation function based on the solution matches the measured spectral correlation function. In some embodiments, the spectral correlation function is measured as a low-frequency beatnote amplitude function.