Bandwidth (signal processing)

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Baseband bandwidth. Here the bandwidth equals the upper frequency. Baseband.svg
Baseband bandwidth. Here the bandwidth equals the upper frequency.

Bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower frequencies in a continuous band of frequencies. It is typically measured in hertz, and depending on context, may specifically refer to passband bandwidth or baseband bandwidth. Passband bandwidth is the difference between the upper and lower cutoff frequencies of, for example, a band-pass filter, a communication channel, or a signal spectrum. Baseband bandwidth applies to a low-pass filter or baseband signal; the bandwidth is equal to its upper cutoff frequency.

Hertz SI unit for frequency

The hertz (symbol: Hz) is the derived unit of frequency in the International System of Units (SI) and is defined as one cycle per second. It is named for Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, the first person to provide conclusive proof of the existence of electromagnetic waves. Hertz are commonly expressed in multiples: kilohertz (103 Hz, kHz), megahertz (106 Hz, MHz), gigahertz (109 Hz, GHz), terahertz (1012 Hz, THz), petahertz (1015 Hz, PHz), and exahertz (1018 Hz, EHz).

Band-pass filter filter that passes signals within a certain frequency range, and attenuates signals outside that range

A band-pass filter, also bandpass filter or BPF, is a device that passes frequencies within a certain range and rejects (attenuates) frequencies outside that range.

Communication channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection

A communication channel or simply channel refers either to a physical transmission medium such as a wire, or to a logical connection over a multiplexed medium such as a radio channel in telecommunications and computer networking. A channel is used to convey an information signal, for example a digital bit stream, from one or several senders to one or several receivers. A channel has a certain capacity for transmitting information, often measured by its bandwidth in Hz or its data rate in bits per second.


Bandwidth in hertz is a central concept in many fields, including electronics, information theory, digital communications, radio communications, signal processing, and spectroscopy and is one of the determinants of the capacity of a given communication channel.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.

Information theory studies the quantification, storage, and communication of information. It was originally proposed by Claude E. Shannon in 1948 to find fundamental limits on signal processing and communication operations such as data compression, in a landmark paper entitled "A Mathematical Theory of Communication". Applications of fundamental topics of information theory include lossless data compression, lossy data compression, and channel coding. Its impact has been crucial to the success of the Voyager missions to deep space, the invention of the compact disc, the feasibility of mobile phones, the development of the Internet, the study of linguistics and of human perception, the understanding of black holes, and numerous other fields.

Signal processing models and analyzes data representations of physical events

Signal processing is a subfield of mathematics, information and electrical engineering that concerns the analysis, synthesis, and modification of signals, which are broadly defined as functions conveying "information about the behavior or attributes of some phenomenon", such as sound, images, and biological measurements. For example, signal processing techniques are used to improve signal transmission fidelity, storage efficiency, and subjective quality, and to emphasize or detect components of interest in a measured signal.

A key characteristic of bandwidth is that any band of a given width can carry the same amount of information, regardless of where that band is located in the frequency spectrum. [note 1] For example, a 3 kHz band can carry a telephone conversation whether that band is at baseband (as in a POTS telephone line) or modulated to some higher frequency.

Plain old telephone service (POTS), or plain ordinary telephone service, is a retronym for voice-grade telephone service employing analog signal transmission over copper loops. POTS was the standard service offering from telephone companies from 1876 until 1988 in the United States when the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) Basic Rate Interface (BRI) was introduced, followed by cellular telephone systems, and voice over IP (VoIP). POTS remains the basic form of residential and small business service connection to the telephone network in many parts of the world. The term reflects the technology that has been available since the introduction of the public telephone system in the late 19th century, in a form mostly unchanged despite the introduction of Touch-Tone dialing, electronic telephone exchanges and fiber-optic communication into the public switched telephone network (PSTN).


Bandwidth is a key concept in many telecommunications applications. In radio communications, for example, bandwidth is the frequency range occupied by a modulated carrier signal. An FM radio receiver's tuner spans a limited range of frequencies. A government agency (such as the Federal Communications Commission in the United States) may apportion the regionally available bandwidth to broadcast license holders so that their signals do not mutually interfere. In this context, bandwidth is also known as channel spacing.

Telecommunication transmission of information between locations using electromagnetics

Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, signals, messages, words, writings, images and sounds or information of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology. It is transmitted either electrically over physical media, such as cables, or via electromagnetic radiation. Such transmission paths are often divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is often used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies.

Radio technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of using radio waves to carry information, such as sound and images, by systematically modulating properties of electromagnetic energy waves transmitted through space, such as their amplitude, frequency, phase, or pulse width. When radio waves strike an electrical conductor, the oscillating fields induce an alternating current in the conductor. The information in the waves can be extracted and transformed back into its original form.

Tuner (radio) frequency selection subsystem for a radio receiver

A tuner is a subsystem that receives radio frequency (RF) transmissions like radio broadcasts and converts the selected carrier frequency and its associated bandwidth into a fixed frequency that is suitable for further processing, usually because a lower frequency is used on the output. Broadcast FM/AM transmissions usually feed this intermediate frequency (IF) directly into a demodulator that convert the radio signal into audio-frequency signals that can be fed into an amplifier to drive a loudspeaker.

For other applications there are other definitions. One definition of bandwidth, for a system, could be the range of frequencies over which the system produces a specified level of performance. A less strict and more practically useful definition will refer to the frequencies beyond which Performance is degraded. In the case of frequency response, degradation could, for example, mean more than 3  dB below the maximum value or it could mean below a certain absolute value. As with any definition of the width of a function, many definitions are suitable for different purposes.

Frequency response is the quantitative measure of the output spectrum of a system or device in response to a stimulus, and is used to characterize the dynamics of the system. It is a measure of magnitude and phase of the output as a function of frequency, in comparison to the input. In simplest terms, if a sine wave is injected into a system at a given frequency, a linear system will respond at that same frequency with a certain magnitude and a certain phase angle relative to the input. Also for a linear system, doubling the amplitude of the input will double the amplitude of the output. In addition, if the system is time-invariant, then the frequency response also will not vary with time. Thus for LTI systems, the frequency response can be seen as applying the system's transfer function to a purely imaginary number argument representing the frequency of the sinusoidal excitation.

The decibel is a unit of measurement used to express the ratio of one value of a power or field quantity to another on a logarithmic scale, the logarithmic quantity being called the power level or field level, respectively. It can be used to express a change in value or an absolute value. In the latter case, it expresses the ratio of a value to a fixed reference value; when used in this way, a suffix that indicates the reference value is often appended to the decibel symbol. For example, if the reference value is 1 volt, then the suffix is "V", and if the reference value is one milliwatt, then the suffix is "m".

In the context of, for example, the sampling theorem and Nyquist sampling rate, bandwidth typically refers to baseband bandwidth. In the context of Nyquist symbol rate or Shannon-Hartley channel capacity for communication systems it refers to passband bandwidth.

Nyquist rate Important parameter in signal processing and sampling

In signal processing, the Nyquist rate, named after Harry Nyquist, is twice the bandwidth of a bandlimited function or a bandlimited channel. This term means two different things under two different circumstances:

  1. as a lower bound for the sample rate for alias-free signal sampling and
  2. as an upper bound for the symbol rate across a bandwidth-limited baseband channel such as a telegraph line or passband channel such as a limited radio frequency band or a frequency division multiplex channel.
Baseband signal that has a very narrow frequency range near zero

Baseband is a signal that has a near-zero frequency range, i.e. a spectral magnitude that is nonzero only for frequencies in the vicinity of the origin and negligible elsewhere. In telecommunications and signal processing, baseband signals are transmitted without modulation, that is, without any shift in the range of frequencies of the signal. Baseband has a low-frequency—contained within the bandwidth frequency close to 0 hertz up to a higher cut-off frequency. Baseband can be synonymous with lowpass or non-modulated, and is differentiated from passband, bandpass, carrier-modulated, intermediate frequency, or radio frequency (RF).

Channel capacity, in electrical engineering, computer science and information theory, is the tight upper bound on the rate at which information can be reliably transmitted over a communication channel.

The Rayleigh bandwidth of a simple radar pulse is defined as the inverse of its duration. For example, a one-microsecond pulse has a Rayleigh bandwidth of one megahertz. [1]

The essential bandwidth is defined as the portion of a signal spectrum in the frequency domain which contains most of the energy of the signal. [2]

x dB bandwidth

A graph of a band-pass filter's gain magnitude, illustrating the concept of -3 dB bandwidth at a gain of approximately 0.707. The frequency axis of this symbolic diagram can be linear or logarithmically scaled. Bandwidth 2.svg
A graph of a band-pass filter's gain magnitude, illustrating the concept of −3 dB bandwidth at a gain of approximately 0.707. The frequency axis of this symbolic diagram can be linear or logarithmically scaled.

In some contexts, the signal bandwidth in hertz refers to the frequency range in which the signal's spectral density (in W/Hz or V2/Hz) is nonzero or above a small threshold value. That definition is used in calculations of the lowest sampling rate that will satisfy the sampling theorem. The threshold value is often defined relative to the maximum value, and is most commonly the 3 dB point , that is the point where the spectral density is half its maximum value (or the spectral amplitude, in V or V/Hz, is 70.7% of its maximum). [3]

The word bandwidth applies to signals as described above, but it could also apply to systems, for example filters or communication channels. To say that a system has a certain bandwidth means that the system can process signals of that bandwidth, or that the system reduces the bandwidth of a white noise input to that bandwidth.

The 3 dB bandwidth of an electronic filter or communication channel is the part of the system's frequency response that lies within 3 dB of the response at its peak, which in the passband filter case is typically at or near its center frequency, and in the low-pass filter is near 0 hertz. If the maximum gain is 0 dB, the 3 dB bandwidth is the frequency range where the gain is more than −3 dB, or the attenuation is less than 3 dB. This is also the range of frequencies where the amplitude gain is above 70.7% of the maximum amplitude gain, and the power gain is above half the maximum power gain. This same half-power gain convention is also used in spectral width, and more generally for extent of functions as full width at half maximum (FWHM).

In electronic filter design, a filter specification may require that within the filter passband, the gain is nominally 0 dB ± a small number of dB, for example within the ±1 dB interval. In the stopband(s), the required attenuation in dB is above a certain level, for example >100 dB. In a transition band the gain is not specified. In this case, the filter bandwidth corresponds to the passband width, which in this example is the 1 dB-bandwidth. If the filter shows amplitude ripple within the passband, the x dB point refers to the point where the gain is x dB below the nominal passband gain rather than x dB below the maximum gain.

A commonly used quantity is fractional bandwidth. This is the bandwidth of a device divided by its center frequency. E.g., a passband filter that has a bandwidth of 2 MHz with center frequency 10 MHz will have a fractional bandwidth of 2/10, or 20%.

In communication systems, in calculations of the Shannon–Hartley channel capacity, bandwidth refers to the 3 dB-bandwidth. In calculations of the maximum symbol rate, the Nyquist sampling rate, and maximum bit rate according to the Hartley formula, the bandwidth refers to the frequency range within which the gain is non-zero, or the gain in dB is below a very large value.

The fact that in equivalent baseband models of communication systems, the signal spectrum consists of both negative and positive frequencies, can lead to confusion about bandwidth, since they are sometimes referred to only by the positive half, and one will occasionally see expressions such as , where is the total bandwidth (i.e. the maximum passband bandwidth of the carrier-modulated RF signal and the minimum passband bandwidth of the physical passband channel), and is the positive bandwidth (the baseband bandwidth of the equivalent channel model). For instance, the baseband model of the signal would require a low-pass filter with cutoff frequency of at least to stay intact, and the physical passband channel would require a passband filter of at least to stay intact.

In signal processing and control theory the bandwidth is the frequency at which the closed-loop system gain drops 3 dB below peak.

In basic electric circuit theory, when studying band-pass and band-reject filters, the bandwidth represents the distance between the two points in the frequency domain where the signal is of the maximum signal amplitude (half power).

Antenna systems

In the field of antennas, two different methods of expressing relative bandwidth are used for narrowband and wideband antennas. [4] For either, a set of criteria is established to define the extents of the bandwidth, such as input impedance, pattern, or polarization.

Percent bandwidth, usually used for narrowband antennas, is used defined as . The theoretical limit to percent bandwidth is 200%, which occurs for .

Fractional bandwidth or ratio bandwidth, usually used for wideband antennas, is defined as and is typically presented in the form of . Fractional bandwidth is used for wideband antennas because of the compression of the percent bandwidth that occurs mathematically with percent bandwidths above 100%, which corresponds to a fractional bandwidth of 3:1.


then .


In photonics, the term bandwidth occurs in a variety of meanings:

A related concept is the spectral linewidth of the radiation emitted by excited atoms.

See also


  1. Assuming equivalent noise level.

Related Research Articles

Frequency modulation encoding of information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave

In telecommunications and signal processing, frequency modulation (FM) is the encoding of information in a carrier wave by varying the instantaneous frequency of the wave.

In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal that typically contains information to be transmitted. Most radio systems in the 20th century used frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM) for radio broadcast.

In telecommunications, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies. OFDM has developed into a popular scheme for wideband digital communication, used in applications such as digital television and audio broadcasting, DSL internet access, wireless networks, power line networks, and 4G mobile communications.

Single-sideband modulation refinement of amplitude modulation

In radio communications, single-sideband modulation (SSB) or single-sideband suppressed-carrier modulation (SSB-SC) is a type of modulation, used to transmit information, such as an audio signal, by radio waves. A refinement of amplitude modulation, it uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently. Amplitude modulation produces an output signal the bandwidth of which is twice the maximum frequency of the original baseband signal. Single-sideband modulation avoids this bandwidth increase, and the power wasted on a carrier, at the cost of increased device complexity and more difficult tuning at the receiver.

A passband is the range of frequencies or wavelengths that can pass through a filter. For example, a radio receiver contains a bandpass filter to select the frequency of the desired radio signal out of all the radio waves picked up by its antenna. The passband of a receiver is the range of frequencies it can receive.

In information theory, the Shannon–Hartley theorem tells the maximum rate at which information can be transmitted over a communications channel of a specified bandwidth in the presence of noise. It is an application of the noisy-channel coding theorem to the archetypal case of a continuous-time analog communications channel subject to Gaussian noise. The theorem establishes Shannon's channel capacity for such a communication link, a bound on the maximum amount of error-free information per time unit that can be transmitted with a specified bandwidth in the presence of the noise interference, assuming that the signal power is bounded, and that the Gaussian noise process is characterized by a known power or power spectral density. The law is named after Claude Shannon and Ralph Hartley.

Frequency-division multiplexing

In telecommunications, frequency-division multiplexing (FDM) is a technique by which the total bandwidth available in a communication medium is divided into a series of non-overlapping frequency bands, each of which is used to carry a separate signal. This allows a single transmission medium such as a cable or optical fiber to be shared by multiple independent signals. Another use is to carry separate serial bits or segments of a higher rate signal in parallel.

<i>Q</i> factor

In physics and engineering the quality factor or Q factor is a dimensionless parameter that describes how underdamped an oscillator or resonator is, and characterizes a resonator's bandwidth relative to its centre frequency. Higher Q indicates a lower rate of energy loss relative to the stored energy of the resonator; the oscillations die out more slowly. A pendulum suspended from a high-quality bearing, oscillating in air, has a high Q, while a pendulum immersed in oil has a low one. Resonators with high quality factors have low damping, so that they ring or vibrate longer.

A continuous wave or continuous waveform (CW) is an electromagnetic wave of constant amplitude and frequency, almost always a sine wave, that for mathematical analysis is considered to be of infinite duration. Continuous wave is also the name given to an early method of radio transmission, in which a sinusoidal carrier wave is switched on and off. Information is carried in the varying duration of the on and off periods of the signal, for example by Morse code in early radio. In early wireless telegraphy radio transmission, CW waves were also known as "undamped waves", to distinguish this method from damped wave signals produced by earlier spark gap type transmitters.


In signal processing, undersampling or bandpass sampling is a technique where one samples a bandpass-filtered signal at a sample rate below its Nyquist rate, but is still able to reconstruct the signal.


Intermodulation (IM) or intermodulation distortion (IMD) is the amplitude modulation of signals containing two or more different frequencies, caused by nonlinearities or time variance in a system. The intermodulation between frequency components will form additional components at frequencies that are not just at harmonic frequencies of either, like harmonic distortion, but also at the sum and difference frequencies of the original frequencies and at sums and differences of multiples of those frequencies.

Spectral efficiency, spectrum efficiency or bandwidth efficiency refers to the information rate that can be transmitted over a given bandwidth in a specific communication system. It is a measure of how efficiently a limited frequency spectrum is utilized by the physical layer protocol, and sometimes by the media access control.


Eb/N0 is an important parameter in digital communication or data transmission. It is a normalized signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) measure, also known as the "SNR per bit". It is especially useful when comparing the bit error rate (BER) performance of different digital modulation schemes without taking bandwidth into account.

In digital communications, symbol rate, also known as baud rate and modulation rate, is the number of symbol changes, waveform changes, or signaling events, across the transmission medium per time unit using a digitally modulated signal or a line code. The symbol rate is measured in baud (Bd) or symbols per second. In the case of a line code, the symbol rate is the pulse rate in pulses per second. Each symbol can represent or convey one or several bits of data. The symbol rate is related to the gross bitrate expressed in bits per second.

The chirp pulse compression process transforms a long duration frequency-coded pulse into a narrow pulse of greatly increased amplitude. It is a technique used in radar and sonar systems because it is a method whereby a narrow pulse with high peak power can be derived from a long duration pulse with low peak power. Furthermore, the process offers good range resolution because the half-power beam width of the compressed pulse is consistent with the system bandwidth.

Carrier frequency offset (CFO) is one of many non-idealities in baseband receiver design. In designing a baseband receiver, we should notice not only the degradation invoked by non-ideal channel and noise, we should also regard RF and analog parts as the main consideration. Those non-idealities include sampling clock offset, IQ imbalance, power amplifier, phase noise and carrier frequency offset nonlinearity.


  1. Jeffrey A. Nanzer, Microwave and Millimeter-wave Remote Sensing for Security Applications, pp. 268-269, Artech House, 2012 ISBN   1608071723.
  2. Sundararajan, D. (4 March 2009). A Practical Approach to Signals and Systems. John Wiley & Sons. p. 109. ISBN   978-0-470-82354-5.
  3. Van Valkenburg, M. E. Network Analysis (3rd ed.). pp. 383–384. ISBN   0-13-611095-9 . Retrieved 2008-06-22.
  4. Stutzman, Warren L.; Theiele, Gary A. (1998). Antenna Theory and Design (2nd ed.). New York. ISBN   0-471-02590-9.