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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.

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.

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.

Waveform the shape and form of a signal such as a wave moving in a physical medium or an abstract representation

In electronics, acoustics, and related fields, the waveform of a signal is the shape of its graph as a function of time, independent of its time and magnitude scales and of any displacement in time.


A modulator is a device that performs modulation. A demodulator (sometimes detector or demod) is a device that performs demodulation, the inverse of modulation. A modem (from modulator–demodulator) can perform both operations.

Demodulation is extracting the original information-bearing signal from a carrier wave. A demodulator is an electronic circuit that is used to recover the information content from the modulated carrier wave. There are many types of modulation so there are many types of demodulators. The signal output from a demodulator may represent sound, images or binary data.

Modem Device that modulates an analog carrier signal to encode digital information

A modem is a hardware device that converts data between transmission media so that it can be transmitted from computer to computer. The goal is to produce a signal that can be transmitted easily and decoded to reproduce the original digital data. Modems can be used with any means of transmitting analog signals from light-emitting diodes to radio. A common type of modem is one that turns the digital data of a computer into modulated electrical signal for transmission over telephone lines and demodulated by another modem at the receiver side to recover the digital data.

The aim of analog modulation is to transfer an analog baseband (or lowpass) signal, for example an audio signal or TV signal, over an analog bandpass channel at a different frequency, for example over a limited radio frequency band or a cable TV network channel. The aim of digital modulation is to transfer a digital bit stream over an analog communication channel, for example over the public switched telephone network (where a bandpass filter limits the frequency range to 300–3400 Hz) or over a limited radio frequency band. Analog and digital modulation facilitate frequency division multiplexing (FDM), where several low pass information signals are transferred simultaneously over the same shared physical medium, using separate passband channels (several different carrier frequencies).

An analog signal is any continuous signal for which the time-varying feature (variable) of the signal is a representation of some other time varying quantity, i.e., analogous to another time varying signal. For example, in an analog audio signal, the instantaneous voltage of the signal varies continuously with the pressure of the sound waves. It differs from a digital signal, in which the continuous quantity is a representation of a sequence of discrete values which can only take on one of a finite number of values. The term analog signal usually refers to electrical signals; however, mechanical, pneumatic, hydraulic, human speech, and other systems may also convey or be considered analog signals.

Digital data, in information theory and information systems, is the discrete, discontinuous representation of information or works. Numbers and letters are commonly used representations.

Communication channel physical transmission medium such as a wire, or 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.

The aim of digital baseband modulation methods, also known as line coding, is to transfer a digital bit stream over a baseband channel, typically a non-filtered copper wire such as a serial bus or a wired local area network.

Local area network computer network that connects devices over a small area

A local area network (LAN) is a computer network that interconnects computers within a limited area such as a residence, school, laboratory, university campus or office building. By contrast, a wide area network (WAN) not only covers a larger geographic distance, but also generally involves leased telecommunication circuits.

The aim of pulse modulation methods is to transfer a narrowband analog signal, for example, a phone call over a wideband baseband channel or, in some of the schemes, as a bit stream over another digital transmission system.

In radio communications, narrowband describes a channel in which the bandwidth of the message does not significantly exceed the channel's coherence bandwidth.

In communications, a system is wideband when the message bandwidth significantly exceeds the coherence bandwidth of the channel. Some communication links have such a high data rate that they are forced to use a wide bandwidth; other links may have relatively low data rates, but deliberately use a wider bandwidth than "necessary" for that data rate in order to gain other advantages; see spread spectrum.

In music synthesizers, modulation may be used to synthesize waveforms with an extensive overtone spectrum using a small number of oscillators. In this case, the carrier frequency is typically in the same order or much lower than the modulating waveform (see frequency modulation synthesis or ring modulation synthesis).

In telecommunication systems, Carrier frequency is a technical term used to indicate:

Frequency modulation synthesis

Frequency modulation synthesis is a form of sound synthesis where the frequency of a waveform, called the carrier, is changed by modulating its frequency with a modulator. The frequency of an oscillator is altered "in accordance with the amplitude of a modulating signal."

Analog modulation methods

A low-frequency message signal (top) may be carried by an AM or FM radio wave. Amfm3-en-de.gif
A low-frequency message signal (top) may be carried by an AM or FM radio wave.
Waterfall plot of a 146.52 MHZ radio carrier, with amplitude modulation by a 1,000 hz sinusoid. Two strong sidebands at + and - 1Khz from the carrier frequency are shown. Waterfall AM.jpg
Waterfall plot of a 146.52 MHZ radio carrier, with amplitude modulation by a 1,000 hz sinusoid. Two strong sidebands at + and - 1Khz from the carrier frequency are shown.
A carrier, frequency modulated by a 1,000 hz sinusoid. The modulation index has been adjusted to around 2.4, so the carrier frequency has small amplitude. Several strong sidebands are apparent; in principle an infinite number are produced in FM but the higher-order sidebands are of negligible magnitude. Waterfall FM.jpg
A carrier, frequency modulated by a 1,000 hz sinusoid. The modulation index has been adjusted to around 2.4, so the carrier frequency has small amplitude. Several strong sidebands are apparent; in principle an infinite number are produced in FM but the higher-order sidebands are of negligible magnitude.

In analog modulation, the modulation is applied continuously in response to the analog information signal. Common analog modulation techniques include:

Digital modulation methods

In digital modulation, an analog carrier signal is modulated by a discrete signal. Digital modulation methods can be considered as digital-to-analog conversion and the corresponding demodulation or detection as analog-to-digital conversion. The changes in the carrier signal are chosen from a finite number of M alternative symbols (the modulation alphabet).

Schematic of 4 baud, 8 bit/s data link containing arbitrarily chosen values. Baud.svg
Schematic of 4 baud, 8 bit/s data link containing arbitrarily chosen values.

A simple example: A telephone line is designed for transferring audible sounds, for example, tones, and not digital bits (zeros and ones). Computers may, however, communicate over a telephone line by means of modems, which are representing the digital bits by tones, called symbols. If there are four alternative symbols (corresponding to a musical instrument that can generate four different tones, one at a time), the first symbol may represent the bit sequence 00, the second 01, the third 10 and the fourth 11. If the modem plays a melody consisting of 1000 tones per second, the symbol rate is 1000 symbols/second, or 1000 baud. Since each tone (i.e., symbol) represents a message consisting of two digital bits in this example, the bit rate is twice the symbol rate, i.e. 2000 bits per second. This is similar to the technique used by dial-up modems as opposed to DSL modems.

According to one definition of digital signal,[ citation needed ] the modulated signal is a digital signal. According to another definition,[ citation needed ] the modulation is a form of digital-to-analog conversion. Most textbooks would consider digital modulation schemes as a form of digital transmission, synonymous to data transmission; very few would consider it as analog transmission.

Fundamental digital modulation methods

The most fundamental digital modulation techniques are based on keying:

In QAM, an in-phase signal (or I, with one example being a cosine waveform) and a quadrature phase signal (or Q, with an example being a sine wave) are amplitude modulated with a finite number of amplitudes and then summed. It can be seen as a two-channel system, each channel using ASK. The resulting signal is equivalent to a combination of PSK and ASK.

In all of the above methods, each of these phases, frequencies or amplitudes are assigned a unique pattern of binary bits. Usually, each phase, frequency or amplitude encodes an equal number of bits. This number of bits comprises the symbol that is represented by the particular phase, frequency or amplitude.

If the alphabet consists of alternative symbols, each symbol represents a message consisting of N bits. If the symbol rate (also known as the baud rate) is symbols/second (or baud), the data rate is bit/second.

For example, with an alphabet consisting of 16 alternative symbols, each symbol represents 4 bits. Thus, the data rate is four times the baud rate.

In the case of PSK, ASK or QAM, where the carrier frequency of the modulated signal is constant, the modulation alphabet is often conveniently represented on a constellation diagram, showing the amplitude of the I signal at the x-axis, and the amplitude of the Q signal at the y-axis, for each symbol.

Modulator and detector principles of operation

PSK and ASK, and sometimes also FSK, are often generated and detected using the principle of QAM. The I and Q signals can be combined into a complex-valued signal I+jQ (where j is the imaginary unit). The resulting so called equivalent lowpass signal or equivalent baseband signal is a complex-valued representation of the real-valued modulated physical signal (the so-called passband signal or RF signal).

These are the general steps used by the modulator to transmit data:

  1. Group the incoming data bits into codewords, one for each symbol that will be transmitted.
  2. Map the codewords to attributes, for example, amplitudes of the I and Q signals (the equivalent low pass signal), or frequency or phase values.
  3. Adapt pulse shaping or some other filtering to limit the bandwidth and form the spectrum of the equivalent low pass signal, typically using digital signal processing.
  4. Perform digital to analog conversion (DAC) of the I and Q signals (since today all of the above is normally achieved using digital signal processing, DSP).
  5. Generate a high-frequency sine carrier waveform, and perhaps also a cosine quadrature component. Carry out the modulation, for example by multiplying the sine and cosine waveform with the I and Q signals, resulting in the equivalent low pass signal being frequency shifted to the modulated passband signal or RF signal. Sometimes this is achieved using DSP technology, for example direct digital synthesis using a waveform table, instead of analog signal processing. In that case, the above DAC step should be done after this step.
  6. Amplification and analog bandpass filtering to avoid harmonic distortion and periodic spectrum.

At the receiver side, the demodulator typically performs:

  1. Bandpass filtering.
  2. Automatic gain control, AGC (to compensate for attenuation, for example fading).
  3. Frequency shifting of the RF signal to the equivalent baseband I and Q signals, or to an intermediate frequency (IF) signal, by multiplying the RF signal with a local oscillator sine wave and cosine wave frequency (see the superheterodyne receiver principle).
  4. Sampling and analog-to-digital conversion (ADC) (sometimes before or instead of the above point, for example by means of undersampling).
  5. Equalization filtering, for example, a matched filter, compensation for multipath propagation, time spreading, phase distortion and frequency selective fading, to avoid intersymbol interference and symbol distortion.
  6. Detection of the amplitudes of the I and Q signals, or the frequency or phase of the IF signal.
  7. Quantization of the amplitudes, frequencies or phases to the nearest allowed symbol values.
  8. Mapping of the quantized amplitudes, frequencies or phases to codewords (bit groups).
  9. Parallel-to-serial conversion of the codewords into a bit stream.
  10. Pass the resultant bit stream on for further processing such as removal of any error-correcting codes.

As is common to all digital communication systems, the design of both the modulator and demodulator must be done simultaneously. Digital modulation schemes are possible because the transmitter-receiver pair has prior knowledge of how data is encoded and represented in the communications system. In all digital communication systems, both the modulator at the transmitter and the demodulator at the receiver are structured so that they perform inverse operations.

Non-coherent modulation methods do not require a receiver reference clock signal that is phase synchronized with the sender carrier signal. In this case, modulation symbols (rather than bits, characters, or data packets) are asynchronously transferred. The opposite is coherent modulation.

List of common digital modulation techniques

The most common digital modulation techniques are:

MSK and GMSK are particular cases of continuous phase modulation. Indeed, MSK is a particular case of the sub-family of CPM known as continuous-phase frequency shift keying (CPFSK) which is defined by a rectangular frequency pulse (i.e. a linearly increasing phase pulse) of one-symbol-time duration (total response signaling).

OFDM is based on the idea of frequency-division multiplexing (FDM), but the multiplexed streams are all parts of a single original stream. The bit stream is split into several parallel data streams, each transferred over its own sub-carrier using some conventional digital modulation scheme. The modulated sub-carriers are summed to form an OFDM signal. This dividing and recombining help with handling channel impairments. OFDM is considered as a modulation technique rather than a multiplex technique since it transfers one bit stream over one communication channel using one sequence of so-called OFDM symbols. OFDM can be extended to multi-user channel access method in the orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) and multi-carrier code division multiple access (MC-CDMA) schemes, allowing several users to share the same physical medium by giving different sub-carriers or spreading codes to different users.

Of the two kinds of RF power amplifier, switching amplifiers (Class D amplifiers) cost less and use less battery power than linear amplifiers of the same output power. However, they only work with relatively constant-amplitude-modulation signals such as angle modulation (FSK or PSK) and CDMA, but not with QAM and OFDM. Nevertheless, even though switching amplifiers are completely unsuitable for normal QAM constellations, often the QAM modulation principle are used to drive switching amplifiers with these FM and other waveforms, and sometimes QAM demodulators are used to receive the signals put out by these switching amplifiers.

Automatic digital modulation recognition (ADMR)

Automatic digital modulation recognition in intelligent communication systems is one of the most important issues in software defined radio and cognitive radio. According to incremental expanse of intelligent receivers, automatic modulation recognition becomes a challenging topic in telecommunication systems and computer engineering. Such systems have many civil and military applications. Moreover, blind recognition of modulation type is an important problem in commercial systems, especially in software defined radio. Usually in such systems, there are some extra information for system configuration, but considering blind approaches in intelligent receivers, we can reduce information overload and increase transmission performance. [1] Obviously, with no knowledge of the transmitted data and many unknown parameters at the receiver, such as the signal power, carrier frequency and phase offsets, timing information, etc., blind identification of the modulation is made fairly difficult. This becomes even more challenging in real-world scenarios with multipath fading, frequency-selective and time-varying channels. [2]

There are two main approaches to automatic modulation recognition. The first approach uses likelihood-based methods to assign an input signal to a proper class. Another recent approach is based on feature extraction.

Digital baseband modulation or line coding

The term digital baseband modulation (or digital baseband transmission) is synonymous to line codes. These are methods to transfer a digital bit stream over an analog baseband channel (a.k.a. lowpass channel) using a pulse train, i.e. a discrete number of signal levels, by directly modulating the voltage or current on a cable or serial bus. Common examples are unipolar, non-return-to-zero (NRZ), Manchester and alternate mark inversion (AMI) codings. [3]

Pulse modulation methods

Pulse modulation schemes aim at transferring a narrowband analog signal over an analog baseband channel as a two-level signal by modulating a pulse wave. Some pulse modulation schemes also allow the narrowband analog signal to be transferred as a digital signal (i.e., as a quantized discrete-time signal) with a fixed bit rate, which can be transferred over an underlying digital transmission system, for example, some line code. These are not modulation schemes in the conventional sense since they are not channel coding schemes, but should be considered as source coding schemes, and in some cases analog-to-digital conversion techniques.

Analog-over-analog methods

Analog-over-digital methods

Miscellaneous modulation techniques

See also

Related Research Articles

Amplitude modulation in amplitude modulation, the amplitude (signal strength) of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to the waveform being transmitted

Amplitude modulation (AM) is a modulation technique used in electronic communication, most commonly for transmitting information via a radio carrier wave. In amplitude modulation, the amplitude of the carrier wave is varied in proportion to that of the message signal being transmitted. The message signal is, for example, a function of the sound to be reproduced by a loudspeaker, or the light intensity of pixels of a television screen. This technique contrasts with frequency modulation, in which the frequency of the carrier signal is varied, and phase modulation, in which its phase is varied.

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.

Quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM) is the name of a family of digital modulation methods and a related family of analog modulation methods widely used in modern telecommunications to transmit information. It conveys two analog message signals, or two digital bit streams, by changing (modulating) the amplitudes of two carrier waves, using the amplitude-shift keying (ASK) digital modulation scheme or amplitude modulation (AM) analog modulation scheme. The two carrier waves of the same frequency are out of phase with each other by 90°, a condition known as orthogonality and as quadrature. Being the same frequency, the modulated carriers add together, but can be coherently separated (demodulated) because of their orthogonality property. Another key property is that the modulations are low-frequency/low-bandwidth waveforms compared to the carrier frequency, which is known as the narrowband assumption.

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.

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).

Frequency-shift keying frequency modulation scheme

Frequency-shift keying (FSK) is a frequency modulation scheme in which digital information is transmitted through discrete frequency changes of a carrier signal. The technology is used for communication systems such as telemetry, weather balloon radiosondes, caller ID, garage door openers, and low frequency radio transmission in the VLF and ELF bands. The simplest FSK is binary FSK (BFSK). BFSK uses a pair of discrete frequencies to transmit binary information. With this scheme, the "1" is called the mark frequency and the "0" is called the space frequency.

Phase-shift keying (PSK) is a digital modulation process which conveys data by changing (modulating) the phase of a constant frequency reference signal. The modulation is accomplished by varying the sine and cosine inputs at a precise time. It is widely used for wireless LANs, RFID and Bluetooth communication.

Frequency-division multiplexing multiplexing by dividing a comm medium into non-overlapping frequency bands, each carrying a separate signal

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.

In telecommunications, node-to-node data transfer is the movement of data from one node of a network to the next. In the OSI model it is handled by the lowest two layers, the data link layer and the physical layer.

8VSB is the modulation method used for broadcast in the ATSC digital television standard. ATSC and 8VSB modulation is used primarily in North America; in contrast, the DVB-T standard uses COFDM.

A satellite modem or satmodem is a modem used to establish data transfers using a communications satellite as a relay. A satellite modem's main function is to transform an input bitstream to a radio signal and vice versa.

Continuous phase modulation (CPM) is a method for modulation of data commonly used in wireless modems. In contrast to other coherent digital phase modulation techniques where the carrier phase abruptly resets to zero at the start of every symbol, with CPM the carrier phase is modulated in a continuous manner. For instance, with QPSK the carrier instantaneously jumps from a sine to a cosine whenever one of the two message bits of the current symbol differs from the two message bits of the previous symbol. This discontinuity requires a relatively large percentage of the power to occur outside of the intended band, leading to poor spectral efficiency. Furthermore, CPM is typically implemented as a constant-envelope waveform, i.e., the transmitted carrier power is constant. Therefore, CPM is attractive because the phase continuity yields high spectral efficiency, and the constant envelope yields excellent power efficiency. The primary drawback is the high implementation complexity required for an optimal receiver.

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.

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.

Analog transmission is a transmission method of conveying information using a continuous signal which varies in amplitude, phase, or some other property in proportion to that information. It could be the transfer of an analog source signal, using an analog modulation method such as frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM), or no modulation at all.

Keying is a family of modulation forms where the modulating signal takes one of a specific (predetermined) number of values at all times. The goal of keying is to transmit a digital signal over an analog channel. The name derives from the Morse code key used for telegraph signaling.

Underwater acoustic communication

Underwater acoustic communication is a technique of sending and receiving messages below water. There are several ways of employing such communication but the most common is by using hydrophones. Underwater communication is difficult due to factors such as multi-path propagation, time variations of the channel, small available bandwidth and strong signal attenuation, especially over long ranges. Compared to terrestrial communication, underwater communication has low data rates because it uses acoustic waves instead of electromagnetic waves.


  1. Valipour, M. Hadi; Homayounpour, M. Mehdi; Mehralian, M. Amin (2012). "Automatic digital modulation recognition in presence of noise using SVM and PSO". 6th International Symposium on Telecommunications (IST). pp. 378–382. doi:10.1109/ISTEL.2012.6483016. ISBN   978-1-4673-2073-3.
  2. Dobre, Octavia A., Ali Abdi, Yeheskel Bar-Ness, and Wei Su. Communications, IET 1, no. 2 (2007): 137–156. (2007). "Survey of automatic modulation classification techniques: classical approaches and new trends" (PDF). IET Communications. 1 (2): 137–156. doi:10.1049/iet-com:20050176.CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link)
  3. Ke-Lin Du & M. N. S. Swamy (2010). Wireless Communication Systems: From RF Subsystems to 4G Enabling Technologies. Cambridge University Press. p. 188. ISBN   978-0-521-11403-5.

Further reading