Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access

Last updated

Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) is a multi-user version of the popular orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) digital modulation scheme. Multiple access is achieved in OFDMA by assigning subsets of subcarriers to individual users. This allows simultaneous low-data-rate transmission from several users.

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.

Carrier wave waveform (usually sinusoidal) that is modulated (modified) with an input signal for the purpose of conveying information

In telecommunications, a carrier wave, carrier signal, or just carrier, is a waveform that is modulated (modified) with an input signal for the purpose of conveying information. This carrier wave usually has a much higher frequency than the input signal does. The purpose of the carrier is usually either to transmit the information through space as an electromagnetic wave, or to allow several carriers at different frequencies to share a common physical transmission medium by frequency division multiplexing. The term is also used for an unmodulated emission in the absence of any modulating signal.


Key points

The advantages and disadvantages summarized below are further discussed in the Characteristics and principles of operation section. See also the list of OFDM key features.

Claimed advantages over OFDM with time-domain statistical multiplexing

Claimed OFDMA advantages

Recognised disadvantages of OFDMA

Fast Fourier transform O(n logn) divide and conquer algorithm to calculate the discrete Fourier transforms

A fast Fourier transform (FFT) is an algorithm that computes the discrete Fourier transform (DFT) of a sequence, or its inverse (IDFT). Fourier analysis converts a signal from its original domain to a representation in the frequency domain and vice versa. The DFT is obtained by decomposing a sequence of values into components of different frequencies. This operation is useful in many fields, but computing it directly from the definition is often too slow to be practical. An FFT rapidly computes such transformations by factorizing the DFT matrix into a product of sparse factors. As a result, it manages to reduce the complexity of computing the DFT from , which arises if one simply applies the definition of DFT, to , where is the data size. The difference in speed can be enormous, especially for long data sets where N may be in the thousands or millions. In the presence of round-off error, many FFT algorithms are much more accurate than evaluating the DFT definition directly. There are many different FFT algorithms based on a wide range of published theories, from simple complex-number arithmetic to group theory and number theory.

In telecommunication, information theory, and coding theory, forward error correction (FEC) or channel coding is a technique used for controlling errors in data transmission over unreliable or noisy communication channels. The central idea is the sender encodes the message in a redundant way by using an error-correcting code (ECC).

Characteristics and principles of operation

Based on feedback information about the channel conditions, adaptive user-to-subcarrier assignment can be achieved. [2] If the assignment is done sufficiently fast, this further improves the OFDM robustness to fast fading and narrow-band cochannel interference, and makes it possible to achieve even better system spectral efficiency.


In wireless communications, fading is variation of the attenuation of a signal with various variables. These variables include time, geographical position, and radio frequency. Fading is often modeled as a random process. A fading channel is a communication channel that experiences fading. In wireless systems, fading may either be due to multipath propagation, referred to as multipath-induced fading, weather, or shadowing from obstacles affecting the wave propagation, sometimes referred to as shadow fading.

Different numbers of sub-carriers can be assigned to different users, in view to support differentiated Quality of Service (QoS), i.e. to control the data rate and error probability individually for each user.

OFDMA can be seen as an alternative to combining OFDM with time-division multiple access (TDMA) or time-domain statistical multiplexing communication. Low-data-rate users can send continuously with low transmission power instead of using a "pulsed" high-power carrier. Constant delay, and shorter delay, can be achieved.

OFDMA can also be described as a combination of frequency-domain and time-domain multiple access, where the resources are partitioned in the time–frequency space, and slots are assigned along the OFDM symbol index, as well as OFDM sub-carrier index.

OFDMA is considered as highly suitable for broadband wireless networks, due to advantages including scalability and use of multiple antennas (MIMO)-friendliness, and ability to take advantage of channel frequency selectivity. [1]

In spectrum sensing cognitive radio, OFDMA is a possible approach to filling free radio frequency bands adaptively. Timo A. Weiss and Friedrich K. Jondral of the University of Karlsruhe proposed a spectrum pooling system in which free bands sensed by nodes were immediately filled by OFDMA subbands.


OFDMA is used in:

OFDMA is also a candidate access method for the IEEE 802.22 Wireless Regional Area Networks (WRAN), a cognitive radio technology which uses white spaces in the television (TV) frequency spectrum, and the proposed access method for DECT-5G specification which aims to fulfill IMT-2020 requirements for high-throughput mobile broadband (eMMB) and ultra reliable low latency(URLLC) applications.

OFDMA subcarriers OFDMA subcarriers.png
OFDMA subcarriers

See also

Related Research Articles

Code-division multiple access channel access method for radio communication, allowing many transmitters to send information over one channel using spread spectrum technology and a special coding scheme; used in GPS, cdmaOne, CDMA2000, UMTS, etc.

Code-division multiple access (CDMA) is a channel access method used by various radio communication technologies.

Direct-sequence spread spectrum Modulation technique to reduce signal interference

In telecommunications, direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) is a spread spectrum modulation technique used to reduce overall signal interference. The spreading of this signal makes the resulting wideband channel more noisy, allowing for greater resistance to unintentional and intentional interference.

In telecommunications and computer networks, a channel access method or multiple access method allows more than two terminals connected to the same transmission medium to transmit over it and to share its capacity. Examples of shared physical media are wireless networks, bus networks, ring networks and point-to-point links operating in half-duplex mode.

Frequency division multiple access (FDMA) is a channel access method used in some multiple-access protocols. FDMA allows multiple users to send data through a single communication channel, such as a coaxial cable or microwave beam, by dividing the bandwidth of the channel into separate non-overlapping frequency sub-channels and allocating each sub-channel to a separate user. Users can send data through a subchannel by modulating it on a carrier wave at the subchannel's frequency. It is used in satellite communication systems and telephone trunklines.

WiMAX wireless broadband standard

WiMAX is a family of wireless broadband communication standards based on the IEEE 802.16 set of standards, which provide multiple physical layer (PHY) and Media Access Control (MAC) options.

4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology, succeeding 3G. A 4G system must provide capabilities defined by ITU in IMT Advanced. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.

Evolution-Data Optimized

Evolution-Data Optimized is a telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals, typically for broadband Internet access. EV-DO is an evolution of the CDMA2000 (IS-2000) standard which supports high data rates and can be deployed alongside a wireless carrier's voice services. It uses advanced multiplexing techniques including code division multiple access (CDMA) as well as time division multiplexing (TDM) to maximize throughput. It is a part of the CDMA2000 family of standards and has been adopted by many mobile phone service providers around the world particularly those previously employing CDMA networks. It is also used on the Globalstar satellite phone network.

Multi-carrier code-division multiple access (MC-CDMA) is a multiple access scheme used in OFDM-based telecommunication systems, allowing the system to support multiple users at the same time over same frequency band.

E-UTRA air interface of 3GPP LTE upgrade path for mobile networks

E-UTRA is the air interface of 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Long Term Evolution (LTE) upgrade path for mobile networks. It is an acronym for Evolved Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) Terrestrial Radio Access, also referred to as the 3GPP work item on the Long Term Evolution (LTE) also known as the Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA) in early drafts of the 3GPP LTE specification. E-UTRAN is the initialism of Evolved UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access Network and is the combination of E-UTRA, user equipment (UE), and E-UTRAN Node B or Evolved Node B (EnodeB).

This is a comparison of standards of mobile phones. A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s.

Single-carrier FDMA (SC-FDMA) is a frequency-division multiple access scheme. It is also called linearly precoded OFDMA (LP-OFDMA). Like other multiple access schemes, it deals with the assignment of multiple users to a shared communication resource. SC-FDMA can be interpreted as a linearly precoded OFDMA scheme, in the sense that it has an additional DFT processing step preceding the conventional OFDMA processing.

In radio resource management for wireless and cellular networks, channel allocation schemes allocate bandwidth and communication channels to base stations, access points and terminal equipment. The objective is to achieve maximum system spectral efficiency in bit/s/Hz/site by means of frequency reuse, but still assure a certain grade of service by avoiding co-channel interference and adjacent channel interference among nearby cells or networks that share the bandwidth.

Radio resource management (RRM) is the system level management of co-channel interference, radio resources, and other radio transmission characteristics in wireless communication systems, for example cellular networks, wireless local area networks, wireless sensor systems radio broadcasting networks. RRM involves strategies and algorithms for controlling parameters such as transmit power, user allocation, beamforming, data rates, handover criteria, modulation scheme, error coding scheme, etc. The objective is to utilize the limited radio-frequency spectrum resources and radio network infrastructure as efficiently as possible.

A wide variety of different wireless data technologies exist, some in direct competition with one another, others designed for specific applications. Wireless technologies can be evaluated by a variety of different metrics of which some are described in this entry.

Mobile broadband

Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access through a portable modem, USB wireless modem, or a tablet/smartphone or other mobile device. The first wireless Internet access became available in 1991 as part of the second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology. Higher speeds became available in 2001 and 2006 as part of the third (3G) and fourth (4G) generations. In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage. Mobile broadband uses the spectrum of 225 MHz to 3700 MHz.

Carrier interferometry

Carrier Interferometry(CI) is a spread spectrum scheme designed to be used in an Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) communication system for multiplexing and multiple access, enabling the system to support multiple users at the same time over the same frequency band.

MIMO Use of multiple antennas in radio

In radio, multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO, is a method for multiplying the capacity of a radio link using multiple transmission and receiving antennas to exploit multipath propagation. MIMO has become an essential element of wireless communication standards including IEEE 802.11n (Wi-Fi), IEEE 802.11ac (Wi-Fi), HSPA+ (3G), WiMAX (4G), and Long Term Evolution. More recently, MIMO has been applied to power-line communication for 3-wire installations as part of ITU G.hn standard and HomePlug AV2 specification.

International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced are the requirements issued by the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2008 for what is marketed as 4G mobile phone and Internet access service.

Multiple-input, multiple-output orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (MIMO-OFDM) is the dominant air interface for 4G and 5G broadband wireless communications. It combines multiple-input, multiple-output (MIMO) technology, which multiplies capacity by transmitting different signals over multiple antennas, and orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM), which divides a radio channel into a large number of closely spaced subchannels to provide more reliable communications at high speeds. Research conducted during the mid-1990s showed that while MIMO can be used with other popular air interfaces such as time-division multiple access (TDMA) and code-division multiple access (CDMA), the combination of MIMO and OFDM is most practical at higher data rates.


  1. 1 2 3 Hujun Yin and Siavash Alamouti (August 2007). "OFDMA: A Broadband Wireless Access Technology". IEEE Sarnoff Symposium, 2006. IEEE: 1–4. doi:10.1109/SARNOF.2006.4534773.
  2. Guowang Miao; Guocong Song (2014). Energy and spectrum efficient wireless network design. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   1-107-03988-6.