Time-division multiplexing

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Time-division multiplexing (TDM) is a method of transmitting and receiving independent signals over a common signal path by means of synchronized switches at each end of the transmission line so that each signal appears on the line only a fraction of time in an alternating pattern. It is used when the bit rate of the transmission medium exceeds that of the signal to be transmitted. This form of signal multiplexing was developed in telecommunications for telegraphy systems in the late 19th century, but found its most common application in digital telephony in the second half of the 20th century.

In telecommunications and computing, bit rate is the number of bits that are conveyed or processed per unit of time.

Multiplexing method by which multiple analog or digital signals are combined into one signal over a shared medium

In telecommunications and computer networks, multiplexing is a method by which multiple analog or digital signals are combined into one signal over a shared medium. The aim is to share a scarce resource. For example, in telecommunications, several telephone calls may be carried using one wire. Multiplexing originated in telegraphy in the 1870s, and is now widely applied in communications. In telephony, George Owen Squier is credited with the development of telephone carrier multiplexing in 1910.

Telegraphy long distance transmission of textual/symbolic messages without the physical exchange of an object

Telegraphy is the long-distance transmission of textual or symbolic messages without the physical exchange of an object bearing the message. Thus semaphore is a method of telegraphy, whereas pigeon post is not.



Time-division multiplexing was first developed for applications in telegraphy to route multiple transmissions simultaneously over a single transmission line. In the 1870s, Émile Baudot developed a time-multiplexing system of multiple Hughes telegraph machines.

Electrical telegraph

An electrical telegraph is a telegraph that uses electrical signals, usually conveyed via dedicated telecommunication circuit or radio.

Émile Baudot French engineer

Jean-Maurice-Émile Baudot, French telegraph engineer and inventor of the first means of digital communication Baudot code, was one of the pioneers of telecommunications. He invented a multiplexed printing telegraph system that used his code and allowed multiple transmissions over a single line. The baud unit was named after him.

In 1944, the British Army used the Wireless Set No. 10 to multiplex 10 telephone conversations over a microwave relay as far as 50 miles. This allowed commanders in the field to keep in contact with the staff in England across the English Channel. [1]

British Army land warfare branch of the British Armed Forces of the United Kingdom

The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of British Armed Forces. As of 2018, the British Army comprises just over 81,500 trained regular (full-time) personnel and just over 27,000 trained reserve (part-time) personnel.

English Channel Arm of the Atlantic Ocean that separates southern England from northern France

The English Channel, also called simply the Channel, is the body of water that separates Southern England from northern France and links the southern part of the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean. It is the busiest shipping area in the world.

In 1953 a 24-channel TDM was placed in commercial operation by RCA Communications to send audio information between RCA's facility on Broad Street, New York, their transmitting station at Rocky Point and the receiving station at Riverhead, Long Island, New York. The communication was by a microwave system throughout Long Island. The experimental TDM system was developed by RCA Laboratories between 1950 and 1953. [2]

In 1962, engineers from Bell Labs developed the first D1 channel banks, which combined 24 digitized voice calls over a four-wire copper trunk between Bell central office analogue switches. A channel bank sliced a 1.544 Mbit/s digital signal into 8,000 separate frames, each composed of 24 contiguous bytes. Each byte represented a single telephone call encoded into a constant bit rate signal of 64 kbit/s. Channel banks used the fixed position (temporal alignment) of one byte in the frame to identify the call it belonged to. [3]

Telephone exchange telecommunications system used in public switched telephone networks or in large enterprises

A telephone exchange is a telecommunications system used in the public switched telephone network or in large enterprises. An exchange consists of electronic components and in older systems also human operators that interconnect (switch) telephone subscriber lines or virtual circuits of digital systems to establish telephone calls between subscribers.


Time-division multiplexing is used primarily for digital signals, but may be applied in analog multiplexing in which two or more signals or bit streams are transferred appearing simultaneously as sub-channels in one communication channel, but are physically taking turns on the channel. The time domain is divided into several recurrent time slots of fixed length, one for each sub-channel. A sample byte or data block of sub-channel 1 is transmitted during time slot 1, sub-channel 2 during time slot 2, etc. One TDM frame consists of one time slot per sub-channel plus a synchronization channel and sometimes error correction channel before the synchronization. After the last sub-channel, error correction, and synchronization, the cycle starts all over again with a new frame, starting with the second sample, byte or data block from sub-channel 1, etc.

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

Pulse-amplitude modulation form of signal modulation where the message information is encoded in the amplitude of a series of signal pulse

Pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM), is a form of signal modulation where the message information is encoded in the amplitude of a series of signal pulses. It is an analog pulse modulation scheme in which the amplitudes of a train of carrier pulses are varied according to the sample value of the message signal. Demodulation is performed by detecting the amplitude level of the carrier at every single period.

A frame is a digital data transmission unit in computer networking and telecommunication. In packet switched systems, a frame is a simple container for a single network packet. In other telecommunications systems, a frame is a repeating structure supporting time-division multiplexing.

Application examples

TDM can be further extended into the time-division multiple access (TDMA) scheme, where several stations connected to the same physical medium, for example sharing the same frequency channel, can communicate. Application examples include:

Multiplexed digital transmission

In circuit-switched networks, such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN), it is desirable to transmit multiple subscriber calls over the same transmission medium to effectively utilize the bandwidth of the medium. [4] TDM allows transmitting and receiving telephone switches to create channels (tributaries) within a transmission stream. A standard DS0 voice signal has a data bit rate of 64 kbit/s. [4] [5] A TDM circuit runs at a much higher signal bandwidth, permitting the bandwidth to be divided into time frames (time slots) for each voice signal which is multiplexed onto the line by the transmitter. If the TDM frame consists of n voice frames, the line bandwidth is n*64 kbit/s. [4]

Each voice time slot in the TDM frame is called a channel. In European systems, standard TDM frames contain 30 digital voice channels (E1), and in American systems (T1), they contain 24 channels. Both standards also contain extra bits (or bit time slots) for signaling and synchronization bits. [4]

Multiplexing more than 24 or 30 digital voice channels is called higher order multiplexing. Higher order multiplexing is accomplished by multiplexing the standard TDM frames. For example, a European 120 channel TDM frame is formed by multiplexing four standard 30 channel TDM frames. At each higher order multiplex, four TDM frames from the immediate lower order are combined, creating multiplexes with a bandwidth of n*64 kbit/s, where n = 120, 480, 1920, etc. [4]

Telecommunications systems

There are three types of synchronous TDM: T1, SONET/SDH, and ISDN. [6]

Plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) was developed as a standard for multiplexing higher order frames. PDH created larger numbers of channels by multiplexing the standard Europeans 30 channel TDM frames. This solution worked for a while; however PDH suffered from several inherent drawbacks which ultimately resulted in the development of the Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH). The requirements which drove the development of SDH were these: [4] [5]

SDH has become the primary transmission protocol in most PSTN networks. It was developed to allow streams 1.544 Mbit/s and above to be multiplexed, in order to create larger SDH frames known as Synchronous Transport Modules (STM). The STM-1 frame consists of smaller streams that are multiplexed to create a 155.52 Mbit/s frame. SDH can also multiplex packet based frames e.g. Ethernet, PPP and ATM. [4] [5]

While SDH is considered to be a transmission protocol (Layer 1 in the OSI Reference Model), it also performs some switching functions, as stated in the third bullet point requirement listed above. [4] The most common SDH Networking functions are these:

SDH network functions are connected using high-speed optic fibre. Optic fibre uses light pulses to transmit data and is therefore extremely fast. Modern optic fibre transmission makes use of wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) where signals transmitted across the fibre are transmitted at different wavelengths, creating additional channels for transmission. This increases the speed and capacity of the link, which in turn reduces both unit and total costs. [4] [5]

Statistical time-division multiplexing

Statistical time-division multiplexing (STDM) is an advanced version of TDM in which both the address of the terminal and the data itself are transmitted together for better routing. Using STDM allows bandwidth to be split over one line. Many college and corporate campuses use this type of TDM to distribute bandwidth.

On a 10-Mbit line entering a network, STDM can be used to provide 178 terminals with a dedicated 56k connection (178 * 56k = 9.96Mb). A more common use however is to only grant the bandwidth when that much is needed. STDM does not reserve a time slot for each terminal, rather it assigns a slot when the terminal is requiring data to be sent or received.

In its primary form, TDM is used for circuit mode communication with a fixed number of channels and constant bandwidth per channel. Bandwidth reservation distinguishes time-division multiplexing from statistical multiplexing such as statistical time-division multiplexing. In pure TDM, the time slots are recurrent in a fixed order and pre-allocated to the channels, rather than scheduled on a packet-by-packet basis.

In dynamic TDMA, a scheduling algorithm dynamically reserves a variable number of time slots in each frame to variable bit-rate data streams, based on the traffic demand of each data stream. [7] Dynamic TDMA is used in:

Asynchronous time-division multiplexing (ATDM), [6] is an alternative nomenclature in which STDM designates synchronous time-division multiplexing, the older method that uses fixed time slots.

See also

Related Research Articles

In telecommunications, asynchronous communication is transmission of data, generally without the use of an external clock signal, where data can be transmitted intermittently rather than in a steady stream. Any timing required to recover data from the communication symbols is encoded within the symbols.

The plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) is a technology used in telecommunications networks to transport large quantities of data over digital transport equipment such as fibre optic and microwave radio systems. The term plesiochronous is derived from Greek plēsios, meaning near, and chronos, time, and refers to the fact that PDH networks run in a state where different parts of the network are nearly, but not quite perfectly, synchronized.

Synchronous optical networking

Synchronous optical networking (SONET) and synchronous digital hierarchy (SDH) are standardized protocols that transfer multiple digital bit streams synchronously over optical fiber using lasers or highly coherent light from light-emitting diodes (LEDs). At low transmission rates data can also be transferred via an electrical interface. The method was developed to replace the plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) system for transporting large amounts of telephone calls and data traffic over the same fiber without the problems of synchronization.

In computer networking, cell relay refers to a method of statistically multiplexing small fixed-length packets, called "cells", to transport data between computers or kinds of network equipment. It is an unreliable, connection-oriented packet switched data communications protocol.


The T-carrier is a member of the series of carrier systems developed by AT&T Bell Laboratories for digital transmission of multiplexed telephone calls.

The E-carrier is a member of the series of carrier systems developed for digital transmission of many simultaneous telephone calls by time-division multiplexing. The European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) originally standardized the E-carrier system, which revised and improved the earlier American T-carrier technology, and this has now been adopted by the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T). It was widely adopted in almost all countries outside the US, Canada, and Japan. E-carrier deployments have steadily been replaced by Ethernet as telecommunication networks transitions towards all IP.

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.

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.

The public switched telephone network (PSTN) is the aggregate of the world's circuit-switched telephone networks that are operated by national, regional, or local telephony operators, providing infrastructure and services for public telecommunication. The PSTN consists of telephone lines, fiber optic cables, microwave transmission links, cellular networks, communications satellites, and undersea telephone cables, all interconnected by switching centers, thus allowing most telephones to communicate with each other. Originally a network of fixed-line analog telephone systems, the PSTN is now almost entirely digital in its core network and includes mobile and other networks, as well as fixed telephones.

Digital Signal 1 is a T-carrier signaling scheme devised by Bell Labs. DS1 is the primary digital telephone standard used in the United States, Canada and Japan and is able to transmit up to 24 multiplexed voice and data calls over telephone lines. E-carrier is used in place of T-carrier outside the United States, Canada, Japan, and South Korea. DS1 is the logical bit pattern used over a physical T1 line; in practice, the terms "DS1" and "T1" are often used interchangeably.

In computer networking and telecommunications, TDM over IP (TDMoIP) is the emulation of time-division multiplexing (TDM) over a packet switched network (PSN). TDM refers to a T1, E1, T3 or E3 signal, while the PSN is based either on IP or MPLS or on raw Ethernet. A related technology is circuit emulation, which enables transport of TDM traffic over cell-based (ATM) networks.

A passive optical network (PON) is a telecommunications technology used to provide fiber to the end consumer, both domestic and commercial. A PON's distinguishing feature is that it implements a point-to-multipoint architecture, in which unpowered fiber optic splitters are used to enable a single optical fiber to serve multiple end-points. The end-points are often individual customers, rather than commercial. A PON does not have to provision individual fibers between the hub and customer. Passive optical networks are often referred to as the "last mile" between an ISP and customer.

The STM-1 is the SDH ITU-T fiber optic network transmission standard. It has a bit rate of 155.52 Mbit/s. Higher levels go up by a factor of 4 at a time: the other currently supported levels are STM-4, STM-16, STM-64 and STM-256. Beyond this we have wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) commonly used in submarine cabling.

Statistical time-division multiplexing

Statistical multiplexing is a type of communication link sharing, very similar to dynamic bandwidth allocation (DBA). In statistical multiplexing, a communication channel is divided into an arbitrary number of variable bitrate digital channels or data streams. The link sharing is adapted to the instantaneous traffic demands of the data streams that are transferred over each channel. This is an alternative to creating a fixed sharing of a link, such as in general time division multiplexing (TDM) and frequency division multiplexing (FDM). When performed correctly, statistical multiplexing can provide a link utilization improvement, called the statistical multiplexing gain.

Virtual concatenation (VCAT) is an inverse multiplexing technique creating a large capacity payload container distributed over multiple smaller capacity TDM signals. These signals may be transported or routed independently. Virtual concatenation has been defined for SONET/SDH, OTN and PDH path signals.

McASP is an acronym for Multichannel Audio Serial Port, a communication peripheral found in Texas Instruments family of digital signal processors (DSPs) and Microcontroller Units (MCUs).
The McASP functions as a general-purpose audio serial port optimized for the needs of multichannel audio applications. Depending on the implementation, the McASP may be useful for time-division multiplexed (TDM) stream, Inter-Integrated Sound (I2S) protocols, and intercomponent digital audio interface transmission (DIT). However, some implementations are limited to supporting just the Inter-Integrated Sound (I2S) protocol.
The McASP consists of transmit and receive sections that may operate synchronized, or completely independently with separate master clocks, bit clocks, and frame syncs, and using different transmit modes with different bit-stream formats. The McASP module also includes up to 16 serializers that can be individually enabled to either transmit or receive. In addition, all of the McASP pins can be configured as general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins.

The STM-4 is a SDH ITU-T fiber optic network transmission standard. It has a bit rate of 622.080 Mbit/s.

The pulse code modulation (PCM) technology was patented and developed in France in 1938, but could not be used because suitable technology was not available until World War II. This came about with the arrival of digital systems in the 1960s, when improving the performance of communications networks became a real possibility. However, this technology was not completely adopted until the mid-1970s, due to the large amount of analog systems already in place and the high cost of digital systems, as semiconductors were very expensive. PCM’s initial goal was that of converting an analog voice telephone channel into a digital one based on the sampling theorem.


  1. Wireless Set No. 10
  2. US 2919308 "Time Division Multiplex System for Signals of Different Bandwidth"
  3. María Isabel Gandía Carriedo (31 August 1998). "ATM: Origins and State of the Art". Universidad Politécnica de Madrid. Archived from the original on 23 June 2006. Retrieved 2009-09-23.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 Hanrahan, H.E. (2005). Integrated Digital Communications. Johannesburg, South Africa: School of Electrical and Information Engineering, University of the Witwatersrand.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Understanding Telecommunications". Ericsson . Archived from the original on April 13, 2004.
  6. 1 2 White, Curt (2007). Data Communications and Computer Networks. Boston, MA: Thomson Course Technology. pp. 143–152. ISBN   1-4188-3610-9.
  7. Guowang Miao; Jens Zander; Ki Won Sung; Ben Slimane (2016). Fundamentals of Mobile Data Networks. Cambridge University Press. ISBN   1107143217.