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FundamentalsofCommunicationsAccessTechnologies:
FDMA,TDMA,CDMA,OFDMA,ANDSDMA
LouFrenzel

CommunicationsEditor
Tue,2013012212:05

Accommodatingmultipleusersinasinglebandwidthistheessenceofaccessmethods.
Accessmethodsaremultiplexingtechniquesthatprovidecommunicationsservicestomultipleusersina
singlebandwidthwiredorwirelessmedium.Communicationschannels,whethertheyrewirelessspectrum
segmentsorcableconnections,areexpensive.Communicationsservicesprovidersmustengagemultiple
paidusersoverlimitedresourcestomakeaprofit.Accessmethodsallowmanyuserstosharetheselimited
channelstoprovidetheeconomyofscalenecessaryforasuccessfulcommunicationsbusiness.Thereare
fivebasicaccessormultiplexingmethods:frequencydivisionmultipleaccess(FDMA),timedivisionmultiple
access(TDMA),codedivisionmultipleaccess(CDMA),orthogonalfrequencydivisionmultipleaccess
(OFDMA),andspatialdivisionmultipleaccess(SDMA).
TableOfContents
FDMA
TDMA
CDMA
OFDMA
SDMA
OtherMethods
References
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FDMA
FDMAistheprocessofdividingonechannelorbandwidthintomultipleindividualbands,eachforusebya
singleuser(Fig.1).Eachindividualbandorchanneliswideenoughtoaccommodatethesignalspectraofthe
transmissionstobepropagated.Thedatatobetransmittedismodulatedontoeachsubcarrier,andallof
themarelinearlymixedtogether.

1.FDMAdividesthesharedmediumbandwidthintoindividualchannels.Subcarriersmodulatedbythe
informationtobetransmittedoccupyeachsubchannel.
Thebestexampleofthisisthecabletelevisionsystem.Themediumisasinglecoaxcablethatisusedto
broadcasthundredsofchannelsofvideo/audioprogrammingtohomes.Thecoaxcablehasauseful
bandwidthfromabout4MHzto1GHz.Thisbandwidthisdividedupinto6MHzwidechannels.Initially,
oneTVstationorchannelusedasingle6MHzband.Butwithdigitaltechniques,multipleTVchannelsmay
shareasinglebandtodaythankstocompressionandmultiplexingtechniquesusedineachchannel.
Thistechniqueisalsousedinfiberopticcommunicationssystems.Asinglefiberopticcablehasenormous
bandwidththatcanbesubdividedtoprovideFDMA.Differentdataorinformationsourcesareeach
assignedadifferentlightfrequencyfortransmission.Lightgenerallyisntreferredtobyfrequencybutbyits
wavelength().Asaresult,fiberopticFDMAiscalledwavelengthdivisionmultipleaccess(WDMA)orjust
wavelengthdivisionmultiplexing(WDM).
OneoftheolderFDMAsystemsistheoriginalanalogtelephonesystem,whichusedahierarchyoffrequency
multiplextechniquestoputmultipletelephonecallsonsingleline.Theanalog300Hzto3400Hzvoice
signalswereusedtomodulatesubcarriersin12channelsfrom60kHzto108kHz.Modulator/mixers
createdsinglesideband(SSB)signals,bothupperandlowersidebands.Thesesubcarrierswerethenfurther
frequencymultiplexedonsubcarriersinthe312kHzto552kHzrangeusingthesamemodulationmethods.
Atthereceivingendofthesystem,thesignalsweresortedoutandrecoveredwithfiltersanddemodulators.
OriginalaerospacetelemetrysystemsusedanFDMAsystemtoaccommodatemultiplesensordataona
singleradiochannel.Earlysatellitesystemssharedindividual36MHzbandwidthtranspondersinthe4
GHzto6GHzrangewithmultiplevoice,video,ordatasignalsviaFDMA.Today,alloftheseapplications
useTDMAdigitaltechniques.
TDMA
TDMAisadigitaltechniquethatdividesasinglechannelorbandintotimeslots.Eachtimeslotisusedto
transmitonebyteoranotherdigitalsegmentofeachsignalinsequentialserialdataformat.Thistechnique
workswellwithslowvoicedatasignals,butitsalsousefulforcompressedvideoandotherhighspeeddata.
AgoodexampleisthewidelyusedT1transmissionsystem,whichhasbeenusedforyearsinthetelecom
industry.T1linescarryupto24individualvoicetelephonecallsonasingleline(Fig.2).Eachvoicesignal
usuallycovers300Hzto3000Hzandisdigitizedatan8kHzrate,whichisjustabitmorethantheminimal
Nyquistrateoftwotimesthehighestfrequencycomponentneededtoretainalltheanalogcontent.

2.ThisT1digitaltelephonyframeillustratesTDMandTDMA.Eachtimeslotisallocatedtooneuser.The
highdataratemakestheuserunawareofthelackofsimultaneity.
Thedigitizedvoiceappearsasindividualserialbytesthatoccurata64kHzrate,and24ofthesebytesare
interleaved,producingoneT1frameofdata.Theframeoccursata1.536MHzrate(24by64kHz)foratotal
of192bits.Asinglesynchronizingbitisaddedfortimingpurposesforanoveralldatarateof1.544Mbits/s.
Atthereceivingend,theindividualvoicebytesarerecoveredatthe64kHzrateandpassedthrougha
digitaltoanalogconverter(DAC)thatreproducestheanalogvoice.
ThebasicGSM(GlobalSystemofMobileCommunications)cellularphonesystemisTDMAbased.Itdivides
uptheradiospectruminto200kHzbandsandthenusestimedivisiontechniquestoputeightvoicecalls
intoonechannel.Figure3showsoneframeofaGSMTDMAsignal.Theeighttimeslotscanbevoicesignals
ordatasuchastextsoremails.Theframeistransmittedata270kbit/srateusingGaussianminimumshift
keying(GMSK),whichisaformoffrequencyshiftkeying(FSK)modulation.

3.ThisGSMdigitalcellularmethodshowshowuptoeightuserscansharea200kHzchannelindifferent
timeslotswithinaframeof1248bits.
CDMA
CDMAisanotherpuredigitaltechnique.Itisalsoknownasspreadspectrumbecauseittakesthedigitized
versionofananalogsignalandspreadsitoutoverawiderbandwidthatalowerpowerlevel.Thismethodis
calleddirectsequencespreadspectrum(DSSS)aswell(Fig.4).Thedigitizedandcompressedvoicesignalin
serialdataformisspreadbyprocessingitinanXORcircuitalongwithachippingsignalatamuchhigher
frequency.InthecdmaIS95standard,a1.2288Mbit/schippingsignalspreadsthedigitizedcompressed
voiceat13kbits/s.

4.SpreadspectrumisthetechniqueofCDMA.Thecompressedanddigitizedvoicesignalisprocessedinan
XORlogiccircuitalongwithahigherfrequencycodedchippingsignal.Theresultisthatthedigitalvoiceis
spreadoveramuchwiderbandwidththatcanbesharedwithotherusersusingdifferentcodes.
Thechippingsignalisderivedfromapseudorandomcodegeneratorthatassignsauniquecodetoeachuser
ofthechannel.Thiscodespreadsthevoicesignaloverabandwidthof1.25MHz.Theresultingsignalisata
lowpowerlevelandappearsmorelikenoise.Manysuchsignalscanoccupythesamechannel
simultaneously.Forexample,using64uniquechippingcodesallowsupto64userstooccupythesame1.25
MHzchannelatthesametime.Atthereceiver,acorrelatingcircuitfindsandidentifiesaspecificcallers
codeandrecoversit.
Thethirdgeneration(3G)cellphonetechnologycalledwidebandCDMA(WCDMA)usesasimilarmethod
withcompressedvoiceand3.84Mbit/schippingcodesina5MHzchanneltoallowmultipleuserstoshare
thesameband.
OFDMA
OFDMAistheaccesstechniqueusedinLongTermEvolution(LTE)cellularsystemstoaccommodate
multipleusersinagivenbandwidth.Orthogonalfrequencydivisionmultiplexing(OFDM)isamodulation
methodthatdividesachannelintomultiplenarroworthogonalbandsthatarespacedsotheydontinterfere
withoneanother.Eachbandisdividedintohundredsoreventhousandsof15kHzwidesubcarriers.
Thedatatobetransmittedisdividedintomanylowerspeedbitstreamsandmodulatedontothe
subcarriers.Timeslotswithineachsubchanneldatastreamareusedtopackagethedatatobetransmitted
(Fig.5).Thistechniqueisveryspectrallyefficient,soitprovidesveryhighdatarates.Italsoislessaffected
bymultipathpropagationeffects.

5.OFDMAassignsagroupofsubcarrierstoeachuser.Thesubcarriersarepartofthelargenumberof
subcarriersusedtoimplementOFDMforLTE.Thedatamaybevoice,video,orsomethingelse,andits
assembledintotimesegmentsthatarethentransmittedoversomeoftheassignedsubcarriers.
ToimplementOFDMA,eachuserisassignedagroupofsubchannelsandrelatedtimeslots.Thesmallest
groupofsubchannelsassignedis12andcalledaresourceblock(RB).ThesystemassignsthenumberofRBs
toeachuserasneeded.
SDMA
SDMAusesphysicalseparationmethodsthatpermitthesharingofwirelesschannels.Forinstance,asingle
channelmaybeusedsimultaneouslyiftheusersarespacedfarenoughfromoneanothertoavoid
interference.Knownasfrequencyreuse,themethodiswidelyusedincellularradiosystems.Cellsitesare
spacedfromoneanothertominimizeinterference.
Inadditiontospacing,directionalantennasareusedtoavoidinterference.Mostcellsitesusethree
antennastocreate120sectorsthatallowfrequencysharing(Fig.6a).Newtechnologieslikesmartantennas
oradaptivearraysusedynamicbeamformingtoshrinksignalsintonarrowbeamsthatcanbefocusedon
specificusers,excludingallothers(Fig.6b).

6.SDMAseparatesusersonsharedfrequenciesbyisolatingthemwithdirectionalantennas.Mostcellsites
havethreeantennaarraystoseparatetheircoverageintoisolated120sectors(a).Adaptivearraysuse
beamformingtopinpointdesireduserswhileignoringanyothersonthesamefrequency(b).
OneuniquevariationofSDMA,polarizationdivisionmultipleaccess(PDMA),separatessignalsbyusing
differentpolarizationsoftheantennas.Twodifferentsignalsthencanusethesamefrequency,one
transmittingaverticallypolarizedsignalandtheothertransmittingahorizontallypolarizedsignal.
Thesignalswontinterferewithoneanothereveniftheyreonthesamefrequencybecausetheyre
orthogonalandtheantennaswontrespondtotheoppositelypolarizedsignal.Separateverticaland
horizontalreceiverantennasareusedtorecoverthetwoorthogonalsignals.Thistechniqueiswidelyusedin
satellitesystems.
Polarizationisalsousedformultiplexinginfiberopticsystems.Thenew100Gbit/ssystemsusedual
polarizationquadraturephaseshiftkeying(DPQPSK)toachievehighspeedsonasinglefiber.Thehigh
speeddataisdividedintotwoslowerdatastreams,oneusingverticallightpolarizationandtheother
horizontallightpolarization.Polarizationfiltersseparatethetwosignalsatthetransmitterandreceiverand
mergethembackintothehighspeedstream.
OtherMethods
Auniqueandwidelyusedmethodofmultipleaccessiscarriersensemultipleaccesswithcollisiondetection
(CSMACD).ThisistheclassicalaccessmethodusedinEthernetlocalareanetworks(LANs).Itallows
multipleusersofthenetworktoaccessthesinglecablefortransmission.Allnetworknodeslisten
continuously.Whentheywanttosenddata,theylistenfirstandthentransmitifnoothersignalsareonthe
line.Forinstance,thetransmissionwillbeonepacketorframe.Thentheprocessrepeats.Iftwoormore
transmissionsoccursimultaneously,acollisionoccurs.Thenetworkinterfacecircuitrycandetectacollision,
andthenthenodeswillwaitarandomtimebeforeretransmitting.
Avariationofthismethodiscalledcarriersensemultipleaccesswithcollisionavoidance(CSMACA).This

methodissimilartoCSMACD.However,aspecialschedulingalgorithmisusedtodeterminethe
appropriatetimetotransmitoverthesharedchannel.WhiletheCSMACDtechniqueismostusedinwired
networks,CSMACAisthepreferredmethodinwirelessnetworks.
References
1. Frenzel,LouisE.,PrinciplesofElectronicCommunicationSystems,3rdEdition,McGrawHill,2008.
2. Gibson,JerryD.,Editor,TheCommunicationsHandbook,CRCPress,1997.
3. Skylar,Bernard,DigitalCommunications,2ndEdition,PrenticeHall,2001.
4. Tomasi,Wayne,AdvancedElectronicCommunicationsSystems,4thEdition,PrenticeHall,1998.
SourceURL:http://electronicdesign.com/communications/fundamentalscommunicationsaccess
technologiesfdmatdmacdmaofdmaandsdma