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Frequency and Phase Modulation

In frequency modulation (FM), the frequency of the carrier wave is varied in such a way that the change in frequency at any instant is proportional to another signal that varies with time. Its principal application is also in radio, where it offers increased noise immunity and decreased distortion over the AM transmissions at the expense of greatly increased bandwidth. The FM band has become the choice of music listeners because of its low-noise, wide-bandwidth qualities; it is also used for the audio portion of a television broadcast.

Digital radio is based on frequency division multiplexing (FDM), which allows transmission of multiple signals simultaneously over a single transmission path, such as a cable or wireless system. Each signal travels within its own unique frequency range (carrier), which is modulated by the data (audio, video, etc.). Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) takes this concept further, separating an individual transmission into multiple low-frequency signals with a high resistance to interference. A further extension of the technology, coded orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (COFDM), is widely used in Europe and elsewhere where the digital audio broadcast (DAB) standard has been adopted. OFDM and COFDM offer the benefits of high spectral efficiency, resilience to radio-frequency (RF) interference, and lower multipath distortion.

Phase modulation, like frequency modulation, is a form of angle modulation (so called because the angle of the sinewave carrier is changed by the modulating wave). The two methods are very similar in the sense that any attempt to shift the frequency or phase is accomplished by a change in the other.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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