Digital Bitstream

Digital Modulation

The aim of digital modulation is to transfer a digital bit stream over an analog bandpass channel, for example over the public switched telephone network (where a bandpass filter limits the frequency range to between 300 and 3400 Hz), or over a limited radio frequency band.

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).

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 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 dialup modems as opposed to DSL modems.

According to one definition of digital signal, the modulated signal is a digital signal, and according to another definition, 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.