A device that performs modulation is known as a modulator and a device that performs the inverse operation of modulation is known as a demodulator (sometimes detector or demod). A device that can do both operations is a modem (short for "Modulator-Demodulator").
The aim of analog modulation is to transfer an analog lowpass signal, for example an audio signal or TV signal, over an analog bandpass channel, for example a limited radio frequency band or a cable TV network channel.
Analog and digital modulation facilitate frequency division multiplexing (FDM), where several low pass information signals are transferred simultaneously over the same shared physical medium, using separate bandpass channels.
The aim of digital baseband modulation methods, also known as line coding, is to transfer a digital bit stream over a lowpass channel, typically a non-filtered copper wire such as a serial bus or a wired local area network.
The aim of pulse modulation methods is to transfer a narrowband analog signal, for example a phone call over a wideband lowpass channel or, in some of the schemes, as a bit stream over another digital transmission system.
Common analog modulation techniques are:
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. You can say that modems play music for each other. 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 represents a message consisting of two digital bits in this example, the bit rate is twice the symbol rate, i.e. 2000 bit per second.
In QAM, an inphase signal (the I signal, for example a cosine waveform) and a quadrature phase signal (the Q signal, for example a sine wave) are amplitude modulated with a finite number of amplitudes, and summed. It can be seen as a two-channel system, each channel using ASK. The resulting signal is equivalent to a combination of PSK and ASK.
In all of the above methods, each of these phases, frequencies or amplitudes are assigned a unique pattern of binary bits. Usually, each phase, frequency or amplitude encodes an equal number of bits. This number of bits comprises the symbol that is represented by the particular phase.
If the alphabet consists of alternative symbols, each symbol represents a message consisting of N bits. If the symbol rate (also known as the baud rate) is symbols/second (or baud), the data rate is bit/second.
For example, with an alphabet consisting of 16 alternative symbols, each symbol represents 4 bits. Thus, the data rate is four times the baud rate.
In the case of PSK, ASK or QAM, where the carrier frequency of the modulated signal is constant, the modulation alphabet is often conveniently represented on a constellation diagram, showing the amplitude of the I signal at the x-axis, and the amplitude of the Q signal at the y-axis, for each symbol.
These are the general steps used by the modulator to transmit data:
At the receiver side, the demodulator typically performs:
As is common to all digital communication systems, the design of both the modulator and demodulator must be done simultaneously. Digital modulation schemes are possible because the transmitter-receiver pair have prior knowledge of how data is encoded and represented in the communications system. In all digital communication systems, both the modulator at the transmitter and the demodulator at the receiver are structured so that they perform inverse operations.
Non-coherent modulation methods do not require a receiver reference clock signal that is phase synchronized with the sender carrier wave. In this case, modulation symbols (rather than bits, characters, or data packets) are asynchronously transferred. The opposite is coherent modulation.
MSK and GMSK are particular cases of continuous phase modulation. Indeed, MSK is a particular case of the sub-family of CPM known as continuous-phase frequency-shift keying (CPFSK) which is defined by a rectangular frequency pulse (i.e. a linearly increasing phase pulse) of one symbol-time duration (total response signaling).
OFDM is based on the idea of frequency division multiplexing (FDM), but is utilized as a digital modulation scheme. The bit stream is split into several parallel data streams, each transferred over its own sub-carrier using some conventional digital modulation scheme. The modulated sub-carriers are summed to form an OFDM signal. OFDM is considered as a modulation technique rather than a multiplex technique, since it transfers one bit stream over one communication channel using one sequence of so-called OFDM symbols. OFDM can be extended to multi-user channel access method in the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) and MC-CDMA schemes, allowing several users to share the same physical medium by giving different sub-carriers or spreading codes to different users.
Of the two kinds of RF power amplifier, switching amplifiers (Class C amplifiers) cost less and use less battery power than linear amplifiers of the same output power. However, they only work with relatively constant-amplitude-modulation signals such as angle modulation (FSK or PSK) and CDMA, but not with QAM and OFDM. Nevertheless, even though switching amplifiers are completely unsuitable for normal QAM constellations, often the QAM modulation principle are used to drive switching amplifiers with these FM and other waveforms, and sometimes QAM demodulators are used to receive the signals put out by these switching amplifiers.