spread over

Spread spectrum

Spread-spectrum techniques are methods by which energy generated in a particular bandwidth is deliberately spread in the frequency domain, resulting in a signal with a wider bandwidth. These techniques are used for a variety of reasons, including the establishment of secure communications, increasing resistance to natural interference and jamming, and to prevent detection.


Frequency Hopping

The concept of frequency hopping was first alluded to in the 1903 and filed by Nikola Tesla in July 1900. Tesla came up with the idea after demonstrating the world's first radio-controlled submersible boat in 1898, when it became apparent the wireless signals controlling the boat needed to be secure from "being disturbed, intercepted, or interfered with in any way." His patents covered two fundamentally different techniques for achieving immunity to interference, both of which functioned by altering the carrier frequency or other exclusive characteristic. The first had a transmitter that worked simultaneously at two or more separate frequencies and a receiver in which each of the individual transmitted frequencies had to be tuned in, in order for the control circuitry to respond. The second technique used a variable-frequency transmitter controlled by an encoding wheel that altered the transmitted frequency in a predetermined manner. These patents describe the basic principles of frequency hopping and frequency-division multiplexing, and also the electronic AND-gate logic circuit.

Frequency hopping is also mentioned in radio pioneer Johannes Zenneck's book Wireless Telegraphy (German, 1908, English translation McGraw Hill, 1915), although Zenneck himself states that Telefunken had already tried it several years earlier. Zenneck's book was a leading text of the time and it is likely that many later engineers were aware of it. A Polish army officer, named Leonard Danielewicz, came up with the idea in 1929. Several other patents were taken out in the 1930s, including one by Willem Broertjes (Germany 1929, , 1932). During World War II, the US Army Signal Corp was inventing a communication system called SIGSALY for communication between Roosevelt and Churchill, which incorporated spread spectrum, but due to its top secret nature, SIGSALY's existence did not become known until the 1980s.

The most celebrated invention of frequency hopping was that of actress Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil, who in 1942 received for their "Secret Communications System". Lamarr had learned about the problem at defense meetings she had attended with her former husband Friedrich Mandl, who was an Austrian arms manufacturer. The Antheil-Lamarr version of frequency hopping used a piano-roll to change among 88 frequencies, and was intended to make radio-guided torpedoes harder for enemies to detect or to jam. The patent came to light during patent searches in the 1950s when ITT Corporation and other private firms began to develop Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), a civilian form of spread spectrum, though the Lamarr patent had no direct impact on subsequent technology. It was in fact ongoing military research at MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Magnavox Government & Industrial Electronics Corporation, ITT and Sylvania Electronic Systems that led to early spread-spectrum technology in the 1950s. Parallel research on radar systems and a technologically similar concept called "phase coding" also had an impact on spread-spectrum development.

Commercial use

The 1976 publication of Spread Spectrum Systems by Robert Dixon, ISBN 0-471-21629-1, was a significant milestone in the commercialization of this technology. Previous publications were either classified military reports or academic papers on narrow subtopics. Dixon's book was the first comprehensive unclassified review of the technology and set the stage for increasing research into commercial applications.

Initial commercial use of spread spectrum began in the 1980s in the US with three systems: Equatorial Communications System's very small aperture (VSAT) satellite terminal system for newspaper newswire services, Del Norte Technology's radio navigation system for navigation of aircraft for crop dusting and similar applications, and Qualcomm's OmniTRACS system for communications to trucks. In the Qualcomm and Equatorial systems, spread spectrum enabled small antennas that viewed more than one satellite to be used since the processing gain of spread spectrum eliminated interference. The Del Norte system used the high bandwidth of spread spectrum to improve location accuracy.

In 1981, the Federal Communications Commission started exploring ways to permit more general civil uses of spread spectrum in a Notice of Inquiry docket. . This docket was proposed to FCC and then directed by Michael Marcus of the FCC staff. The proposals in the docket were generally opposed by spectrum users and radio equipment manufacturers, although they were supported by the then Hewlett-Packard Corp. The laboratory group supporting the proposal would later become part of Agilent.

The May 1985 decision in this docket permitted unlicensed use of spread spectrum in 3 bands at powers up to 1 Watt. FCC said at the time that it would welcome additional requests for spread spectrum in other bands.The resulting rules, now codified as permitted Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and many other products including cordless telephones. These rules were then copied in many other countries. Qualcomm was incorporated within 2 months after the decision to commercialize CDMA.

Spread-spectrum telecommunications

This is a technique in which a (telecommunication) signal is transmitted on a bandwidth considerably larger than the frequency content of the original information.

Spread-spectrum telecommunications is a signal structuring technique that employs direct sequence, frequency hopping or a hybrid of these, which can be used for multiple access and/or multiple functions. This technique decreases the potential interference to other receivers while achieving privacy. Spread spectrum generally makes use of a sequential noise-like signal structure to spread the normally narrowband information signal over a relatively wideband (radio) band of frequencies. The receiver correlates the received signals to retrieve the original information signal. Originally there were two motivations: either to resist enemy efforts to jam the communications (anti-jam, or AJ), or to hide the fact that communication was even taking place, sometimes called low probability of intercept (LPI).

Frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS), direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS), time-hopping spread spectrum (THSS), chirp spread spectrum (CSS), and combinations of these techniques are forms of spread spectrum. Each of these techniques employs pseudorandom number sequences — created using pseudorandom number generators — to determine and control the spreading pattern of the signal across the alloted bandwidth. Ultra-wideband (UWB) is another modulation technique that accomplishes the same purpose, based on transmitting short duration pulses. Wireless Ethernet standard IEEE 802.11 uses either FHSS or DSSS in its radio interface.


  • Techniques known since 1940s and used in military communication system since 1950s
  • "Spread" radio signal over a wide frequency range several magnitudes higher than minimum requirement. The core principle of spread spectrum is the use of noise-like carrier waves, and, as the name implies, bandwidths much wider than that required for simple point-to-point communication at the same data rate.
  • Two main techniques:
  • Resistance to jamming (interference). DS is better at resisting continuous-time narrowband jamming, while FH is better at resisting pulse jamming. In DS systems, narrowband jamming affects detection performance about as much as if the amount of jamming power is spread over the whole signal bandwidth, when it will often not be much stronger than background noise. By contrast, in narrowband systems where the signal bandwidth is low, the received signal quality will be severely lowered if the jamming power happens to be concentrated on the signal bandwidth.
  • Resistance to eavesdropping. The spreading code (in DS systems) or the frequency-hopping pattern (in FH systems) is often unknown by anyone for whom the signal is unintended, in which case it "encrypts" the signal and reduces the chance of the adversary from making sense of it. What's more, for a given noise power spectral density (PSD), spread-spectrum systems require the same amount of energy per bit before spreading as narrowband systems and therefore the same amount of power if the bitrate before spreading is the same, but since the signal power is spread over a large bandwidth, the signal PSD is much lower, often significantly lower than the noise PSD, therefore the adversary may be unable to determine if the signal exists at all. Note that these effects can also be achieved by using encryption and a very low-rate channel code, which can also be viewed as a spread-spectrum method, albeit more complex.
  • Resistance to fading. The high bandwidth occupied by spread-spectrum signals offer some frequency diversity, i.e. it is unlikely that the signal would encounter severe multipath fading over its whole bandwidth, and in other cases the signal can be detected using e.g. a Rake receiver.
  • Multiple access capability. Multiple users can transmit simultaneously on the same frequency (range) as long as they use different spreading codes. See CDMA.

Spread-spectrum clock signal generation

Spread-spectrum clock generation (SSCG) is used in some synchronous digital systems, especially those containing microprocessors, to reduce the spectral density of the electromagnetic interference (EMI) that these systems generate. A synchronous digital system is one that is driven by a clock signal and because of its periodic nature, has an unavoidably narrow frequency spectrum. In fact, a perfect clock signal would have all its energy concentrated at a single frequency and its harmonics, and would therefore radiate energy with an infinite spectral density. Practical synchronous digital systems radiate electromagnetic energy on a number of narrow bands spread on the clock frequency and its harmonics, resulting in a frequency spectrum that, at certain frequencies, can exceed the regulatory limits for electromagnetic interference (e.g. those of the FCC in the United States, JEITA in Japan and the IEC in Europe).

To avoid this problem, which is of great commercial importance to manufacturers, spread-spectrum clocking is used. This consists of using one of the methods described in the Spread-spectrum telecommunications section in order to reduce the peak radiated energy. The technique therefore reshapes the system's electromagnetic emissions to comply with the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) regulations. It is a popular technique because it can be used to gain regulatory approval with only a simple modification to the equipment.

Spread-spectrum clocking has become more popular in portable electronics devices because of faster clock speeds and the increasing integration of high-resolution LCD displays in smaller and smaller devices. Because these devices are designed to be lightweight and inexpensive, passive EMI reduction measures such as capacitors or metal shielding are not a viable option. Active EMI reduction techniques such as spread-spectrum clocking are necessary in these cases, but can also create challenges for designers. Principal among these is the risk that modifying the system clock runs the risk of the clock/data misalignment.

It is important to note that this method does not reduce the total energy radiated by the system, and therefore does not necessarily make the system less likely to cause interference. Spreading the energy over a large frequency band effectively reduces the electrical and magnetic field strengths that are measured within a narrow window of frequencies. Spread-spectrum clocking works because the measuring receivers used by EMC testing laboratories divide the electromagnetic spectrum into frequency bands approximately 120 kHz wide. If the system under test were to radiate all of its energy at one frequency, it would register a large peak at the monitored frequency band. Spread-spectrum clocking distributes the energy so that it falls into a large number of the receiver's frequency bands, without putting enough energy into any one band to exceed the statutory limits. The usefulness of spread-spectrum clocking as a method of actually reducing interference is often debated, but it is probable that some electronic equipment with sensitivity to a narrow band of frequencies will experience less interference, while other equipment with broadband sensitivity will experience more interference.

FCC certification testing is often completed with the spread-spectrum function enabled in order to reduce the measured emissions to within acceptable legal limits. However, some BIOS writers include the ability to disable spread-spectrum clock generation as a user setting, thereby defeating the object of the EMI regulations. This may be considered a loophole, but is generally overlooked as long as the default BIOS setting provided by the manufacturer has the spread-spectrum feature enabled.



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