Modulator / Modulation


In electronics and telecommunications, modulation is the process of varying one or more properties of a periodic waveform, called the carrier signal, with a modulating signal that typically contains information to be transmitted. Most radio systems in the 20th century used frequency modulation (FM) or amplitude modulation (AM) to make the carrier carry the radio broadcast.

In general telecommunications, modulation is a process of conveying message signal, for example, a digital bit stream or an analog audio signal, inside another signal that can be physically transmitted.

Modulation of a sine waveform transforms a narrow frequency range baseband message signal into a moderate to high frequency range passband signal, one that can pass through a filter.


Why Use Modulation?

Clearly the concept of modulation can be a little tricky, especially for the people who don't like trigonometry. Why then do we bother to use modulation at all? To answer this question, let's consider a channel that essentially acts like a bandpass filter: both the lowest frequency components and the highest frequency components are attenuated or unusable in some way, with transmission only being practical over some intermediate frequency range. If we can't send low-frequency signals, then we need to shift our signal up the frequency ladder. Modulation allows us to send a signal over a bandpass frequency range. If every signal gets its own frequency range, then we can transmit multiple signals simultaneously over a single channel, all using different frequency ranges.

Another reason to modulate a signal is to allow the use of a smaller antenna. A baseband (low frequency) signal would need a huge antenna because in order to be efficient, the antenna needs to be about 1/10th the length of the wavelength. Modulation shifts the baseband signal up to a much higher frequency, which has much smaller wavelengths and allows the use of a much smaller antenna.


Analog Modulation

The aim of analog modulation is to transfer an analog baseband (or lowpass) signal, for example an audio signal or TV signal, over an analog bandpass channel at a different frequency, for example over a limited radio frequency band or a cable TV network channel.

In analog modulation, analog signal (sinusoidal signal) is used as a carrier signal that modulates the message signal or data signal. In the general function Sinusoidal wave three parameters can be altered to get modulation – they are amplitude, frequency and phase; so, the types of analog modulation are: Amplitude modulation, Frequency modulation, and Phase modulation.

Amplitude Modulation

- a type of modulation where the amplitude of the carrier signal is modulated (changed) in proportion to the message signal while the frequency and phase are kept constant.

Amplitude modulation was developed in the beginning of the 20th century. It was the earliest modulation technique used to transmit voice by radio. This type of modulation technique is used in electronic communication.
In this modulation, the amplitude of the carrier signal varies in accordance with the message signal, and other factors like phase and frequency remain constant. The modulated signal spectrum consists of the lower frequency band, upper frequency band and carrier frequency components.
This type of modulation requires more power and greater bandwidth; filtering is very difficult.
Amplitude modulation is used in computer modems, VHF aircraft radio, and in portable two-way radio
Frequency Modulation
- a type of modulation where the frequency of the carrier signal is modulated (changed) in proportion to the message signal while the amplitude and phase are kept constant.
In this type of modulation, the frequency of the carrier signal varies in accordance with the message signal, and other parameters like amplitude and phase remain constant. Frequency modulation is used in different applications like radar, radio and telemetry, seismic prospecting and monitoring newborns for seizures via EEG, etc.
This type of modulation is commonly used for broadcasting music and speech, magnetic tape recording systems, two way radio systems and video transmission systems. When noise occurs naturally in radio systems, frequency modulation with sufficient bandwidth provides an advantage in cancelling the noise.
Phase Modulation
- a type of modulation where the phase of the carrier signal is varied accordance to the low frequency of the message signal is known as phase modulation.
In this type of modulation, the phase of the carrier signal varies in accordance with the message signal. When the phase of the signal is changed, then it affects the frequency. So, for this reason, this modulation also comes under the frequency modulation. Generally, phase modulation is used for transmitting waves. It is an essential part of many digital transmission coding schemes that underlie a wide range of technologies like GSM, WiFi, and satellite television. This type of modulation is used for signal generation in al synthesizers, such as the Yamaha DX7 to implement FM synthesis.

Therefore, Analog modulation includes AM, FM and PM and these are more sensitive to noise. If noise enters into a system, it persists and gets carried up to the end receiver. So, this drawback can be overcome by the digital modulation technique.

Digital Modulation

For a better quality and efficient communication, digital modulation technique is employed. The main advantages of the digital modulation over analog modulation include available bandwidth , high noise immunity and permissible power.

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

In digital modulation, a message signal is converted from analog to digital message, and then modulated by using a carrier wave.

The carrier wave is switched on and off to create pulses such that the signal is modulated. Similar to the analog, in this system, the type of the digital modulation is decided by the variation of the carrier wave parameters like amplitude, phase and frequency.

The most important digital modulation techniques are based on keying such as Amplitude Shift Keying, Frequency Shift Keying, Phase Shift Keying, Differential Phase Shift Keying, Quadrature Phase Shift Keying, Minimum Shift Keying, Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying, Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, etc., as shown in the figure.

In an Amplitude shift keying, the amplitude of the carrier wave changes based on the message signal or on the base-band signal, which is in digital format. It is sensitive to noise and used for low-band requirements.

In frequency shift keying, the frequency of the carrier wave is varied for each symbol in the digital data. It needs larger bandwidths as shown in the figure. Similarly, the phase shift keying changes the phase of the carrier for each symbol and it is less sensitive to noise.



A modulator is a device that performs modulation.

It is composed of eight basic subsections. These subsections are divided into the baseband processing section and the RF section. Fault information from the modulator is sent to the M&C. The major modulator subsections are:

  • Scrambler/Differential Encoder
  • Convolutional Encoder
  • Programmable Vector Rotation
  • I/Q Nyquist Filters
  • Modulator
  • RF Synthesizer
  • Output Amplifier
  • Output Level Control


Modulator Block Diagram