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Modulation and the need for Modulation

Transmission of information by the communication systems over large distances is quite a feat of human ingenuity. We can talk, video chat and text anyone on this planet! Communication systems have used a very clever technique called Modulation to increase the reach of the signals. In this article, we are going to briefly talk about what modulation is and the need for it.

What is Modulation?

Two signals are involved in the modulation process. Message signals also known as baseband signals. Baseband signals are the band of frequencies representing the original signal. This is the signal to be transmitted to the receiver. The frequency of such a signal is usually low. The other signal involved with this is a high-frequency sinusoidal wave. This signal is called the carrier signal. The frequency of the carrier signals is almost, always higher than that of the baseband signal. The amplitude of the baseband signal is transferred to the high-frequency carrier. Therefore, modulation can be defined as,

The process of superimposing a low-frequency signal on a high-frequency carrier signal.


The process of varying the RF carrier wave in accordance with the information in a low-frequency signal

Such a higher frequency carrier wave is able to travel much farther than the baseband signal. But that’s not the only advantage of modulation. In the next section, we will discuss the various advantages of modulation.

There are three types of Modulation:

  • Amplitude Modulation
  • Frequency Modulation
  • Phase Modulation

What is the need for modulation?

  • Size of the Antennae

When the transmission occurs over free space, the antennae radiate the signal out and the receiver receives it. In order to operate efficiently, antennae need to be in the order of the magnitude of the wavelength of the transmitted signal.

\(\begin{array}{l}L = \lambda = \frac{u}{\vartheta } = \frac{(3*10^{8})}{\vartheta }{Hz}\end{array} \)

Speech frequencies range from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. So supposing this is a frequency of 20 kHz and it is radiated out to a receiver through a channel of free space.

\(\begin{array}{l}Length \;of \;Antennae = \frac{3*10^{8}}{20*10^{3}} = 15000 m = 15 km\end{array} \)

It is impossible to build an antenna this big. Instead, we use the concept of using a high-frequency carrier wave for the transfer of the signal and thus, use a 1000 kHz carrier wave to carry the signal. Length of the antennae now would be;

\(\begin{array}{l}Length\; of\; Antennae = \frac{3*10^{8}}{1000*10^{3}} = 300 m\end{array} \)

This length of the antenna can be built easily and this example clearly shows us how hugely the process of modulation is enabling communication systems.

  • Wireless Communication

By using modulation to transmit the signals through space to long distances, we have removed the need for wires in the communication systems. The technique of modulation helped humans to use the wireless equipment in a big way in their lives. Telephones no longer had to remain plugged to a wall. All the benefits of modulation have raised our standards of living in a considerable manner.

  • Interference from other signals

This is a point from the practical side of things. Suppose you are transmitting the baseband signal as it is to a receiver, say your friend’s phone. Just like you, there will be thousands of people in the city using their mobile phones. There is no way to tell such signals apart, and they will interfere with each other leading to a lot of noise in the system and a very bad output. By using a carrier wave of high frequencies and allotting a band of frequencies to each message, there is no mixing up of signals and the received signals are absolutely perfect.

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Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is modulation?

The process of superimposing a low-frequency signal on a high-frequency carrier signal is known as modulation.

What are the types of modulation?

There are three types of Modulation:
  • Amplitude Modulation
  • Frequency Modulation
  • Phase Modulation

What is demodulation?

Demodulation is defined as extracting the original information-carrying signal from a modulated carrier wave. A demodulator is an electronic circuit that is mainly used to recover the information content from the modulated carrier wave.

What is a measuring wave?

Measuring waves is also known as the modulating wave. It is the wave that is superimposed on a carrier wave with high frequency.

What is the effect of distortion in modulation?

Distortion takes place when the amplitude of the modulating signal is greater than the amplitude of the carrier. This results in the transmission of incorrect information.
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