What is Modulation? Why do We Need it?

The transmission of information by communication systems over large distances is quite a feat of human ingenuity. We can talk, video chat and text anyone on this planet! The communication system uses a very clever technique called Modulation to increase the reach of the signals. In this article, we will learn about what modulation is and the need for it.

Modulation

Two signals are involved in the process of modulation. Message signals also known as 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 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. Such a higher frequency carrier is able to travel much farther than the baseband signal. Therefore, modulation can be defined as the process of superimposing a low-frequency signal on a high-frequency carrier signal.

There are three types of Modulation:

  • Amplitude Modulation
  • Frequency Modulation
  • Phase Modulation

What is the Need for Modulation?

We live in a digitally advanced era where the need for wires is no longer a necessity to be connected to everyone. Messages, information and signals are sent from one part of the world to another within minutes. The modulation process plays a major role in the fast transmission of signals. Below, we have mentioned a few of its importance in the communication system:

Size of the Antennae

When the transmission occurs over free space, the antennae radiate the signal, and the receiver receives it. 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. Suppose 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, say we give modulation a chance and use a 1000 kHz carrier wave to carry the signal. The 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 is much more doable, and this example clearly shows how hugely the modulation process enables communication systems.

Wireless Communication

By using modulation to transmit the signals through space to long distances, we have removed the need for wires in communication systems. The technique of modulation helped humans to become wireless. Telephones no longer had to be plugged into a wall. Using a mobile phone went from a dream to the next big thing.

Interference from Other Signals

This is a point from the practical side of things. Suppose you transmit the baseband signal 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.

Frequently Asked Questions – FAQs

What is modulation?

Transmission of information by communication systems over large distances is quite a feat of human ingenuity. The communication system uses a very clever technique called Modulation. Hence, modulation is defined as the process of superimposing a low-frequency signal on a high-frequency carrier signal.

How many types of modulation are there?

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

What is amplitude modulation?

It is a kind of modulation where the amplitude of the carrier signal is changed in proportion to the message signal while the phase and frequency are kept constant.

Define frequency modulation.

In this modulation, the carrier signal frequency is altered in proportion to the message signal. At the same time, the constant phase and amplitude are called frequency modulation.

Define demodulation.

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

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