In telecommunications, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is a type of digital modulation, a method of encoding digital data on multiple carrier frequencies. OFDM has developed into a popular scheme for wideband digital communication, used in applications such as digital television and audio broadcasting, DSL internet access, wireless networks, power line networks, and 4G mobile communications.
OFDM is a frequency-division multiplexing (FDM) scheme used as a digital multi-carrier modulation method. It was introduced by Chang of Bell Labs in 1966. In OFDM, multiple closely spaced orthogonal subcarrier signals with overlapping spectra are transmitted to carry data in parallel. Demodulation is based on Fast Fourier Transform algorithms. OFDM was improved by Weinstein and Ebert in 1971 with the introduction of a guard interval, providing better orthogonality in transmission channels affected by multipath propagation. Each subcarrier (signal) is modulated with a conventional modulation scheme (such as quadrature amplitude modulation or phase-shift keying) at a low symbol rate. This maintains total data rates similar to conventional single-carrier modulation schemes in the same bandwidth.
The main advantage of OFDM over single-carrier schemes is its ability to cope with severe channel conditions (for example, attenuation of high frequencies in a long copper wire, narrowband interference and frequency-selective fading due to multipath) without complex equalization filters. Channel equalization is simplified because OFDM may be viewed as using many slowly modulated narrowband signals rather than one rapidly modulated wideband signal. The low symbol rate makes the use of a guard interval between symbols affordable, making it possible to eliminate intersymbol interference (ISI) and use echoes and time-spreading (in analog television visible as ghosting and blurring, respectively) to achieve a diversity gain, i.e. a signal-to-noise ratio improvement. This mechanism also facilitates the design of single frequency networks (SFNs) where several adjacent transmitters send the same signal simultaneously at the same frequency, as the signals from multiple distant transmitters may be re-combined constructively, sparing interference of a traditional single-carrier system.
In coded orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (COFDM), forward error correction (convolutional coding) and time/frequency interleaving are applied to the signal being transmitted. This is done to overcome errors in mobile communication channels affected by multipath propagation and Doppler effects. COFDM was introduced by Alard in 1986 for Digital Audio Broadcasting for Eureka Project 147. In practice, OFDM has become used in combination with such coding and interleaving, so that the terms COFDM and OFDM co-apply to common applications.