You are on page 1of 4


A set of techniques where by a sequence of information-carrying quantities occurring at discrete instances of time is encoded into a corresponding regular sequence of electromagnetic carrier pulses. Varying the amplitude, polarity, presence or absence, duration, or occurrence in time of the pulses gives rise to the four basic forms of pulse modulation: pulse-amplitude modulation (PAM), pulse-code modulation (PCM), pulse-width modulation (PWM, also known as pulse-duration modulation, PDM), and pulse-position modulation (PPM).

Analog-to-digital conversion
An important concept in pulse modulation is analog-to-digital (A/D) conversion, in which an original analog (time- and amplitude-continuous) information signal s(t) is changed at the transmitter into a series of regularly occurring discrete pulses whose amplitudes are restricted to a fixed and finite number of values. An inverse digital-to-analog (D/A) process is used at the receiver to reconstruct an approximation of the original form of s(t). Conceptually, analog-to-digital conversion involves two steps. First, the range of amplitudes of s(t) is divided or quantized into a finite number ofpredetermined levels, and each such level is represented by a pulse of fixed amplitude. Second, the amplitude of s(t) is periodically measured or sampled and replaced by the pulse representing the level that corresponds to the measurement. See also Analog-to-digital converter; Digital-to-analog converter. According to the Nyquist sampling theorem, if sampling occurs at a rate at least twice that of the bandwidth of s(t), the latter can be unambiguously reconstructed from its amplitude values at the sampling instants by applying them to an ideal low-pass filter whose bandwidth matches that ofs(t). Quantization, however, introduces an irreversible error, the so-called quantization error, since the pulse representing a sample measurement determines only the quantization level in which the measurement falls and not its exact value. Consequently, the process of reconstructing s(t) from the sequence of pulses yields only an approximate version of s(t).

Pulse-amplitude modulation

In PAM the successive sample values of the analog signal s(t) are used to effect the amplitudes of a corresponding sequence of pulses of constant duration occurring at the sampling rate. No quantization of the samples normally occurs (Fig. 1 a, b). In principle the pulses may occupy the entire time between samples, but in most practical systems the pulse duration, known as the duty cycle, is limited to a fraction of the sampling interval. Such a restriction creates the possibility of interleaving during one sample interval one or more pulses derived from other PAM systems in a process known as timedivision multiplexing (TDM). See also Multiplexing and multiple access.

Pulse-width modulation

sine wave. (a) Analog signal, s(t). (b) Pulse-amplitude modulation. (c) Pulse-width modulation. (d) Pulse-position modulation."> Forms of pulse modulation for the case where the analog signal, s(t), is a sine wave. (a) Analog signal, s(t). (b) Pulse-amplitude modulation. (c) Pulse-width modulation. (d) Pulseposition modulation.

In PWM the pulses representing successive sample values of s(t) have constant amplitudes but vary in time duration in direct proportion to the sample value. The pulse duration can be changed relative to fixed leading or trailing time edges or a fixed pulse center. To allow for time-division multiplexing, the maximum pulse duration may be limited to a fraction of the time between samples (Fig. 1c).

Pulse-position modulation
PPM encodes the sample values of s(t) by varying the position of a pulse of constant duration relative to its nominal time of occurrence. As in PAM and PWM, the duration of the pulses is typically a fraction of the sampling interval. In addition, the maximum time excursion of the pulses may be limited (Fig. 1d).

Pulse-code modulation

Many modern communication systems are designed to transmit and receive only pulses of two distinct amplitudes. In these so-called binary digital systems, the analog-to-digital conversion process is extended by the additional step of coding, in which the amplitude of each pulse representing a quantized sample of s(t) is converted into a unique sequence of one or more pulses with just two possible amplitudes. The complete conversion process is known as pulse-code modulation. Figure 2a shows the example of three successive quantized samples of an analog signal s(t), in which sampling occurs every T seconds and the pulse representing the sample is limited to T/2 seconds. Assuming that the number of quantization levels is limited to 8, each level can be represented by a unique sequence of three two-valued pulses. In Fig. 2b these pulses are of amplitude V or 0, whereas in Fig. 2c the amplitudes are V and V.

Pulse-code modulation. (a) Three successive quantized samples of an analog signal. (b) With pulses of amplitude V or 0. (c) With pulses of amplitude V or V. PCM enjoys many important advantages over other forms of pulse modulation due to the fact that information is represented by a two-state variable. First, the design parameters of a PCM transmission system depend critically on the bandwidth of the original signal s(t) and the degree of fidelity required at the point of reconstruction, but are otherwise largely independent of the information content of s(t). This fact creates the possibility of deploying generic transmission systems suitable for many types of information. Second, the detection of the state of a two-state variable in a noisyenvironment is inherently simpler than the precise measurement of the amplitude, duration, or position of a pulse in which these quantities are not constrained. Third, the binary pulses propagating along a medium can be intercepted and decoded at a point where the accumulated distortion andattenuation are sufficiently low to assure high detection accuracy. New pulses can then be generated and transmitted to the next such decoding point. This so-called process of repeatering significantly reduces the propagation of distortion and leads to a quality of transmission that is largely independent of distance.

Time-division multiplexing
An advantage inherent in all pulse modulation systems is their ability to transmit signals from multiple sources over a common transmission system through the process of timedivision multiplexing. By restricting the time duration of a pulse representing a sample value from a particular analog signal to a fraction of the time between successive samples, pulses derived from other sampled analog signals can be accommodated on the transmission system. One important application of this principle occurs in the transmission of PCM telephone voice signals over a digital transmission system known as a T1 carrier. In standard T1 coding, an original analog voice signal is band-limited to 4000 hertz by passing it through a low-pass filter, and is then sampled at the Nyquist rate of 8000 samples per second, so that the time between successive samples is 125 microseconds. The samples are quantized to 256 levels, with each of them being represented by a sequence of 8 binary pulses. By limiting the duration of a single pulse to 0.65microsecond, a total of 193 pulses can be accommodated in the time span of 125 microseconds between samples. One of these serves as a synchronization marker that indicates the beginning of such a sequence of 193 pulses,

while the other 192 pulses are the composite of 8 pulses from each of 24 voice signals, with each 8-pulse sequence occupying a specified position. T1 carriers and similar types of digital carrier systems are in widespread use in the world's telephone networks.

Bandwidth requirements

Pulse modulation systems may incur a significant bandwidth penalty compared to the transmission of a signal in its analog form. An example is the standard PCM transmission of an analog voice signal band-limited to 4000 hertz over a T1 carrier. Since the sampling, quantizing, and coding process produces 8 binary pulses 8000 times per second for a total of 64,000 binary pulses per second, the pulses occur every 15.625 microseconds. Depending on the shape of the pulses and the amount of intersymbol interference, the required transmission bandwidth will fall in the range of 32,000 to 64,000 hertz. This compares to a bandwidth of only 4000 hertz for the transmission of the signal in analog mode. See also Bandwidth requirements (communications).


PAM, PWM, and PPM found significant application early in the development of digital communications, largely in the domain of radio telemetry for remote monitoring and sensing. They have since fallen into disuse in favor of PCM. Since the early 1960s, many of the world's telephone network providers have gradually, and by now almost completely, converted their transmission facilities to PCM technology. The bulk of these transmission systems use some form of time-division multiplexing, as exemplified by the 24-voice channel T1 carrier structure. These carrier systems are implemented over many types of transmission media, including twisted pairs of telephone wiring, coaxial cables, fiber-optic cables, and microwave. See also Coaxial cable; Communications cable; Microwave; Optical communications; Optical fibers; Switching systems (communications). The deployment of high-speed networks such as the Integrated Service Digital Network (ISDN) in many parts of the world has also relied heavily on PCM technology. PCM and various modified forms such as delta modulation (DM) and adaptive differential pulse-code modulation (ADPCM) have also found significant application in satellite transmission systems.