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Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing



1.1 Overview
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing or OFDM is a modulation format that is being
used for many of the latest wireless and telecommunications standards. Orthogonal frequency
division multiplexing has also been adopted for a number of broadcast standards from DAB
Digital Radio to the Digital Video Broadcast standards, DVB. It has also been adopted for
other broadcast systems as well including Digital Radio Mondiale used for the long medium
and short wave bands. Although OFDM, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing is more
complicated than earlier forms of signal format, it provides some distinct advantages in
terms of data transmission, especially where high data rates are needed along with relatively
wide bandwidths.
1.2 The Concept of OFDM
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing is a special form of multicarrier modulation
which is particularly suited for transmission over a dispersive channel. Here the different
carriers are orthogonal to each other, that is, they are totally independent of one another.
Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) is a wideband modulation scheme
that is designed to cope with the problems of the multipath reception. Essentially, the
wideband frequency selective fading channel is divided into many narrow-band sub channels.
If the number of sub channels is high enough, each sub channel could be considered as flat.
This is because we transmit many narrowband overlapping digital signals in parallel, inside
one wide band. Increasing the number of parallel transmission channels reduces the data rate
that each individual carrier must convey, and that lengthens the symbol period. Therefore the
delay time of reflected waves is suppressed to within 1 symbol time.

Modulation - a mapping of the information on changes in the carrier phase, frequency or

amplitude or combination.

Multiplexing - method of sharing a bandwidth with other independent data channels.

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OFDM is a combination of modulation and multiplexing. Multiplexing generally refers to

independent signals, those produced by different sources. So it is a question of how to share
the spectrum with these users. In OFDM the question of multiplexing is applied to
independent signals but these independent signals are a sub-set of the one main signal.

In OFDM the signal itself is first split into independent channels, modulated by data and then
re-multiplexed to create the OFDM carrier.

1.3 Organisation of the report

Chapter 1: Introduction - This chapter briefly explains the overview of the report.
Chapter 2: Difference between FDM and OFDM – says about the variation between FDM
and OFDM
Chapter 3: OFDM variants- This chapter explains about different types of OFDM’S
Chapter 4: Block diagram –In this chapter we discuss about the modulation, communication
channel ,demodulation

Chapter 5:Cyclic Prefix-This chapter says about how Cyclic prefix acts as guard interval to
avoid inter symol interference

Chapter 6: Synchronisation-This chapter says about how synchronization enables data rates
at minimum

Chapter 7:OFDM advantages, disadvantages and real parameters-says about advantages and
disadvantages and the range we process in real time for OFDM.

Chapter 8:Applications-In this Chapter we discuss abou the different applications of OFDM

Chapter 9: Conclusions - This chapter summarizes the major accomplishments of this report.

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Difference between FDM and OFDM

2.1 Water flow out example

OFDM is a special case of Frequency Division Multiplex (FDM). As an analogy, a FDM channel is like
water flow out of a faucet, in contrast the OFDM signal is like a shower. In a faucet all water comes
in one big stream and cannot be sub-divided. OFDM shower is made up of a lot of little streams.

Fig 2.1 Fig 2.2

Fig 2.1 A Regular-FDM single carrier – A whole bunch of water coming all in one stream.

Fig 2.2 Orthogonal-FDM – Same amount of water coming from a lot of small streams.

Think about what the advantage might be of one over the other? One obvious one is that if I
put my thumb over the faucet hole, I can stop the water flow but I cannot do the same for the
shower. So although both do the same thing, they respond differently to interference.
2.2 Truck example

Fig. 2 .3– All cargo on one truck vs. splitting the shipment into more than one.

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Another way to see this intuitively is to use the analogy of making a shipment via a truck.
We have two options, one hire a big truck or a bunch of smaller ones. Both methods carry
the exact same amount of data. But in case of an accident, only 1/4 of data on the OFDM
trucking will suffer.
These four trucks when seen as signals are called the sub-carriers in an OFDM system and
they must be orthogonal for this idea to work. The independent sub-channels can be
multiplexed by frequency division multiplexing (FDM), called multi-carrier transmission or
it can be based on a code division multiplex (CDM), in this case it is called multi-code

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3.1 Introduction to OFDM Variants

There are several other variants of OFDM for which the initials are seen in the technical
literature. These follow the basic format for OFDM, but have additional attributes or
COFDM: Coded Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing. A form of OFDM where
error correction coding is incorporated into the signal.

Flash OFDM: This is a variant of OFDM that was developed by Flarion and it is a fast
hopped form of OFDM. It uses multiple tones and fast hopping to spread signals over a given
spectrum band.

OFDMA: Orthogonal frequency division multiple access. A scheme used to provide a

multiple access capability for applications such as cellular telecommunications when using
OFDM technologies.

VOFDM: Vector OFDM. This form of OFDM uses the concept of MIMO technology. It is
being developed by CISCO Systems. MIMO stands for Multiple Input Multiple output and it
uses multiple antennas to transmit and receive the signals so that multi-path effects can be
utilised to enhance the signal reception and improve the transmission speeds that can be

WOFDM: Wideband OFDM. The concept of this form of OFDM is that it uses a degree of
spacing between the channels that is large enough that any frequency errors between
transmitter and receiver do not affect the performance. It is particularly applicable to Wi-Fi

Each of these forms of OFDM utilise the same basic concept of using close spaced orthogonal
carriers each carrying low data rate signals. During the demodulation phase the data is then
combined to provide the complete signal.OFDM, orthogonal frequency division multiplexing
has gained a significant presence in the wireless market place.
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4.1 Introduction
The development of OFDM systems can be divided into three parts.They are Frequency
Division Multiplexing, Multicarrier Communication and Orthogonal Frequency Division
Multiplexing .
Frequency Division Multiplexing is a form of signal multiplexing which involves assigning
non overlapping frequency ranges or channels to different frequency ranges or channels to
different signals or to each user of a medium

Fig 4.1: A) spectrum of FDM showing guard bands.B) Spectrum of OFDM showing overlapping

A gap or guard band is left between each of these channels to ensure that the signal of one
channel does not overlap with the signal from an adjacent one. Multicarrier Communication
involves splitting of the signal to give a number of signals over that frequency range. Each
of these signals are individually modulated and transmitted over the channel. At the receiver

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end, these signals are fed to a demultiplexer where it is demodulated and recombined to obtain
the original signal.
As shown in Fig 4.2, we have to implement the OFDM System.

4.2 Modulation
Modulation is the technique by which the signal wave is transformed in order to send it over
the communication channel in order to minimize the effect of noise. This is done in order to
ensure that the received data can be demodulated to give back the original data. In an OFDM
system, the high data rate information is divided into small packets of data which are placed
orthogonal to each other. This is achieved by modulating the data by a desirable modulation
technique like Quadrature Amplitude Modulation[7]. After this, IFFT is performed on the
modulated signal which is further processed by passing through a parallel to serial
converter.Guard Interval Insertion(GII) is done in order to avoid ISI.
4.3 Communication Channel
This is the channel through which the data is transferred. Presence of noise in this medium
affects the signal and causes distortion in its data content. The channel simulation will allow
examination of the effects of noise, multipath, and clipping. By adding random data to the
transmitted signal, simple noise can be simulated. Multipath simulation involve adding
attenuated and delayed copies of the transmitted signal to the original. This simulates the
problem in wireless communication when the signal propagates on many paths. For example,
a receiver may see a signal via a direct path as well as a path that bounces off a building.
Finally, clipping simulates the problem of amplifier saturation. This addresses a practical
implementation problem in OFDM where the peak to average power ratio is high.
4.4 Demodulation
Demodulation is the technique by which the original data is recovered from the modulated
signal which is received at the receiver end. In this case, the received data is first made to
pass through a low pass filter and the Guard Interval Removal (GIR ) is done. FFT of the
signal is done after it is made to pass through a serial to parallel converter. A demodulator is
used, to get back the original signal. The bit error rate and the signal to noise ratio is calculated
by taking into consideration the unmodulated signal data and the data at the receiving end.

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Fig 4.3: OFDM Block Diagram

4.5 Bit Error Rate performance

The BER of an OFDM is only exemplary in a fading environment. We would not use OFDM
is a straight line of sight link such as a satellite link. OFDM signal due to its amplitude
variation does not behave well in a non-linear channel such as created by high power
amplifiers on board satellites. Using OFDM for a satellite would require a fairly large
backoff, on the order of 3 dB, so there must be some other compelling reason for its use such
as when the signal is to be used for a moving user.
4.6 Peak to average power ratio (PAPR)
If a signal is a sum of N signals each of max amplitude equal to 1 v, then it is conceivable
that we could get a max amplitude of N that is all N signals add at a moment at their max

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Fig 4.4– An OFDM signal is very noise like. It looks just like a composite multi-FDM Signal

For an OFDM signal that has 128 carriers, each with normalized power of 1 w, then the max
PAPR can be as large as log (128) or 21 dB. This is at the instant when all 128 carriers
combine at their maximum point, unlikely but possible. The RMS PAPR will be around half
this number or 10-12 dB. This same PAPR is seen in CDMA signals as well.

The large amplitude variation we see in Fig. 12 increases in-band noise and increases the
BER when the signal has to go through amplifier non-linearities. Large back off is required
in such cases. This makes use of OFDM just as problematic as Multi-carrier FDM in high
power amplifier applications such as satellite links.
What can be done about the large PAPR? Several ideas are used to mitigate it.
1. Clipping
We can just clip the signal at a desired power level. This reduces the
PAPR but introduces other distortions and ICI.
2. Selective Mapping
Multiply the data signal by a set of codes, do the IFFT on each and then pick the
one with the least PAPR. This is essentially doing the process many times using a CDMA
like code.
3. Partial IFFT
Divide the signal in clusters, do IFFT on each and then combine these. So that if we
subdivide 128 carrier in to a group of four 32 carriers, each, the max PAPR of each will
be 12 dB instead of 21 for the full. Combine these four sequences to create the transmit

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4.7 Guard Interval

The distribution of the data across a large number of carriers in the OFDM signal has some
further advantages. Nulls caused by multi-path effects or interference on a given frequency
only affect a small number of the carriers, the remaining ones being received correctly. By
using error-coding techniques, which does mean adding further data to the transmitted signal,
it enables many or all of the corrupted data to be reconstructed within the receiver. This can
be done because the error correction code is transmitted in a different part of the signal.

Use of cyclic prefix is a key element of enabling the OFDM signal to operate reliably.
The cyclic prefix acts as a buffer region or guard interval to protect the OFDM signals from
intersymbol interference. This can be an issue in some circumstances even with the much
lower data rates that are transmitted in the multicarrier OFDM signal.

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5.1 Introduction

The basic concept behind the OFDM cyclic prefix is quite straightforward. The cyclic prefix
is created so that each OFDM symbol is preceded by a copy of the end part of that same
+Different OFDM cyclic prefix lengths are available in various systems. For example within
LTE a normal length and an extended length are available and after Release 8 a third extended
length is also included, although not normally used.

FIG 5.1 OFDM signal with cyclic prefix

5.2 Cyclic prefix advantages and disadvantages

There are several advantages and disadvantages attached to the use for the cyclic prefix within

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5.2.1 Advantages

Provides robustness: The addition of the cyclic prefix adds robustness to the OFDM signal.
The data that is retransmitted can be used if required.

Reduces inter-symbol interference: The guard interval introduced by the cyclic prefix
enables the effects of inter-symbol interference to be reduced.

5.2.2 Disadvantages

Reduces data capacity: As the cyclic prefix re-transmits data that is already being transmitted,
it takes up system capacity and reduces the overall data rate.

While OFDM has been successfully deployed in many different radio communications
systems, one of the main problems that needs to be overcome is that if OFDM

Effective OFDM synchronization enables the data error rates to be kept to a minimum,
whereas if the system is not accurately synchronized, then errors will result and the system
will become less effective.

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6.1 Introduction
OFDM offers many advantages in terms of resilience to fading, reflections and the like.
OFDM also offers a high level of spectrum efficiency. However to reap the rewards, it is
necessary that the OFDM system operates correctly, and to achieve this, it is necessary for
the OFDM synchronization to be effective.
There are a number of areas in which the OFDM synchronisation is critical to the operation
of the system:

OFDM synchronization in terms of frequency offset: It is necessary that the frequencies

are accurately tracked to ensure that orthogonality is maintained.

OFDM synchronisation in terms of clock accuracy: It is necessary that the sampling

occurs at the correct time interval to ensure that the samples are synchronized and data errors
are minimised.

In order to ensure that the OFDM system works to its optimum, it is necessary to ensure that
there are schemes in place to ensure the OFDM synchronization is within the required limits.

6.2 Frequency offset OFDM synchronization

It is particularly important that the demodulator in an OFDM receiver is able to synchronize
accurately with the carriers within the OFDM signal. Offsets may arise for a number of
reasons including any frequency errors between the transmitter and the receiver and also as a
result of Doppler shifts if there is movement between the transmitter and receiver.
If the frequency synchronisation is impaired, then the orthogonality of the carriers is reduced
within the demodulation process and error rates increase. Accordingly it is essential to
maintain orthogonality to reduce errors and maintain the performance of the link.

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First look at the way that sampling should occur. With the demodulator in synchronisation,
all the contributions from the other carriers sum to zero as shown. On this way all the carriers
are orthogonal and the error rate is at its minimum.

FIG 6.1 An OFDM signal where demodulation is in synchronization

If a situation is encountered where the OFDM synchronisation for the frequency aspects are
poor, then the demodulator will centre its samples away from the peak of the signal, and also
at a point where the contributions from the other signals do not sum to zero. This will lead to
a degradation of the signal which could in turn lead to an increase in the number of bit errors.

Fig 6.2 An OFDM signal where demodulation has poor synchronisation

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6.3 Clock offset OFDM synchronization

It is also necessary to maintain OFDM synchronization in terms of the clock. Gain if the clock
synchronisation is not accurate, sampling will be offset and again orthogonality will be
reduced, and data errors will increase.
When looking at OFDM synchronization with regard to the clock offset, the carrier spacing
used within the receiver for sampling the received signal will be based upon the internal clock
rate. If this differs from that used within the transmitter, it will be found that even if the first
carrier within the multiplex is correct, then there will be a growing discrepancy with each
carrier away from the first one. Even small levels of discrepancy will cause the error rate to

FIG 6.3 OFDM synchronization problem with clock offset problem

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OFDM has been used in many high data rate wireless systems because of the many
advantages it provides.

Immunity to selective fading: One of the main advantages of OFDM is that is more
resistant to frequency selective fading than single carrier systems because it divides the
overall channel into multiple narrowband signals that are affected individually as flat fading

Resilience to interference: Interference appearing on a channel may be bandwidth limited

and in this way will not affect all the sub-channels. This means that not all the data is lost.

Spectrum efficiency: Using close-spaced overlapping sub-carriers, a significant OFDM

advantage is that it makes efficient use of the available spectrum.

Resilient to ISI: Another advantage of OFDM is that it is very resilient to inter-symbol and
inter-frame interference. This results from the low data rate on each of the sub-channels.

Resilient to narrow-band effects: Using adequate channel coding and interleaving it is

possible to recover symbols lost due to the frequency selectivity of the channel and narrow
band interference. Not all the data is lost.

Simpler channel equalisation: One of the issues with CDMA systems was the complexity
of the channel equalisation which had to be applied across the whole channel. An advantage
of OFDM is that using multiple sub-channels, the channel equalization becomes much


Whilst OFDM has been widely used, there are still a few disadvantages to its use which need
to be addressed when considering its use.
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High peak to average power ratio: An OFDM signal has a noise like amplitude variation
and has a relatively high large dynamic range, or peak to average power ratio. This impacts
the RF amplifier efficiency as the amplifiers need to be linear and accommodate the large
amplitude variations and these factors mean the amplifier cannot operate with a high
efficiency level.

Sensitive to carrier offset and drift: Another disadvantage of OFDM is that is sensitive to
carrier frequency offset and drift. Single carrier systems are less sensitive.

7.3 Parameters of real OFDM

The OFDM use has increased greatly in the last 10 years. It is now proposed for radio
broadcasting such as in Eureka 147 standard and Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM). OFDM is
used for modem/ADSL application where it coexists with phone line. For ADSL use, the
channel, the phone line, is filtered to provide a high SNR. OFDM here is called Discrete
Multi Tone (DMT.) (Remember the special filters on you phone line if you have cable

OFDM is also in use in your wireless internet modem and this usage is called 802.11a. Let’s
take a look at some parameters of this application of OFDM. The summary of these are given

Data rates

6 Mbps to 48 Mbps Modulation

BPSK, QPSK, 16 QAM and 64 QAM


Convolutional concatenated with Reed Solomon

FFT size

64 with 52 sub-carriers uses, 48 for data and 4 for pilots.

Subcarrier frequency spacing

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20 MHz divided by 64 carriers or .3125 MHz FFT period

Also called symbol period, 3.2 msec = 1/Df Guard duration

One quarter of symbol time, 0.8 msec Symbol time 4 msec

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Some of the applications of OFDM are
DAB is a digital technology offering considerable advantages over today's FM radio, both to
listeners and broadcasting. DAB's flexibility will also provide a wider choice of programs,
including many not available on FM. A single station might offer its listeners a choice of
mono voice commentaries on three or four sporting events at the same time, and then combine
the bitstreams to provide high-quality sound for the concert which follows.
Commercial television station is first published by England. There exist three mechanisms
about the digital terrestrial television broadcasting system in European (COFDM), North
America (8-VSB), and Japan (BST-OFDM). The European introduces the COFDM
modulation scheme into the system structure. American develops the system based on 8-level
vestigial side-band (8- VSB)modulation scheme.Japan is zealous to develop the band
segmented transmission Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (BST-OFDM) system,
which nature is based on COFDM modulation scheme.
8.3 LTE
In Nov. 2004, 3GPP began a project to define the long-term evolution (LTE) of Universal
Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) cellular technology

Higher performance

Improving spectral efficiency

Lowering costs

Improving services

Use of new spectrum opportunities

Improved quality of service

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Compared the use of OFDM with basic communication system. OFDM solves the problem
of ISI through use of a cyclic prefix due to high data rates. It also provides other advantages
like high spectral efficiency, Low implementation complexity etc. Some of the major
applications of OFDM include digital audio broadcasting digital video broadcasting, local
area networks, WiMax etc. Despite of all these advantages and applications the carrier
frequency offset (CFO) and high peak to average power ratio (PAPR) are major disadvantage
of OFDM. This disadvantage needs to be addressed properly to allow further widespread use
of OFDM.

[1] R. Van Nee and R. Prasad ,OFDM for Wireless Multimedia Communications, Artech
House Publishers,Boston, USA,2000
[2] J.G. Proakis, Digital Communications, Mc Graw Hill ,New York ,USA, 3rd edition
[3] Ramjee Prasad, ―OFDM towards fixed and mobile broadband wirless access, Artech
House, 2007.

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