Friday, November 11, 2011

Digital Multiplexing - Time Division Multiplexing

In my last legacy Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) post I covered analog or frequency multiplexingFrequency division multiplexing is now considered obsolete technology on the telecommunications network. Analog signals are more sensitive to noise and other signals which can cause problems along the transmission path. They have been replaced with digital multiplexers. 

Digital signals are combined or multiplexed typically using one of two techniques; Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) and Statistical Time Division Multiplexing (STDM). Let's cover TDM in this post.

Time Division Multiplexing allows multiple devices to communicate over the same circuit by assigning time slots for each device on the line. Devices communicating using TDM are typically placed in groups that are multiples of 4.

Each device is assigned a time slot where the TDM will accept an 8 bit character from the device. A TDM frame is then built and transmitted over the circuit. Another TDM on the other end of the circuit de-multiplexes the frame.

TDM Framing

TDM’s tend to waste time slots because a time slot is allocated for each device regardless of whether that device has anything to send. For example, in a TDM system if only two of four devices want to send and use frame space, the other two devices will not have anything to send.

TDM Framing Showing Wasted Slots

They do not require frame space but their time slot is still allocated and will be transmitted as empty frames. This is not an efficient use of bandwidth.

In my next legacy PSTN post, I'll cover statistical time division multiplexing (STDM), a much more efficient way to use bandwidth.

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