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By A | 18 December 2010 | 31927 Comments

What is SSB (single-side band) ?

In radio communications, single-sideband modulation (SSB) or single-sideband suppressed-carrier modulation (SSB-SC) is a type of modulation, used to transmit information, such as an audio signal, by radio waves. A refinement of amplitude modulation, it uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently. Amplitude modulation produces an output signal the bandwidth of which is twice the maximum frequency of the original baseband signal. Single-sideband modulation avoids this bandwidth increase, and the power wasted on a carrier, at the cost of increased device complexity and more difficult tuning at the receiver.

Radio transmitters work by mixing a radio frequency (RF) signal of a specific frequency, the carrier wave, with the audio signal to be broadcast. In AM transmitters this mixing usually takes place in the final RF amplifier (high level modulation). It is less common and much less efficient to do the mixing at low power and then amplify it in a linear amplifier. Either method produces a set of frequencies with a strong signal at the carrier frequency and with weaker signals at frequencies extending above and below the carrier frequency by the maximum frequency of the input signal. Thus the resulting signal has a spectrum whose bandwidth is twice the maximum frequency of the original input audio signal.

SSB takes advantage of the fact that the entire original signal is encoded in each of these "sidebands". It is not necessary to transmit both sidebands plus the carrier, as a suitable receiver can extract the entire original signal from either the upper or lower sideband. There are several methods for eliminating the carrier and one sideband from the transmitted signal. Producing this single sideband signal is too complicated to be done in the final amplifier stage as with AM. SSB Modulation must be done at a low level and amplified in a linear amplifier where lower efficiency partially offsets the power advantage gained by eliminating the carrier and one sideband. Nevertheless, SSB transmissions use the available amplifier energy considerably more efficiently, providing longer-range transmission for the same power output. In addition, the occupied spectrum is less than half that of a full carrier AM signal.

SSB reception requires frequency stability and selectivity well beyond that of inexpensive AM receivers which is why broadcasters have seldom used it. In point to point communications where expensive receivers are in common use already they can successfully be adjusted to receive whichever sideband is being transmitted.

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