Frequency-hopping spread spectrum

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Frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) is a method of transmitting radio signals by rapidly switching a carrier among many frequency channels, using a pseudorandom sequence known to both transmitter and receiver. It is utilized as a multiple access method in the frequency-hopping code division multiple access (FH-CDMA) scheme.

A spread-spectrum transmission offers three main advantages over a fixed-frequency transmission:


Basic algorithm

Typically, the initiation of an FHSS communication is as follows

In some uses, most often military, a predefined frequency-hopping sequence is negotiated, and after completing the first step the procedure is continued from number 5.

Military use

Spread-spectrum signals are highly resistant to deliberate jamming, unless the adversary has knowledge of the spreading characteristics. Military radios use cryptographic techniques to generate the channel sequence under the control of a secret Transmission Security Key (TRANSEC) that the sender and receiver share in advance.

By itself, frequency hopping provides only limited protection against eavesdropping and jamming. To get around this weakness most modern military frequency hopping radios often employ separate encryption devices such as the KY-57. U.S. military radios that use frequency hopping include HAVE QUICK and SINCGARS.

Technical considerations

The overall bandwidth required for frequency hopping is much wider than that required to transmit the same information using only one carrier frequency. However, because transmission occurs only on a small portion of this bandwidth at any given time, the effective interference bandwidth is really the same. Whilst providing no extra protection against wideband thermal noise, the frequency-hopping approach does reduce the degradation caused by narrowband interferers.

One of the challenges of frequency-hopping systems is to synchronize the transmitter and receiver. One approach is to have a guarantee that the transmitter will use all the channels in a fixed period of time. The receiver can then find the transmitter by picking a random channel and listening for valid data on that channel. The transmitter's data is identified by a special sequence of data that is unlikely to occur over the segment of data for this channel and the segment can have a checksum for integrity and further identification. The transmitter and receiver can use fixed tables of channel sequences so that once synchronized they can maintain communication by following the table. On each channel segment, the transmitter can send its current location in the table.

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