An inverse multiplexer (often abbreviated to inverse mux. or imux.) allows a data stream to be broken into multiple lower data rate communication links. An inverse multiplexer differs from a demultiplexer because the multiple output streams from the former stay inter-related, whereas those from the latter are unrelated. An inverse multiplexer is the opposite of a multiplexer which divides one high speed link into multiple low speed links.
| low rate link #1 |
Tx — high rate data — inverse mux. — | low rate link #2 | — inverse demux. — rx
| low rate link #3 |
This example provides an end to end connection of 3 times the data rate available on each of the low rate data links. Note that, as with multiplexers, links are almost always bi-directional and, at either end of the link, an inverse mux will be combined with its reverse (an inverse demux) and still be called an inverse mux.
Inverse multiplexers are used, for example, to combine a number of ISDN channels together into one high rate circuit, where a higher rate connection than is available from a single ISDN connection is needed. This is typically useful in areas where higher rate circuits are not available.
An alternative to an inverse mux. is to use three separate links and load sharing of data between them. In the case of IP, network packets could be sent in round robin mode between each separate link. Advantages of using inverse multiplexing over separate links include:
A simple analogy to transport can help explain the distinction between multiplexing and inverse multiplexing. When small cargoes such as pencils are shipped overseas, they are generally not carried one at a time. Rather, they are assembled into small boxes, which are grouped into larger cartons, which go into intermodal containers, which join multiple containers aboard a container ship. Each step is a multiplexing. Conversely a large cargo, for example in structure relocation, may be disassembled for carriage on multiple vehicles and then reassembled in the correct order at the destination. This is inverse multiplexing.
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