Time-division multiplexing

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Time-division multiplexing (TDM) is a type of digital or (rarely) analog multiplexing in which two or more signals or bit streams are transferred apparently simultaneously as sub-channels in one communication channel, but are physically taking turns on the channel. The time domain is divided into several recurrent timeslots of fixed length, one for each sub-channel. A sample byte or data block of sub-channel 1 is transmitted during timeslot 1, sub-channel 2 during timeslot 2, etc. One TDM frame consists of one timeslot per sub-channel plus a synchronization channel and sometimes error correction channel before the synchronization. After the last sub-channel, error correction, and synchronization, the cycle starts all over again with a new frame, starting with the second sample, byte or data block from sub-channel 1, etc.


Application examples

  • The plesiochronous digital hierarchy (PDH) system, also known as the PCM system, for digital transmission of several telephone calls over the same four-wire copper cable (T-carrier or E-carrier) or fiber cable in the circuit switched digital telephone network
  • The SDH and synchronous optical networking (SONET) network transmission standards, that have surpassed PDH.
  • The RIFF (WAV) audio standard interleaves left and right stereo signals on a per-sample basis
  • The left-right channel splitting in use for stereoscopic liquid crystal shutter glasses

TDM can be further extended into the time division multiple access (TDMA) scheme, where several stations connected to the same physical medium, for example sharing the same frequency channel, can communicate. Application examples include:

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