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Differentiating Between Baseband and Broadband Signaling

Two types of signaling methods are used to transmit information over network media: baseband and broadband. Before we get any further into 802.3 standards we should clarify the difference between the two.

Baseband

Baseband transmissions typically use digital signaling over a single wire; the transmissions themselves take the form of either electrical pulses or light. The digital signal used in baseband transmission occupies the entire bandwidth of the network media to transmit a single data signal. Baseband communication is bidirectional, allowing computers to both send and receive data using a single cable. However, the sending and receiving cannot occur on the same wire at the same time.

Using baseband transmissions, it is possible to transmit multiple signals on a single cable by using a process known as multiplexing. Baseband uses Time-Division Multiplexing (TDM), which divides a single channel into time slots. The key thing about TDM is that it doesn't change how baseband transmission works, only the way data is placed on the cable.

Broadband

Whereas baseband uses digital signaling, broadband uses analog signals in the form of optical or electromagnetic waves over multiple transmission frequencies. For signals to be both sent and received, the transmission media must be split into two channels. Alternatively, two cables can be used: one to send and one to receive transmissions.

Multiple channels are created in a broadband system by using a multiplexing technique known as Frequency-Division Multiplexing (FDM). FDM allows broadband media to accommodate traffic going in different directions on a single media at the same time.

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