4G Modulation vs. 5G Modulation

In this ever-evolving world of communication technology, modulation plays an important role in ensuring the successful transmission of signals from the sender to the receiver.

Both 4G and 5G employ distinct modulation techniques to facilitate rapid and low-latency wireless communication.

In this article, we delve into a comparison of 5G and 4G modulation techniques, aiming to identify the differences and similarities between them.

A brief overview of Modulation

Modulation is the process of joining a message signal with a carrier signal and then transmitting them together to the intended receiver. This joining of signals is essential, as message signals tend to weaken during transmission. The carrier signal not only amplifies the message but also aids in its successful delivery. Upon reaching the receiver, the message signal is extracted from the carrier signal through a process called demodulation.

Digital Modulation: The form of Modulation adopted in 4G & 5G

There are two forms of modulation in wireless communication: analog and digital modulation. In this article, our focus remains on digital modulation techniques because that is what is used in Both 4G and 5G.

Digital modulation is the process of joining discrete signals represented by binary digits or bits to to a carrier signal and then transmitting both to the receiver before they are separated.

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An image showing Digital modulation

In the image above, a digital signal, typically represented by 0s and 1s, was modulated with a Carrier signal, which is in analog form, to produce the modulated signal. This modulated signal can now be transmitted over a longer distance and demodulated into digital form by the receiver.

4G Modulation Techniques

The modulation techniques used in 4G are Phase Shift Keying (QPSK) and Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM). QPSK, a popular choice in 4G networks, encodes two bits of information per symbol through phase modulation.

On the other hand, QAM is a hybrid modulation technique that adjusts both amplitude and phase to encode data. The interesting aspect of QAM lies in its subdivisions: 16-QAM, 64-QAM, and 256-QAM. Each of these subdivisions reflects an increase in the number of bits carried per symbol, and this paves way for higher data rates.

In Both QPSK and QAM, OFDM is used as the multiplexing scheme, which divides the available spectrum into subcarriers that can be modulated using QAM or QPSK.

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5G Modulation Techniques

As we transitioned to the era of 5G networks, the demand for reduced latency, enhanced data rates, and optimal spectrum utilization became more important.

QPSK and QAM, which were enhanced by OFDM (multiplexing technology), encounter limitations in 5G networks. This necessitated the development of other 5G modulation techniques like Generalized Frequency Division Multiplexing (GFDM), filtered OFDM (f-OFDM), Universal Filtered Multi-Carrier (UFMC), and Filter Bank Multi-Carrier (FBMC).

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4G Modulation vs. 5G Modulation

Here is a comparison table showing the differences between 4G modulation and 5G modulation.

Factor4G Modulation Techniques5G Modulation Techniques
GoalEnhanced data rates, capacity, and network performance.Reduced latency, high data rates, & efficient spectrum utilization.
Modulation TechniquesQAM (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) & QPSK (Quadrature Phase Shift Keying) are the key modulation techniquesOFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), GFDM (Generalized Frequency Division Multiplexing), f-OFDM (Filtered-Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing), UFMC (Universal Filtered Multi-Carrier), and FBMC (Filter Bank Multi-Carrier).
Spectral EfficiencyQAM and QPSK offer spectral efficiency within OFDM subcarriersGFDM, f-OFDM, UFMC, and FBMC provide enhanced spectral efficiency through filtering and improved subcarrier utilization.
Out-of-Band EmissionsSome out-of-band emissions due to limitations of QAM and QPSK.Reduced out-of-band emissions and better spectral containment due to filtering in techniques like GFDM, f-OFDM, UFMC, and FBMC.
Power Spectral DensityPower spectral density influenced by out-of-band emissions.Improved power spectral density due to reduced sidelobes and out-of-band emissions.
Burst DurationsPrimarily suitable for longer burst durations.Suitable for a range of burst durations, from shorter to longer, based on specific technique and application.
Multipath Fading MitigationRelies on multipath fading mitigation using advanced modulation schemes and OFDM.Improved mitigation of multipath fading through enhanced techniques like GFDM, f-OFDM, UFMC, and FBMC.
Frequency Bandwidth ManagementFrequency band divided into subcarriers using OFDM.Utilizes variations of OFDM with filtering and sub-band approaches to optimize spectrum usage.
Multimedia SupportSupports multimedia services, but with limitations in efficiency.Enables seamless multimedia experiences with higher data rates, lower latency, and optimized spectral usage.
Network PerformanceEnhances data rates and capacity for a wide range of applications.Elevates network performance by meeting latency and efficiency demands, catering to advanced use cases.
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The goal of both 4G modulation and 5G modulation is to improve data rates, capacity, and network performance, although the methodologies employed slightly differ.

In the context of 4G modulation, the approach involved both phase modulation and amplitude modulation utilizing either QAM or QPSK. Conversely, in 5G modulation, the strategy revolved around filtering and sub-band approaches to optimize spectrum utilization.

Both 5G modulation and 4G modulation embraced OFDM as a multiplexing technology, serving as a foundation that facilitates the simultaneous transmission.

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