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Spectrum of a baseband signal, energy E per unit frequency as a function of frequency f. The total energy is the area under the line.

A baseband waveform has a spectral magnitude that is nonzero for frequencies in the vicinity of the origin (i.e., f = 0) and negligible elsewhere. [1] In telecommunications and signal processing, baseband signals are transmitted without modulation, that is, without any shift in the range of frequencies of the signal. [2] They are contained within the band of frequencies from close to 0 hertz up to a higher cut-off frequency or maximum bandwidth. Baseband can be synonymous with lowpass or non-modulated, and is differentiated from passband, bandpass, carrier-modulated, intermediate frequency, or radio frequency (RF).

Various uses[edit]

Baseband bandwidth[edit]

A baseband bandwidth is equal to the highest frequency of a signal or system, or an upper bound on such frequencies,[3] for example the upper cut-off frequency of a passband filter. By contrast, passband bandwidth is the difference between a highest frequency and a nonzero lowest frequency.

Baseband channel[edit]

A baseband channel or lowpass channel (or system, or network) is a communication channel that can transfer frequencies that are very near zero.[4] Examples are serial cables and local area networks (LANs), as opposed to passband channels such as radio frequency channels and passband filtered wires of the analog telephone network. Frequency division multiplexing (FDM) allows an analog telephone wire to carry a baseband telephone call, concurrently as one or several carrier-modulated telephone calls.

Digital baseband transmission[edit]

Main article: Line code

Digital baseband transmission, also known as line coding,[5] aims at transferring a digital bit stream over baseband channel, typically an unfiltered wire, contrary to passband transmission, also known as carrier-modulated transmission.[6] Passband transmission makes communication possible over a bandpass filtered channel, such as the telephone network local-loop or a band-limited wireless channel.

An unfiltered wire is intrinsically a low-pass transmission channel, while a line code is intrinsically a pulse wave signal that occupies a frequency spectrum of infinite bandwidth. According to the Nyquist theorem, error-free detection of the line code requires a channel bandwidth of at least the Nyquist rate, which is half the line code pulse rate.

Baseband transmission in Ethernet [edit]

The word "BASE" in Ethernet physical layer standards, for example 10BASE5, 100BASE-T and 1000BASE-SX, implies baseband digital transmission, i.e. that a line code and an unfiltered wire are used.

This is contrary to 10PASS-TS Ethernet, where "PASS" implies passband transmission. Passband digital transmission requires a digital modulation scheme, often provided by modem equipment. In the 10PASS-TS case the VDSL standard is utilized, which is based on the Discrete multi-tone modulation (DMT) scheme. Other examples of passband network access technologies are wireless networks and cable modems.

Baseband processor[edit]

A baseband processor is a chip in wireless transmission devices such as mobile phones, that performs signal processing and implements the device's realtime radio transmission operations.

Baseband signal[edit]

A baseband signal or lowpass signal is a signal that can include frequencies that are very near zero, by comparison with its highest frequency (for example, a sound waveform can be considered as a baseband signal, whereas a radio signal or any other modulated signal is not).[7]

A signal "at baseband" is usually considered to include frequencies from near 0 Hz up to the highest frequency in the signal with significant power.

In general, signals can be described as including a whole range of different frequencies added together. In telecommunications in particular, it is often the case that those parts of the signal which are at low frequencies are "copied" up to higher frequencies for transmission purposes, since there are few communications media that will pass low frequencies without distortion. Then, the original, low frequency components are referred to as the baseband signal. Typically, the new, high-frequency copy is referred to as the "RF" (radio-frequency) signal. A baseband signal is a low frequency signal which when modulated is transmitted on various channels.

Equivalent baseband signal[edit]

An equivalent baseband signal or equivalent lowpass signal is – in analog and digital modulation methods with constant carrier frequency (for example ASK, PSK and QAM, but not FSK) – a complex valued representation of the modulated physical signal (the so-called passband signal or RF signal). The equivalent baseband signal is Z(t)=I(t)+jQ(t)\, where I(t) is the inphase signal, Q(t) the quadrature phase signal, and j the imaginary unit. In a digital modulation method, the I(t) and Q(t) signals of each modulation symbol are evident from the constellation diagram. The frequency spectrum of this signal includes negative as well as positive frequencies. The physical passband signal corresponds to

I(t)\cos(\omega t) - Q(t)\sin(\omega t) = \mathrm{Re}\{Z(t)e^{j\omega t}\}\,
where \omega is the carrier angular frequency in rad/s.

In an equivalent baseband model of a communication system, the modulated signal is replaced by a complex valued equivalent baseband signal with carrier frequency of 0 hertz, and the RF channel is replaced by an equivalent baseband channel model where the frequency response is transferred to baseband frequencies.


A signal at baseband is often used to modulate a higher frequency carrier wave in order that it may be transmitted via radio. Modulation results in shifting the signal up to much higher frequencies (radio frequencies, or RF) than it originally spanned. A key consequence of the usual double-sideband amplitude modulation (AM) is that the range of frequencies the signal spans (its spectral bandwidth) is doubled. Thus, the RF bandwidth of a signal (measured from the lowest frequency as opposed to 0 Hz) is twice its baseband bandwidth. Steps may be taken to reduce this effect, such as single-sideband modulation. Some transmission schemes such as frequency modulation use even more bandwidth.

The figure shows what happens with AM modulation:

Comparison of the equivalent baseband version of a signal and its AM-modulated (double-sideband) RF version, showing the typical doubling of the occupied bandwidth.

Some signals can be treated as baseband or not, depending on the situation. For example, a switched analog connection in the telephone network has energy below 300 Hz and above 3400 Hz removed by bandpass filtering; since the signal has no energy very close to zero frequency, it may not be considered a baseband signal, but in the telephone system's frequency-division multiplexing hierarchy, it is usually treated as a baseband signal, by comparison with the modulated signals used for long-distance transmission. The 300 Hz lower band edge in this case is treated as "near zero", being a small fraction of the upper band edge.

The simplest definition is that a signal's baseband bandwidth is its bandwidth before modulation and multiplexing, or after demultiplexing and demodulation.

The composite video signal created by devices such as most newer VCRs, game consoles and DVD players is a commonly used baseband signal.

See also[edit]

  • Broadband – generally refers to transmission of data over numerous frequencies
  • Wideband – a communications medium or signal that spans a large (continuous) range of frequencies, or is wide compared to something else
  • Narrowband – the opposite of wideband


  1. ^ Leon W. Couch II (1993). Digital and Analog Communication Systems. Prentice Hall. 
  2. ^ B.P. Lathi (1983). Modern Digital and Analog Communication Systems. Holt, Rinehart and Winston. 
  3. ^ Mischa Schwartz (1970). Information, Transmission, Modulation and Noise: A Unified Approach to Communication Systems. McGraw-Hill. 
  4. ^ Chris C. Bissell and David A. Chapman (1992). Digital Signal Transmission. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-42557-3. 
  5. ^ Mikael Gustavsson and J. Jacob Wikner (2000). CMOS Data Converters for Communications. Springer. ISBN 0-7923-7780-X. 
  6. ^ Jan W. M. Bergmans (1996). Digital Baseband Transmission and Recording. Springer. ISBN 0-7923-9775-4. 
  7. ^ Steven Alan Tretter (1995). Communication System Design Using Dsp Algorithms: With Laboratory Experiments for the TMS320C30. Springer. ISBN 0-306-45032-1.