Single-sideband modulation (SSB) is a refinement of the technique of amplitude modulation designed to be more efficient in its use of electrical power and bandwidth. It is closely related to vestigial sideband modulation (VSB) (see below).
Amplitude modulation typically produces a modulated output signal that has twice the bandwidth of the modulating signal, with a significant power component at the center carrier frequency. Single-sideband modulation improves this, at the cost of extra complexity.
The best way of thinking of SSB modulation is to first consider an amplitude modulated signal. This will have two frequency-shifted copies of the modulated signal (the lower one is frequency-inverted) on either side of the remaining carrier wave. These are known as sidebands: either upper sideband (USB) or less commonly lower sideband (LSB).
To produce an SSB signal, a filter removes one of the sidebands. Most often, the carrier is reduced (suppressed) or removed entirely. What remains still contains the entire information content of the AM signal, using substantially less bandwidth and power, but cannot now be demodulated by a simple envelope detector.
An alternate method of signal generation has been gaining popularity recently in part due to the availability of low-cost digital signal processor (DSP) systems. To generate an SSB signal with this method, first two versions of the original signal are generated which are mutually 90° out of phase, usually by implementing a Hilbert transformer in a DSP. Each one of these signals are then mixed with carrier waves that are also 90° out of phase with each other. By either adding or subtracting the resulting signals, this can generate a lower or upper sideband signal.
The front end of an SSB receiver is the same as that of an AM or FM receiver, consisting of a superheterodyne RF front end that produces a frequency-shifted version of the radio frequency (RF) signal within a standard intermediate frequency (IF) band.
To recover the original signal from the IF SSB signal, the single sideband must be frequency-shifted down to its original range of baseband frequencies, by using a product detector which mixes it with the output from a beat frequency oscillator (BFO).
For this to work, the BFO frequency must be accurately adjusted. If the BFO is mis-adjusted, the output signal will be frequency-shifted, making speech sound strange and "Donald Duck"-like.
SSB as a speech-scrambling technique
SSB techniques can also be adapted to frequency-shift and frequency-invert baseband waveforms. These effects were used, in conjunction with other filtering techniques, during World War II as a simple method for speech encryption. Radiotelephone conversations between the US and Britain were intercepted and "decrypted" by the Germans; they included some early conversations between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Churchill. In fact, the signals could be understood directly by trained operators. Largely to allow secure communications between Roosevelt and Churchill, the SIGSALY system of digital encryption was devised.
Today, such simple inversion-based speech encryption techniques are easily decrypted using simple techniques and are no longer regarded as secure.
A vestigial sideband (in radio communication) is a sideband that has been only partly cut off or suppressed. Television broadcasts (regardless of NTSC, PAL, or SECAM analog video format) use this method if the video is transmitted in AM, due to the enormous bandwidth used. It may also be used in digital transmission, such as the ATSC-standardized 8-VSB.
- modulation for other examples of modulation techniques