Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) — essentially identical to Coded OFDM (COFDM) and Discrete multi-tone modulation (DMT) — is a frequency-division multiplexing (FDM) scheme utilized as a digital multi-carrier modulation method. A large number of closely-spaced orthogonal sub-carriers are used to carry data. The data is divided into several parallel data streams or channels, one for each sub-carrier. Each sub-carrier is modulated with a conventional modulation scheme (such as quadrature amplitude modulation or phase shift keying) at a low symbol rate, maintaining total data rates similar to conventional single-carrier modulation schemes in the same bandwidth.
OFDM has developed into a popular scheme for wideband digital communication, whether wireless or over copper wires, used in applications such as digital television and audio broadcasting, wireless networking and broadband internet access.
The primary advantage of OFDM over single-carrier schemes is its ability to cope with severe channel conditions — for example, attenuation of high frequencies in a long copper wire, narrowband interference and frequency-selective fading due to multipath — without complex equalization filters. Channel equalization is simplified because OFDM may be viewed as using many slowly-modulated narrowband signals rather than one rapidly-modulated wideband signal. The low symbol rate makes the use of a guard interval between symbols affordable, making it possible to handle time-spreading and eliminate intersymbol interference (ISI). This mechanism also facilitates the design of single-frequency networks, where several adjacent transmitters send the same signal simultaneously at the same frequency, as the signals from multiple distant transmitters may be combined constructively, rather than interfering as would typically occur in a traditional single-carrier system.