In radio communications, single-sideband modulation (SSB) or single-sideband suppressed-carrier modulation (SSB-SC) is a type of modulation used to transmit information, such as an audio signal, by radio waves. A refinement of amplitude modulation, it uses transmitter power and bandwidth more efficiently. Amplitude modulation produces an output signal the bandwidth of which is twice the maximum frequency of the original baseband signal. Single-sideband modulation avoids this bandwidth increase, and the power wasted on a carrier, at the cost of increased device complexity and more difficult tuning at the receiver.
SSB takes advantage of the fact that the entire original signal is encoded in each of these "sidebands". It is not necessary to transmit both sidebands plus the carrier, as a suitable receiver can extract the entire original signal from either the upper or lower sideband. There are several methods for eliminating the carrier and one sideband from the transmitted signal. Producing this single sideband signal is too complicated to be done in the final amplifier stage as with AM. SSB Modulation must be done at a low level and amplified in a linear amplifier where lower efficiency partially offsets the power advantage gained by eliminating the carrier and one sideband. Nevertheless, SSB transmissions use the available amplifier energy considerably more efficiently, providing longer-range transmission for the same power output. In addition, the occupied spectrum is less than half that of a full carrier AM signal.
SSB was also used over long distance telephone lines, as part of a technique known as frequency-division multiplexing (FDM). FDM was pioneered by telephone companies in the 1930s. With this technology, many simultaneous voice channels could be transmitted on a single physical circuit, for example in L-carrier. With SSB, channels could to be spaced (usually) only 4,000 Hz apart, while offering a speech bandwidth of nominally 300 Hz to 3,400 Hz.
One method of producing an SSB signal is to remove one of the sidebands via filtering, leaving only either the upper sideband (USB), the sideband with the higher frequency, or less commonly the lower sideband (LSB), the sideband with the lower frequency. Most often, the carrier is reduced or removed entirely (suppressed), being referred to in full as single sideband suppressed carrier (SSBSC). Assuming both sidebands are symmetric, which is the case for a normal AM signal, no information is lost in the process. Since the final RF amplification is now concentrated in a single sideband, the effective power output is greater than in normal AM (the carrier and redundant sideband account for well over half of the power output of an AM transmitter). Though SSB uses substantially less bandwidth and power, it cannot be demodulated by a simple envelope detector like standard AM.
However, in order for a receiver to reproduce the transmitted audio without distortion, it must be tuned to exactly the same frequency as the transmitter. Since this is difficult to achieve in practice, SSB transmissions can sound unnatural, and if the error in frequency is great enough, it can cause poor intelligibility. In order to correct this, a small amount of the original carrier signal can be transmitted so that receivers with the necessary circuitry to synchronize with the transmitted carrier can correctly demodulate the audio. This mode of transmission is called reduced-carrier single-sideband.
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 of a beat frequency oscillator (BFO). In other words, it is just another stage of heterodyning. For this to work, the BFO frequency must be exactly adjusted. If the BFO frequency is off, the output signal will be frequency-shifted (up or down), making speech sound strange and "Donald Duck"-like, or unintelligible.
Limitation of single-sideband modulation being used for voice signals and not available for video/TV signals leads to the usage of vestigial sideband. A vestigial sideband (in radio communication) is a sideband that has been only partly cut off or suppressed. Television broadcasts (in analog video formats) use this method if the video is transmitted in AM, due to the large bandwidth used. It may also be used in digital transmission, such as the ATSC standardized 8VSB.