Amplitude modulation (AM) is the modulation method used in the AM radio broadcast band. In this system the intensity, or amplitude, of the carrier wave varies in accordance with the modulating signal. When the carrier is thus modulated, a fraction of the power is converted to sidebands extending above and below the carrier frequency by an amount equal to the highest modulating frequency. If the modulated carrier is rectified (see rectifier) and the carrier frequency filtered out, the modulating signal can be recovered. This form of modulation is not a very efficient way to send information; the power required is relatively large because the carrier, which contains no information, is sent along with the information.
In a variant of amplitude modulation, called single sideband modulation (SSB), the modulated signal contains only one sideband and no carrier. The information can be demodulated only if the carrier is used as a reference. This is normally accomplished by generating a wave in the receiver at the carrier frequency. SSB modulation is used for long-distance telephony (such as in the amateur radio bands) and telegraphy over land and submarine cables.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.