In telecommunications, direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS) is a spread-spectrum modulation technique primarily used to reduce overall signal interference. The direct-sequence modulation makes the transmitted signal wider in bandwidth than the information bandwidth. After the despreading or removal of the direct-sequence modulation in the receiver, the information bandwidth is restored, while the unintentional and intentional interference is substantially reduced.
The first known scheme for this technique was introduced by a Swiss inventor, Gustav Guanella. With DSSS, the message bits are modulated by a pseudorandom bit sequence known as a spreading sequence. Each spreading-sequence bit, which is known as a chip, has a much shorter duration (larger bandwidth) than the original message bits. The modulation of the message bits scrambles and spreads the pieces of data, and thereby results in a bandwidth size nearly identical to that of the spreading sequence. The smaller the chip duration, the larger the bandwidth of the resulting DSSS signal; more bandwidth multiplexed to the message signal results in better resistance against interference.
Some practical and effective uses of DSSS include the code-division multiple access (CDMA) method, the IEEE 802.11b specification used in Wi-Fi networks, and the Global Positioning System.
Direct-sequence spread-spectrum transmissions multiply the data being transmitted by a pseudorandom spreading sequence that has a much higher bit rate than the original data rate. The resulting transmitted signal resembles bandlimited white noise, like an audio recording of "static". However, this noise-like signal is used to exactly reconstruct the original data at the receiving end, by multiplying it by the same spreading sequence (because 1 × 1 = 1, and −1 × −1 = 1). This process, known as despreading, is mathematically a correlation of the transmitted spreading sequence with the spreading sequence that the receiver already knows the transmitter is using. After the despreading, the signal-to-noise ratio is approximately increased by the spreading factor, which is the ratio of the spreading-sequence rate to the data rate.
While a transmitted DSSS signal occupies a much wider bandwidth than a simple modulation of the original signal would require, its frequency spectrum can be somewhat restricted for spectrum economy by a conventional analog bandpass filter to give a roughly bell-shaped envelope centered on the carrier frequency. In contrast, frequency-hopping spread spectrum pseudorandomly retunes the carrier and requires a uniform frequency response since any bandwidth shaping would cause amplitude modulation of the signal by the hopping code.
If an undesired transmitter transmits on the same channel but with a different spreading sequence (or no sequence at all), the despreading process reduces the power of that signal. This effect is the basis for the code-division multiple access (CDMA) property of DSSS, which allows multiple transmitters to share the same channel within the limits of the cross-correlation properties of their spreading sequences.