Fading

Frequency-selective time-varying fading causes a cloudy pattern to appear on a spectrogram. Time is shown on the horizontal axis, frequency on the vertical axis and signal strength as grey-scale intensity.

In wireless communications, fading is variation of the attenuation of a signal with various variables. These variables include time, geographical position, and radio frequency. Fading is often modeled as a random process. A fading channel is a communication channel that experiences fading. In wireless systems, fading may either be due to multipath propagation, referred to as multipath-induced fading, weather (particularly rain), or shadowing from obstacles affecting the wave propagation, sometimes referred to as shadow fading.

Key concepts

The presence of reflectors in the environment surrounding a transmitter and receiver create multiple paths that a transmitted signal can traverse. As a result, the receiver sees the superposition of multiple copies of the transmitted signal, each traversing a different path. Each signal copy will experience differences in attenuation, delay and phase shift while travelling from the source to the receiver. This can result in either constructive or destructive interference, amplifying or attenuating the signal power seen at the receiver. Strong destructive interference is frequently referred to as a deep fade and may result in temporary failure of communication due to a severe drop in the channel signal-to-noise ratio.

A common example of deep fade is the experience of stopping at a traffic light and hearing an FM broadcast degenerate into static, while the signal is re-acquired if the vehicle moves only a fraction of a meter. The loss of the broadcast is caused by the vehicle stopping at a point where the signal experienced severe destructive interference. Cellular phones can also exhibit similar momentary fades.

Fading channel models are often used to model the effects of electromagnetic transmission of information over the air in cellular networks and broadcast communication. Fading channel models are also used in underwater acoustic communications to model the distortion caused by the water.