Scalable Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access

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What Does Scalable Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access Mean?

Scalable Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (SOFDMA) refers to the air interface outlined for portable or mobile Wi-MAX systems by IEEE, used in IEEE 802.16e(2005) standard. SOFDMA, in simple words, is the Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) mode employed in Mobile Wi-MAX outlined in IEEE 802.16e. Scalability is backed by modifying the size of Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) size when correcting the sub-carrier frequency spacing in 10.94 kHz.


SOFDMA supports channel bandwidths which range from 1.25 MHz to 20 MHz. It adds bandwidth scalability, which helps mobile Wi-MAX technology conform to multiple frequency regulations around the globe.

Techopedia Explains Scalable Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access

Larger FFT size is provided to wider channels, while smaller FFT size to lower bandwidth channels. SOFDMA makes the sub-carrier frequency spacing constant, which lowers the system complexity of smaller channels and also enhances the efficiency of wider channels.

Basic principles of SOFDMA

  • The sub-carrier spacing does not depend on bandwidth
  • The volume of sub-carriers scales with bandwidth
  • The smallest unit of bandwidth allocation, depending on the idea of sub-channels, is fixed and bandwidth independent
  • The volume of sub-channels scales with bandwidth, and the ability of every individual sub-channel remains constant

As well as variable FFT sizes, SOFDMA supports the following features:

  • Advanced Modulation and Coding (AMC)
  • Multiple-Input-Multiple-Output (MIMO) in DL and UL
  • High-efficiency uplink sub-channel structures
  • Hybrid Automatic Repeat Request (H-ARQ)
  • Other default features including a range of sub-carriers allocation in addition to diversity schemes.

Spectral efficiency, and combating Inter Symbol Interference (ISI) and Inter Carrier Interference (ICI) are two major benefits of SOFDMA, while requirement for strict synchronization and Peak-to-Average Power Ratio (PAPR) are two disadvantages.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.