Time-division multiple access (TDMA) is a channel access method for shared-medium networks. It allows several users to share the same frequency channel by dividing the signal into different time slots. The users transmit in rapid succession, one after the other, each using its own time slot.
This allows multiple stations to share the same transmission medium (e.g. radio frequency channel) while using only a part of its channel capacity. TDMA is used in the digital 2G cellular systems such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), IS-136, Personal Digital Cellular (PDC) and iDEN, and in the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard for portable phones.
TDMA was first used in satellite communication systems by Western Union in its Westar 3 communications satellite in 1979. It is now used extensively in satellite communications, combat-net radio systems, and passive optical network (PON) networks for upstream traffic from premises to the operator. For usage of Dynamic TDMA packet mode communication, see below.
TDMA is a type of time-division multiplexing (TDM), with the special point that instead of having one transmitter connected to one receiver, there are multiple transmitters. In the case of the uplink from a mobile phone to a base station this becomes particularly difficult because the mobile phone can move around and vary the timing advance required to make its transmission match the gap in transmission from its peers.