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.
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.
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 dispreading, 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.