In telecommunication, a caller needs to dial the number of the callee. The earlier versions of telephones used to have rotary type dials which are now obsolete. Almost all the landline and mobile phone handsets now use pushbutton keypads.
What is DTMF?
DTMF is a signalling system for identifying the keys or better say the number dialled on a pushbutton or DTMF keypad. The early telephone systems used pulse dialling or loop disconnect signalling. This was replaced by multi frequency (MF) dialling. DTMF is a multi frequency tone dialling system used by the push button keypads in telephone and mobile sets to convey the number or key dialled by the caller. DTMF has enabled the long distance signalling of dialled numbers in voice frequency range over telephone lines. This has eliminated the need of telecom operator between the caller and the callee and evolved automated dialling in the telephone switching centres.
DTMF (Dual tone multi frequency) as the name suggests uses a combination of two sine wave tones to represent a key. These tones are called row and column frequencies as they correspond to the layout of a telephone keypad.
A DTMF keypad (generator or encoder) generates a sinusoidal tone which is mixture of the row and column frequencies. The row frequencies are low group frequencies. The column frequencies belong to high group frequencies. This prevents misinterpretation of the harmonics. Also the frequencies for DTMF are so chosen that none have a harmonic relationship with the others and that mixing the frequencies would not produce sum or product frequencies that could mimic another valid tone. The high-group frequencies (the column tones) are slightly louder than the low-group to compensate for the high-frequency roll off of voice audio systems.
The row and column frequencies corresponding to a DTMF keypad have been indicated in the above figure.
DTMF tones are able to represent one of the 16 different states or symbols on the keypad. This is equivalent to 4 bits of data, also known as nibble.