For other uses of multiplex, see multiplex (disambiguation).
For multiplexing in electronics and signal processing, see Multiplexer.In telecommunications and computer networks, multiplexing (known as muxing) is a process where multiple analog message signals or digital data streams are combined into one signal over a shared medium. The aim is to share an expensive resource. For example, in telecommunications, several phone calls may be transferred using one wire. It originated in telegraphy, and is now widely applied in communications.
The multiplexed signal is transmitted over a communication channel, which may be a physical transmission medium. The multiplexing divides the capacity of the low-level communication channel into several higher-level logical channels, one for each message signal or data stream to be transferred. A reverse process, known as demultiplexing, can extract the original channels on the receiver side.
Inverse multiplexing (IMUX) has the opposite aim as multiplexing, namely to break one data stream into several streams, transfer them simultaneously over several communication channels, and recreate the original data stream.
Variable bit rate digital bit streams may be transferred efficiently over a fixed bandwidth channel by means of statistical multiplexing, for example packet mode communication. Packet mode communication is an asynchronous mode time-domain multiplexing, which resembles but should not be considered as time-division multiplexing.
Digital bit streams can be transferred over an analog channel by means of code-division multiplexing (CDM) techniques such as frequency-hopping spread spectrum (FHSS) and direct-sequence spread spectrum (DSSS).
In wireless communications, multiplexing can also be accomplished through alternating polarization (horizontal/vertical or clockwise/counterclockwise) on each adjacent channel and satellite, or through phased multi-antenna array combined with a Multiple-input multiple-output communications (MIMO) scheme.
A multiplexing technique may be further extended into a multiple access method or channel access method, for example TDM into Time-division multiple access (TDMA) and statistical multiplexing into carrier sense multiple access (CSMA). A multiple access method makes it possible for several transmitters connected to the same physical medium to share its capacity.
The earliest communication technology using electrical wires, and therefore sharing an interest in the economies afforded by multiplexing, was the electric telegraph. Early experiments allowed two separate messages to travel in opposite directions simultaneously, first using an electric battery at both ends, then at only one end.
In telephony, a customer's telephone line now typically ends at the remote concentrator box down the street, where it is multiplexed along with other telephone lines for that neighborhood or other similar area. The multiplexed signal is then carried to the central switching office on significantly fewer wires and for much further distances than a customer's line can practically go. This is likewise also true for digital subscriber lines (DSL).
Fiber in the loop (FITL) is a common method of multiplexing, which uses optical fibre as the backbone. It not only connects POTS phone lines with the rest of the PSTN, but also replaces DSL by connecting directly to Ethernet wired into the home. Asynchronous Transfer Mode is often the communications protocol used.
Because all of the phone (and data) lines have been clumped together, none of them can be accessed except through a demultiplexer. This provides for more-secure communications, though they are not typically encrypted.
See main article: Demultiplexer (Media file).
In digital video, such a transport stream is normally a feature of a container format which may include metadata and other information, such as subtitles. The audio and video streams may have variable bit rate. Software that produces such a transport stream and/or container is commonly called a statistical multiplexor or muxer. A demuxer is software that extracts or otherwise makes available for separate processing the components of such a stream or container.
In digital television and digital radio systems, several variable bit-rate data streams are multiplexed together to a fixed bitrate transport stream by means of statistical multiplexing. This makes it possible to transfer several video and audio channels simultaneously over the same frequency channel, together with various services.
In the digital television systems, this may involve several standard definition television (SDTV) programmes (particularly on DVB-T, DVB-S2, and ATSC-C), or one HDTV, possibly with a single SDTV companion channel over one 6 to 8 MHz-wide TV channel. The device that accomplishes this is called a statistical multiplexer. In several of these systems, the multiplexing results in an MPEG transport stream. The newer DVB standards DVB-S2 and DVB-T2 has the capacity to carry several HDTV channels in one multiplex. Even the original DVB standards can carry more HDTV channels in a multiplex if the most advanced MPEG-4 compressions hardware is used.
On communications satellites which carry broadcast television networks and radio networks, this is known as multiple channel per carrier or MCPC. Where multiplexing is not practical (such as where there are different sources using a single transponder), single channel per carrier mode is used.
In digital radio, both the Eureka 147 system of digital audio broadcasting and the in-band on-channel HD Radio, FMeXtra, and Digital Radio Mondiale systems can multiplex channels. This is essentially required with DAB-type transmissions (where a multiplex is called an ensemble), but is entirely optional with IBOC systems.
In FM broadcasting and other analog radio media, multiplexing is a term commonly given to the process of adding subcarriers to the audio signal before it enters the transmitter, where modulation occurs. Multiplexing in this sense is sometimes known as MPX, which in turn is also an old term for stereophonic FM, seen on stereo systems since the 1960s.
In spectroscopy the term is used in a related sense to indicate that the experiment is performed with a mixture of frequencies at once and their respective response unravelled afterwards using the Fourier transform principle.
Multiplexing may also refer to a juggling technique where multiple objects are released from one hand at the same time.
Federal standards regarding telecommunications are described in  .