Definition

soft handoff

In cellular telephone communication, soft handoff refers to the overlapping of repeater coverage zones, so that every cell phone set is always well within range of at least one repeater (also called a base station). In some cases, mobile sets transmit signals to, and receive signals from, more than one repeater at a time.

Soft handoff technology is used by code-division multiple access (CDMA) systems. Older networks use frequency division multiplex (FDM) or time division multiplex (TDM). In CDMA, all repeaters use the same frequency channel for each mobile phone set, no matter where the set is located. Each set has an identity based on a code, rather than on a frequency (as in FDM) or sequence of time slots (as in TDM). Because no change in frequency or timing occurs as a mobile set passes from one base station to another, there are practically no dead zones. As a result, connections are almost never interrupted or dropped.

This was last updated in September 2005

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