Staggered quadrature phase-shift keying (SQPSK), also known as offset quadrature phase-shift keying (OQPSK), is a method of phase-shift keying (PSK) in which the signal carrier-wave phase transition is always 90 degrees or 1/4 cycle at a time. A phase shift of 90 degrees is known as phase quadrature.
In SQPSK, the data is placed alternately on two channels or streams called the I channel (for "in phase") and the Q channel ("phase quadrature"). A single phase transition can never exceed 90 degrees. This property contrasts SQPSK with conventional quadrature phase-shift keying (QPSK), in which the phase can sometimes change by 180 degrees (two 90-degree shifts in a single transition). The average magnitude of the phase transitions is smaller with SQPSK than with conventional QPSK. The result of the smaller average phase "jump" is an improved signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and a reduced error rate.
SQPSK and QPSK are not the only methods of PSK in common use. In binary phase-shift keying (BPSK) there are two possible states for the signal phase: 0 and 180 degrees. In QPSK and SQPSK there are four possible states: 0, +90, -90 and 180 degrees. In multiple phase-shift keying (MPSK) there can be more than four possible states for the signal phase. An example is the use of eight phase states: 0, +45, -45, +90, -90, +135, -135 and 180 degrees. More than eight phase states are rarely used because that takes the signal complexity past the point of diminishing returns and the error rate actually increases.