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Channel Estimation in a Proposed IEEE802.

11n OFDM
I-Tai Lu and Kun-Ju Tsai
Polytechnic University
6 Metrotech Center, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Abstract—Effects of improved channel estimation are studied for far more efficient than a frequency-domain approach in terms
a proposed IEEE 802.11n OFDM MIMO system. Three channel of mitigating the noise effects on channel estimation.
estimation methods are considered: maximum likelihood (ML), A channel estimation method utilizing the above mentioned
time-domain truncation (TDT) and model-based (MB). TDT and idea was proposed in [3]. The method first obtains the initial
MB are particularly useful when the channel delay spread is estimation of the channel transfer functions for all sub-carriers
short. For an MMSE receiver, MB shows a 1-2.5dB improvement using a conventional channel estimation method such as the
over ML on the packet error rate performance for TGn channels maximum likelihood (ML) approach. It then derives the
B and D for various modulation and coding schemes. TDT is a channel impulse response by applying the inverse Fourier
simplified version of MB and shows a 1-2dB improvement over
transform on these transfer functions. Subsequently, it truncates
ML at low SNRs. But improvements diminish when transmit
beamforming is also employed.
the impulse response to remove weak and noisy late arrivals in
Keywords - Channel Estimation, MIMO, OFDM,LAN, the time-domain. Finally, it performs the Fourier transform on
IEEE802.11n the truncated channel impulse response to yield an improved
estimation of the channel transfer function in the frequency
I. INTRODUCTION domain. For convenience, this method will be called the time-
domain truncation method (TDT). The TDT method works
Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) well for channels with short delay spreads. However, it requires
techniques have the important merit of high spectral efficiency an initial channel estimation for all sub-carriers. If there are
because the adjacent OFDM sub-carriers can partially share the null sub-carriers, the TDT approach will induce channel
same spectrum while still remaining orthogonal to one another. estimation errors. The null-subcarrier induced errors may be
Hence, OFDM technology has been adopted in Wireless Local small compared to the noise induced errors when SNR is low.
Area Network (WLAN) standards such as IEEE 802.11 a/g and However, the former becomes more significant than the latter
HIPERLAN. when SNR is high. Therefore, TDT is not applicable at high
Multi-input Multi-output (MIMO) transceiver structures SNRs.
have the important merit of high throughput because MIMO Since there may always be null sub-carriers in practical
provides multiple orthogonal eigen-channels which facilitate systems, we propose a model-based (MB) channel estimation
the transmission of multiple spatial streams for each pair of method to circumvent the difficulty due to null sub-carriers. In
transceivers. Therefore, a proposed next generation standard the MB method, the channel impulse response is modeled as a
for WLAN [1] is considering the use of MIMO OFDM tap-delay line. The tap coefficients are obtained using a least
technologies. square approach in the time-domain. Therefore, as long as there
In MIMO systems, the information in the channel matrix is are more non-null sub-carriers than the number of taps, the MB
essential for decoding the transmitted message correctly. If the approach works well for all SNRs. A similar approach to MB
channel matrix is not estimated accurately, the eigen-channels was published in [4].
cannot be fully decoupled at the receiver and the spatial To evaluate the performance of the three channel estimation
streams become coupled. This results in inter-spatial stream- approaches mentioned above, we simulate the packet error rate
interference (ISSI). As channel estimation error increases, ISSI (PER) for various modulation and coding schemes (MCSs),
and consequently the packet error rate (PER) increase. MIMO configurations, MIMO processing techniques and
For OFDM MIMO systems, the channel matrix is usually channel models [1].
estimated in the frequency domain. However, since the The rest of the paper is organized as follows. The ML, TDT
coherent bandwidth of indoor channels is usually larger than and MB methods are discussed in Section II. In Section III, we
the signal bandwidths for WLAN applications, it will be more calculate the mean square error (MSE) in estimating the
advantageous to estimate the channel matrix in the time- transfer function of TGn channels B and D using the three
domain than in the frequency domain. methods described in Section II. Two data recovery techniques
For example, there are 64 sub-carriers in the 20MHz mode for MIMO processing are discussed in Section IV. The effects
of a proposed IEEE 802.11n standard [1]. Using the proposed of different channel estimation schemes on the PER
preamble, the receiver is required to estimate the channel performance are presented for several modulation and coding
transfer matrix for 56 out of the 64 sub-carriers. But, for small schemes with different TGn channel types in Section V.
indoor environments the delay spreads are very small. Consider Conclusions are made in Section VI.
the TGn B channel [2] as an example, the delay spread is only
90 nsec. Each channel would require only 2 to 3 taps in the II. CHANNEL ESTIMATION
time domain model because the sampling interval is fixed at 50 For the kth sub-carrier, let H ij (k ) denote the channel transfer
nsec. Thus, a time-domain channel estimation approach will be function for the ith receive antenna and the jth transmit antenna.

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For a 20MHz bandwidth, there are 64 sub-carriers. Thus, estimated channel transfer functions Hˆ ij (k ) to form a 56 × 1
k=0,1,2,…,63 and sub-carrier spacing is 312.5kHz. The vector Ĥ ij . Based on (5), form a 56 × L inverse Fourier
corresponding time-domain channel impulse response is the
inverse Fourier transform of H ij (k ) : transform matrix F such that

63 Hˆ ij ≈ F h ij . (6)
hij (l ) =

k =0
H ij (k )e j 2πkl / 64
. (1) Note that F does not depend on the antenna indexes ij. The least
square solution of (6) is
where l =0,2,…,63 and the sampling interval is 50nsec. ~
h ij = ( F F ) −1 F Hˆ ij .
A. Conventional Maximum Likelihood (ML) Algorithm
The high throughput long training field (HT-LTF) proposed
and the l th tap of the time domain channel impulse response
in [1] is used to estimate the channel matrix where the transmit hij (l ) is approximated by the l th element of h ij in (7).
antennas are excited one at a time for each sub-carrier. Thus, Step 4) The improved channel transfer functions are
after OFDM demodulation, the estimation of H ij (k ) can be finally obtained by performing a Fourier transform on the
formulated as shown below. Let improved channel impulse response
ri (k ) = H ij (k ) s j (k ) + ni (k ) . (2) ~ L −1
H ij (k ) ≈ H ij (k ) = ∑ hij (l )e − j 2πkl / 64 . (8)
where s j (k ) is the jth transmit training signal, ri (k ) is the ith
l =0
receive signal and ni (k ) is the ith receive noise. If the noise is
C. Time-Domain Truncation (TDT) Approach
Gaussian, it can be shown that the ML channel estimation is This TDT method is a simplified version of the MB
given as approach. It also consists of four steps. The first, second and
H ij (k ) ≈ Hˆ ij (k ) = ri (k ) / s j (k ) . (3) fourth steps are the same as those of the first approach. In the
third step, an improved time-domain channel impulse response
Since s j (k ) is non-zero for only 56 sub-carriers (k is from 1 to is obtained by simply truncating the approximated impulse
28 and from 36 to 63), the channel transfer function in (3) can response obtained in the first step at the maximum delay
be derived for only 56 sub-carriers. spread.
B. Model-Based (MB) Channel Estimation Algorithm ˆ hˆ (l ) l < L
hˆij (l ) =  ij (9)
This MB algorithm consists of the following four steps: l≥L
Step 1) The time-domain channel impulse response in (1) is
Thus, in the fourth step, the improved channel transfer
approximated by performing the inverse Fourier transform on
functions are obtained by performing a Fourier transform on
the estimated frequency-domain channel transfer functions in
(3) over the 56 sub-carriers the improved channel impulse response hˆij (l ) derived in (9):

1  28 63  ~
~ L −1
hij (l ) ≈ hˆij (l ) =  ∑ Hˆ ij (k )e j 2πkl / 64  . (4) H ij (k ) ≈ H ij (k ) = ∑ hˆij (l )e − j 2πkl / 64 . (10)
N  k =1 k =36  l =0
To improve the estimation of channel impulse response in (4),
a frequency domain interpolation approach may be employed
to approximate the channel transfer functions Hˆ ij ( k ) at null Fig. 1 shows the channel estimation results of a typical B
sub-carriers (k=0, 29-35). However, we will not discuss such channel at SNR=10dB. The solid line is the original channel
an interpolation method in this paper. transfer function. Comparing the three methods in Section II,
Step 2) Maximum delay spread is estimated and the the MB method has the best estimation accuracy for all sub-
number of taps (say L) in the channel transfer function is then carriers and the ML results are the worst. Even at null sub-
determined. Let TT =L*50nsec denote the estimated maximum carriers, the MB results are very close to the true channel
delay spread. There are many ways to determine L. If SNR is results but the ML and TDT methods cannot provide accurate
known, we can simply choose a threshold for minimum hij to channel information.
determine TT. If SNR is unknown, a method for estimating L Define the mean square error (MSE) for channel
can be found in [5]. After L is determined, we can express the estimations as
tap coefficients of the channel impulse response in terms of the   2

estimated channel transfer functions as following: MSE = mean∑∑∑ H ij (k ) − H ij (k )  . (11)

L −1  i j k 
Hˆ ij (k ) ≈ H ij (k ) = ∑ hij (l )e − j 2πkl / 64 ≈ ∑ hij (l )e − j 2πkl / 64 . (5) where H ij (k ) represents the estimated channel transfer
l =0 l =0 ~
Step 3) If the number of taps L is less than 56, an improved function Hˆ ij (k ) , H~ ij (k ) or H~ ij (k ) derived from the three
time-domain channel impulse response can be obtained by different approaches described in Section II, respectively.
solving the tap coefficients directly from (5). Use the L
unknown taps hij (l ) to form an L × 1 vector h ij and use the 56

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more noise and the optimum L is when TT is equal to the
effective channel delay spread. It is not the case for the TDT

1 approach. Although a smaller L still removes more noise, it

also magnifies the effects due to null carrier frequencies. Thus,
small L’s are not necessarily better for the TDT method. An
0 Original Channel optimum L will be usually greater than the effective channel
0 10 20 30 40 50 ML Estimation
60 70
Subcarrier Index MB Estimation
4 TDT Estimation Comparing to the MB result with L=8, the ML result is 4
2 dB worse (i.e., higher) for all SNRs for channel B. Comparing
to the TDT result with L=16, the ML result is 2dB worse at

SNR=10dB but is 5 to 6 dB better at SNR=25dB for channel
B. For channel D, the ML result is 3 dB worse than the MB
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 result for all SNRs. It is 2 dB worse at SNR=10dB but is 5 dB
Subcarrier Index better at SNR=25dB than the TDT result[??]. Thus, we
Fig. 1 Magnitude and phase of channel transfer function at 64 conclude that MB provides the best results (smallest MSE) for
sub-carriers. all situations. TDT is a simplified version of ML. It provides
smaller MSE than ML at low SNRs.
TGn Channel B TGn Channel D
-8 -8
-10 -10
After OFDM demodulation, the received vector
-12 -12 r (k ) = [ri (k )] for the kth sub-carrier can be written as

-14 -14
r (k ) = H ( k ) s (k ) + n(k ), H (k ) = [ H ij ( k )] . (12)
where s (k ) = [ s j (k )] is the transmit vector and
-16 -16
ML ML n(k ) = [n j (k )] is the noise vector.
MB (L=8) MB (L=14)
-18 -18
MB (L=16) MB (L=16)
TDT (L=14)
For each channel estimation method, two data recovery
TDT (L=8)
TDT (L=16)
TDT (L=16) techniques are used to recover the transmitted data at the
10 15 20 25 10 15 20 25 receiver.
The first one is an MMSE receiver. The MMSE
Fig. 2 Mean Square Error of Channel Estimations processing matrix for each sub-carrier k at the receiver is:
Considering a 2 × 2 MIMO structure, Fig. 2 shows the MSE ( )
R = H H H + C N H H , H = [ H ij ] . (13)
results for channels B and D computed using 2000 channel where the superscript H denotes Hermitian, CN is the
realizations. Note that the guard time interval TG of an OFDM 
covariance matrix of noise, and H ij represents the estimated
symbol is 800nsec and the maximum delay spreads TD’s of ~
channels B and D are 90 nsec and 400 nsec, respectively. channel transfer function Ĥ ij , H~ ij or H~ ij . For convenience, we
Thus, on one hand, the estimated maximum delay spread TT have omitted the writing of sub-carrier index k in (13). The
should be less than TG because the maximum delay spread of MMSE processed result becomes
most indoor channels is less than 800nsec. On the other hand, sˆ = RH s + R n . (14)
TT should be greater than TD because the effective channel
delay spread is the sum of the original channel delay spread The second data recovery technique is a combination of
and the delays of transmit and receive low pass filters. In transmit and receive beamforming procedures. Two channel
practice, TT should be estimated. If SNR is known, we can estimations are required in this approach. The first channel
simply choose a threshold for minimum h(t) to determine TT. estimation is made at the transmitter using the channel probing
In our simulations, two values of TT are chosen for each signal sent by the receiver. Here, we have assumed a time
channel model. TT is 400nsec or 800nsec for channel B and division duplex (TDD) system where reciprocity holds. Thus,
700nsec or 800nsec for channel D. In other words, the the channel information derived from the reverse link can be
used to estimate the channel information of the forward link.
maximum number of taps, L, is 8 or 16 for channel B and 14 
or 16 for channel D. Since the two L values for channel D are The transmit beamforming matrix is V which is derived from
close to each other, the MSE results derived by these two the SVD decomposition of the first estimated channel

values are also close to each other for both TDT and MB matrix H :
methods. However, the MSE results are very different for
H = UΣV H . (15)
channel B. It is interesting to see that L=8 is better than L=16
The transmitter applies the transmit beamforming on the data
for the MB approach while the reverse is true for the TDT
before transmission. Thus, the received signal becomes
approach. For the MB approach, using a smaller L removes

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 Consider a 2 × 2 MIMO configuration first. Fig. 3 shows
r = HV s + n . (16)
the PERs for different MCS’s of a MMSE receiver using the
 the effective channel for the receiver three channel estimation methods for channels B. The MB
becomes HV . After receiving the transmitted data, the channel estimation approach is 1 to 2.5 dB better than the
receiver estimates the effective channel and applies the MMSE conventional ML approach in most situations. Exceptions
approach as shown in (13) to recover the transmitted data. The happened at very high SNRs (SNR>38dB for MCS 15) where
MMSE processed result becomes the ML approach has already provided a very accurate channel
   estimation and no improvement on channel estimation can be
sˆ = RHV s + R n (17) made by the MB approach.
In (17), the MMSE processing matrix is The TDT channel estimation approach is 1 to 2 dB better
R = H H H + CN H H

) (18)
than the conventional ML approach only at low SNR’s. At high
SNRs, the TDT (see the curve for MCS15) results are much
worse than the ML results. This is because the null-subcarrier
where H is the ML estimation of the effective channel induced error due to the truncation in the time domain is large

HV . Note that the three approaches described in Section II compared to the noise induced errors at high SNRs. Thus, even
can be used in the first channel estimation at the transmitter. though SNR is as high as 40dB, the effective SNR’s of the
But only the ML approach can be used for the second channel TDT approach are still in the 20’s and the PER for MCS15
estimation at the receiver because the delay spread of the with two 64-QAM data streams becomes very large.

effective channel HV is so long that both MB and TDT 0
TGn Channel D
cannot provide any improvement over ML.

Table 1. Modulation and Coding Schemes

MCS Modulation Schemes & Coding Data -1
Index Number of Data Streams Rate Rate
8 Two BPSK data streams 1/2 13M PER
11 Two 16-QAM data streams 1/2 52M MCS8 MB
15 Two 64-QAM data streams 5/6 130M -2
10 MCS11 ML
27 Four 16-QAM data streams 1/2 104M MCS11 MB
35 One QPSK / One 64-QAM 1/2 52M MCS11 TDT
V. SIMULATION RESULTS FOR PER 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40
The modulation and coding schemes used for simulation Fig. 4 PERs of the MMSE receiver for TGn channel D.
are listed in Table 1. For each case, 10000 packets are
transmitted over randomly generated channels to derive the Fig. 4 shows the PERs for different MCS’s of a MMSE
packet error rate (PER). Each packet consists of 1000 bytes of receiver using the three channel estimation methods for
data. According to different MCS’s, the length of the packet is channel D. Observations similar to those made for Fig.3 can
varying. Since the maximum Doppler spread is only 6 Hz, the also be made here for Fig. 4. The MB approach provides the
channel can be considered as time invariant during the period best PER performance. It is around 1-2dB better than the ML
of the whole packet. approach for all cases and all SNRs. The TDT approach
TGn Channel B performs as good as the MB approach and is 2dB better than
the ML approach at low SNRs for MCS8. But it is much
worse than the ML approach at high SNRs for MCS15. The
reason is the same as that given for Fig. 3.
Comparing Fig.4 to Fig. 3, PER performances for channel
D are 3 to 6 dB better than their counter parts in channel B.
This is because the delay spread of channel D is four times

MCS8 MB that of channel B. Thus, channel D provides a larger frequency
10 MCS11 ML
diversity gain than channel B.
MCS11 MB Fig. 5 shows the PERs using the combined transmit and
MCS15 ML receive beamforming approach for MCS11 and MCS35 for
MCS15 MB channel B. The two data streams of MCS11 are both 16-QAM
5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45
but for MCS35 one data stream is QPSK and the second is 16-
SNR(dB) QAM. However, the two MCSs support the same data rate
Fig. 3 PERs of the MMSE receiver for TGn channel B. (52Mbits/sec). In both cases, neither TDT nor MB provides a
significant improvement on the PER performance. Note that
two channel estimations are required by the combined transmit

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and receive beamforming approach. The first channel rate of MCS27 (a 4 × 4 structure) is twice that of MCS11 (a
estimation can be implemented by any of the three approaches. 2 × 2 structure).
But only the ML approach can be employed in the second
channel estimation. Apparently, the improvement on the first TGn Channel B 4x4 TGn Channel D 4x4
0 0
10 10
channel estimation using either MB or TDT does not make too
much difference in the final PER results. This is due to the fact
that the MMSE processing for data recovery at the receiver
has compensated the effects due to slightly inaccurate channel -1
10 10

estimation on the transmit beamforming at the transmitter.

0 0
10 10
-2 -2
10 10

-1 -1
10 10 MCS27 TDT MCS27 TDT
-3 -3
10 10
10 20 30 40 10 15 20 25

Fig. 6 PERs of the MMSE receiver for a 4x4 configuration.
-2 -2
10 10


Beamforming(MB,L=8) Beamforming(MB,L=8) Effects of improved channel estimation are studied for a
-3 Beamforming(TDT,L=16) proposed IEEE 802.11n MIMO OFDM system. Maximum
10 15
20 25 10 15
20 25
likelihood (ML) approach, time-domain truncation (TDT)
approach and model-based (MB) approach are considered.
Fig. 5 PERs derived by beamforming. Among the three approaches, the MB approach yields the best
packet error rate (PER) results for all cases in both TGn
As a reference, we have also plotted the PERs derived by channels B and D when an MMSE receiver is employed. The
the MMSE receiver using the MB channel estimation MB results are 1 to 2.5 dB better than the ML results for all
approach in Fig. 5. It is remarkable that, at PER=0.1, the cases when SNR is less than 38dB. The TDT approach is a
combined transmit and receive beamforming results are 3dB simplified version of the MB approach. It is 1 to 2 dB better
or 7dB better than the MMSE results for MCS11 and MCS35, than the ML approach at low SNR’s, but does not work as well
respectively. This is due to the fact that eigen channels in at high SNRs. Both MB and TDT are particularly useful when
MIMO systems always have different channel gains for the channel delay spread is short. The improvements on PERs
different sub-carriers. The combined transmit and receive derived by MB or TDT over ML diminish when the combined
beamforming approach can consistently assign data streams transmit and receive beamforming approach is employed.
with higher order modulations to stronger eigen channels and
data streams with lower order modulations to weaker eigen Acknowledgements
channels for all sub-carriers. But the MMSE approach This work was completed during the development of a MIMO
processing does not have this capability. OFDM system at InterDigital Communications Corp. A partial
Comparing the results for the two MCSs with the same data list of those who have contributed to this work include Dr.
rate, the MCS11 result is 2dB better than the MCS35 result if Changsoo Koo, Robert L. Olesen, Dr. Eric Yang, Dr. Jerry
the MMSE receiver is employed, but the former is 2dB worse Dai, and Nirav Shah. We would also like to recognize those
than the latter if the combined transmit and receive who make this work possible: Scott Kalish, Eldad Zeira, and
beamforming approach is employed. We conclude that the Dr. Fatih Ozluturk.
unequal stream case has a better PER performance than the
equal stream case when the combined transmit and receive REFERENCES
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