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A Prefiltering C-RAN Architecture with

Compressed Link Data Rate in Massive MIMO

Wenting Chang1 , Tian Xie2 , Feng Zhou1 , Jiansong Tian1 , and Xu Zhang1
Intel Lab of China. Beijing 100086, China
Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science and Technology (TNList),
Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, China
E-mail: wenting.chang@intel.com

AbstractMassive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) is proposed a millimeter-wave wireless inter connection link for
a promising technology in the next 5G communications. Directly communication between RRUs and BBUs, but new hardware
merging massive MIMO with cloud radio access network (C- and new industry standard will be required for practice. In
RAN) systems will cause disastrous link data overload, which
greatly exceeds the limitation of current 4G wireless standards. [8], a serial compression scheme for multiple radio units
To solve this problem, we propose a pre-filtering C-RAN ar- (RUs) has been proposed to alleviate the fronthual overhead
chitecture in this paper to compress the inter connection link based on information theory. Nevertheless, the cooperation
data rate between remote radio units (RRUs) and baseband among RUs and more complicated decoding process will be
units (BBUs), which is based on the structure of linear data required, which degrades the merit of flexible pool computing
detection algorithms and able to achieve lossless performance
if perfect channel information (CSI) can be acquired. To make for C-RAN. In [9], a flexible quantization codebook based on
the pre-filtering architecture feasible in practical environments, real-time channel information was proposed to compress data
we further propose two channel estimation methods. One using traffic in C-RAN. However, it is an iterative algorithm with
demodulation reference signal (DMRS) can achieve the data rate high complexity, and it relies on global information sharing
compression without performance loss, while the other using among RUs. For realistic C-RAN implementation, simple and
sounding reference signal (SRS) can keep the thin structures
of RRUs as much as possible. Analysis on practical systems distributed compression solution will be preferred in practice.
and simulation results show that the proposed architecture can In this paper, we propose a pre-filtering architecture in
provide a better trade off between hardware implementation cost, RRUs to compress the inter connection link data rate between
system performance and traffic load reduction than conventional RRU and BBU. By pre-filtering, we mean that the signal in
architectures. RRUs is processed by multiplying a pre-filtering matrix, which
Index TermsPre-filtering, massive MIMO, cloud RAN.
can compress the dimension of signal from RRU antenna
number related to user number related. If perfect channel
estimation can be acquired in RRUs, the proposed pre-filtering
Massive multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) is one of architecure is able to achieve lossless performance. Moreover,
the most promising technologies in the 5th generation (5G) to make the pre-filtering architecture feasible in realistic C-
cellular systems. In such systems, tens or hundreds of antennas RAN systems, we further propose two practical channel esti-
will be deployed at the eNodeB (eNB) to enable significant mation schemes using demodulation reference signal (DMRS)
improvement of system throughputs [1]. Extensive studies and sounding reference signal (SRS) to calculate the pre-
have been endeavored to understand and assign massive MI- filtering matrix, respectively. Specifically, in DMRS-based pre-
MO [2], [3]. Morever, realistic test bed of massive MIMO filtering architecture, channel estimation is performed based
systems has been recently and developed [4], which provides on DMRS at RRU, and the PUSCH signal together with the
solid evidence of advantages of massive MIMO for future 5G estimated channel are compressed at first and then transmitted
systems. to BBU for demodulation. Such DMRS-based pre-filtering ar-
Merging massive MIMO into cloud radio access network chitecture provides lossless performance at the cost of slightly
(C-RAN) architecture is promising for future 5G wireless complex hardware implementation on RRUs. For SRS-based
networks. However, as more and more antennas are deployed pre-filtering architecture, the pre-filtering matrix is calculated
in massive MIMO based RRUs, the amount of uplink data at BBU using SRS and then sent back to RRUs. Since SRS
streams in C-RAN systems will increase greatly, which di- is transmitted before the data symbols, we can calculate the
rectly results in severe data rate overload. For example, a channel matrix based on SRS in advance. The SRS-based pre-
typical LTE system with 20MHz bandwidth and 64 antennas filtering can avoid simplify the hardware implementation of
requires the link data rate as high as 34.4Gbps. However, RRUs with acceptable performance loss. Finally, we verify
the current inter connection link like common public radio that the proposed pre-filtering C-RAN architectures are able to
interface (CPRI) can only support the maximum data rate of compress the inter connection data rate effectively to avoid link
10Gbps. To tackle this engineering bottleneck, several solu- data overload by simulation results in standard 3GPP channel
tions have been investigated in the literature. In [7], the author models.

978-1-5090-1698-3/16/$31.00 2016 IEEE

CE architecture has lossless performance at the cost of slightly
& complicated hardware at RRUs, while the SRS-based pre-
RB Interconnection Link Equalization
AGC FFT & filtering architecture has simplified RRU implementation with
Processing acceptable performance loss.
Antenna RRU BBU A. Pre-Filtering Architecture in Ideal Case
We consider a C-RAN system that an eNB has
Fig. 1. Architecture of the conventional RRU-BBU. receiving antennas to serve different UEs simultaneous-
ly. Denote the transmitted data symbol from the kth UE
Notations: Lowercase, bold lowercase, and bold uppercase
as , and the corresponding channel frequency response
represent scalar, vector and matrix, respectively. () , () ,
between the kth UE and the ith receive antenna as , .
and ()1 denote conjugation, Hermitian conjugation, and
h = [1, , 2, , , , ] is the channel response vector
inversion operation of a matrix, respectively.
from the kth UE to all receive antennas. Thus, the channel
II. S YSTEM M ODEL O F C-RAN response matrix from all UEs is H = [h1 , h2 , , h ].
In a C-RAN architecture, traditional base station is divided With x = [1 , 2 , , ] denoting the transmitted data
into three elements [6][13,14,15]: the remotely distributed symbols from all UEs, the received signal at RRU can
RRUs with the antenna array; BBUs equipped with high- be expressed as:
performance programmable processors, and the optical link y = Hx + n, (1)
connecting RRUs and BBUs with large bandwidth and low
where denotes the uplink noise vector. In the original C-
RAN architecture, the received signal y at RRU is directly
The signal processing procedure for uplink transmission in
sent to BBU for signal restoration. Considering the widely
C-RAN is illustrated in Fig. 1. In RRU, automatic gain control,
used minimum mean squared error (MMSE) signal detection
fast fourier transformation (FFT) and resource block (RB)
algorithm [5], we can detect the PUSCH data as
selection are performed at first. After the processing, PUSCH
signals are transferred to BBU pool via inter connection link. x = (H H + 2 I)1 H y, (2)
BBUs then conduct channel estimation based on received
signal, and restores the original bits of serving UEs through where 2 denotes noise variance. Here, the channel estimation
equalization and decoding. According to current 4G standard of H is also realized at BBU. Since y is a 1 vector, the
[11], we can conduct channel estimation using DMRS and amount of data streams we need to transfer grows rapidly as
SRS, respectively. DMRS is always along with data streams, the number of receive antennas at RRU increases in massive
while SRS can be sent first by UEs to sound the channel MIMO. According to (2), we find that if we send H y
quality. Thus, using DMRS to realize channel estimation has instead of y to BBU, MMSE algorithm can still be utilized
better performance than using SRS. On the other hand, we to detect the PUSCH data. As H y is only a 1 vector,
can acquire the channel quality before data streams via SRS we can compress the inter connection data rate between RRU
to, which is able to simplify the hardware structure. and BBU by about . Thus, we propose the pre-filtering
When merging massive MIMO into C-RAN systems, the architecture to reduce the inter data rate between RRU and
link data rate between RRUs and BBUs increases rapidly as BBU, since the operation matrix in RRU is similar to the
the number of RRU antennas grows large, which results in famous match filter matrix in signal processing. If we add a
obvious data rate overload. For a typical LTE system with pre-filtering operation module at RRU, the data sent to BBU
20MHz bandwidth and 64 antennas, the required link data rate can be pre-filtered as
reaches up to 34.4Gbps. However, the current optical interface y = Fy, (3)
like CPRI only supports 10Gbps at most. If the antenna
number continues to increase further, real-time communication where F denotes the pre-filter matrix. By comparing (3) and
between RRUs and BBUs becomes impossible under current (2), we can find that
interface standard. F = H . (4)
III. T HE P RE -F ILTERING I MPLEMENTATION Substituting (1) and (4) into (3), we have
y = H y = H Hx, (5)
In this section, we firstly introduce the pre-filtering ar-
chitectures in C-RAN system to reduce the inter data rate which means that the equivalent channel matrix from UE to
between RRUs and BBUs. We also verify that the pre-filtering BBU is H = H H. Through channel estimation at
C-RAN architecture has lossless throughput performance in BBU, we can acquire the equivalent channel H H, which
case of perfect channel information. Then, we consider the can be directly used in MMSE signal detection algorithm
realization of pre-filtering architectures in practical environ- according to (2). Provided that the estimated channel matrix
ment and propose two pre-filtering architectures based on is exact, it is easy to verify that the proposed pre-filtering
DMRS and SRS, respectively. The DMRS-based pre-filtering architecture does not have any performance loss compared
DCT Sequence Truncation
SRS 25
Analog RB Interconnection Link
& & Coordinated
combiner Selection
FFT Multiplier Processing 20
Estimated channel
& Compressed PUSCH
Antenna RRU BBU
Array 15

Fig. 2. The implementation architecture of the proposed DMRS-based pre-

filtering. 10
Truncated sequence

with the conventional architecture, since they have the same

signal detection performance.
original DCT sequence
Note that the key prerequisite to realize the pre-filtering
structure into practical systems is to obtain the accurate pre- 0
0 200 400 600 800 1000 1200
filtering matrix at RRU. Therefore, in the next two subsections,
we will propose two practical architectures using DMRS and
Fig. 3. DCT truncation.
SRS to calculate the pre-filtering matrix, respectively. The
performance of the DMRS-based architecture is better, since
Sequences before/after DCT truncation
DMRS is always along with uplink data streams, and channel 1.4
estimation based on DMRS has better performance. However,
the implementation of F calculation can only be realized at 1.2

the RRU, because the round trip latency will be unacceptable 1

by sending the received DMRS to BBU, and feeding back the
corresponding pre-filtering matrix to RRU. It will make the 0.8

hardware implementation of RRU more complicated than the

conventional architecture, which will cause higher operating
expense. To maintain the RRU as simple as possible, the SRS- 0.4
based architecture is studied, which calculates F based on SRS
at the BBU and then sends F back to RRU. Nevertheless, 0.2 After truncation
using SRS to estimate channel has sightly performance loss, Before truncation
because SRS and PUSCH data streams might not be sent 0 20 40 60 80 100 120

simultaneously by UEs.
Fig. 4. Sequence before/after Truncation.
B. DMRS-based Pre-Filtering Architecture
matrix H for BBU. So we can just sent the upper
In this subsection, we propose a DMRS-based pre-filtering triangular components of H to BBU. This operation
architecture. As shown in Fig. 2, where the pre-filtering matrix can achieve nearly 0.5 compression ratio.
is acquired through DMRS-based channel estimation. We can DCT compression. As illustrated in Fig. 3 and Fig. 4, the
find that besides conventional modules, additional modules of channel infomation in DCT domain has some sparsity com-
DMRS-based channel estimation and multipliers are added at pared with that in the frequency-domain [10]. So we can
RRU to realize pre-filtering. After we estimate the channel transfer the frequency-domain signal to DCT domain signal
matrix H, we multiple the received signal vector y by H to acquire additional compression ratio. In such DCT com-
to compute y according to (5). Then, we transmit pression scheme, only effective parts of estimated channel for
y together with H = H H to BBU to certain UE are sent to BBU. In our example in Fig. 3 and Fig.
restore UE signals by MMSE signal detection algorithm as 4, the compression ratio of DCT-domain truncation method
mentioned in (2). achieves 0.125. Note that the sparsity property depends on
In the original C-RAN structure, H is also acquired based specific channel matrix, so the truncated threshold should be
on DMRS, where the only difference is that H is obtained carefully selected to guarantee the compression ratio.
at BBU instead of RRU. Thus, the proposed DMRS-based
pre-filtering structure achieves lossless compression provided C. SRS-based Pre-Filtering Architecture
perfect channel estimation. However, the DMRS-based pre- In DMRS-based pre-filtering architecture, we need to add
filtering architecture leads to extra link traffic, because along additional modules at RRU to implement compression, which
with compressed PUSCH data, estimated channel will be also makes the RRUs more complicated than conventional schemes.
sent to BBU. To further reduce the traffic load, the estimated To maintain RRU as simple as possible, so as to maintain
channel can also be compressed in two practical manners: the low operating expense of C-RAN, we propose another
Matrix compression. As H is a Hermitian ma- SRS-based pre-filtering architecture. Since UEs are able to
trix, i.e., H (, ) = H (, ), the upper individually send SRS to monitor the uplink channel at BBU,
triangular components are sufficient to recover the original we can utilize SRS to estimate the channel matrix HH SRS
DMRS-based pre-filtering scheme. Specifically, only multi-
plier module is needed at RRUs in the SRS pre-filtering
architecture, and the channel estimation module is omitted
as shown in Fig. 5. We consider the same LTE system with
20MHz bandwidth and 64 receiving antennas as in Section III-
B. The number of required multiplying and adding operations
for channel estimation can be omitted, that is about dozens of
million multiplications and additions, which greatly simplify
the modules at the RRU sites.
D. Compression Effect
Next, we discuss the compression effect of the proposed
Fig. 5. SRS-based Non-compressed and compressed DMRS scheme. pre-filtering architectures. After pre-filtering processing, the
quantity of PUSCH is compressed from the antenna-size
before the PUSCH data streams arrive at RRUs. Then, HH SRS related to the user number-size related , which indicates
is sent back to RRU through inter connection link to compress a uplink compression ratio of / . According to [11], SRS
PUSCH data streams as follows: occupies 1/14 the total subframes, if it is required by UEs,
y = HH while DMRS occupies 1/7 the total subframes. Note that UEs
SRS y. (6)
do not need to send SRS all the time, which means the overall
Next, the compressed signal y will be transmitted compression ratio can be further increased. Thus, the overall
to BBU to restore UE signals through MMSE signal detection compression ratio of different schemes can be calculated as
algorithm. For equalization purpose at BBU, H = shown in tTable I. Considering the same LTE configuration
H H is estimated based on DMRS in y at BBU in Section II-B with = 64, = 4, and 20MHz
side. Since the DMRS in y has been compressed, bandwidth, we can calculate that the DMRS-based pre-filtering
using the compressed DMRS to estimate the equivalent chan- architecture has a compression ratio of 0.053, while the SRS-
nel matrix H might have performance loss. So we based pre-filtering with non-compressed DMRS scheme and
further propose two schemes to achieve a tradeoff between the SRS-based pre-filtering with compressed DMRS scheme
complexity and performance in practical systems: have a compression ratio of 0.263 and 0.130, respectively.
SRS-Based Compressed DMRS Scheme. In the compressed That is to say, the proposed two pre-filtering architectures can
DMRS scheme, DMRS symbols are compressed from - reduce the link data rate from 34.4Gbps to 1.72 8.94Gbps
size dimension to -size dimension, and BBU performs to meet the current CPRI data rate requirement. In addition,
channel estimation directly based on compressed DMRS sym- we find that DMRS-based pre-filtering architecture achieves
bol. Since all signals are compressed in this scheme, we the best compression ratio at the cost of increased hardware
can achieve higher compression ratio at the cost of some implementation in RRU, SRS-based pre-filtering architecture
performance loss in channel estimation due to compressed with non-comprssed DMRS obtain a balance between com-
DMRS. pression ratio and hardware complexity, and SRS-based pre-
SRS-based Non-Compressed DMRS Scheme. In the non- filtering architecture with comprssed DMRS maintains RRU
compressed DMRS scheme, DMRS is sent to BBU without as simple as possible at the cost of lower compression ratio. To
compression. Noting that HH SRS is already available at BBU, sum up, systems can make some tradeoff between hardware
we can calculate H as implementation cost, system performance and traffic load
SRS HDMRS , (7) reduction among the three architectures.

where HDMRS denotes the channel information at BBU. With TABLE I

certain weight functions 0 () and 1 (), HSRS can be refined
Proposed Scheme Compression Ratio
to higher accuracy than real-time HDMRS by
DMRS-based pre-filtering 6/7
SRSrened = 0 (HSRS ) + 1 (HDMRS ). (8) SRS-based pre-filtering
11/14 + 3/14
with non-comprssed DMRS scheme
In the non-compressed DMRS scheme, we need to trans- SRS-based pre-filtering
13/14 + 1/14
with comprssed DRMS scheme
mit original DMRS to BBU, which incurs additional signal
processing and hardware modules compared with compressed
DMRS scheme. We can find that the non-compressed DMRS
scheme provides a tradeoff between SRS-based pre-filtering
architecture with the compressed DMRS scheme and DMRS- To evaluate the performance of the proposed pre-filtering
based pre-filtering architecture. C-RAN architecture, link level simulations are performed.
As channel estimation is done by BBU, hardware modi- Channel model is built up according to 3GPP TR36.873, and
fication of SRS-based pre-filtering is less complicated than MMSE equalizer is applied [12] at the BBU. The original
link data traffic at cost of acceptable throughput degradation.
To sum up, simulation results verify the tradeoff between
10 hardware implementation cost, system performance and traffic
load reduction in our proposed pre-filtering architectures.
Throughput (Mb/s)

When merging massive MIMO into C-RAN architecture,
the disastrous overload will be caused to inter connection
link between RRUs and BBUs. In order to deal with this
6 engineering bottleneck, DMRS-based and SRS-based pre-
DMRS-based pre-filtering filtering architectures are studied in this paper. In the former
SRS-based prefiltering with noncompressed DMRS
SRS-based prefiltering with compressed DMRS
scheme, channel estimation is realized based on DMRS at
Original architecture RRU at first, and then PUSCH symbol and estimated channel
13 12 11 10 9 8 7 are compressed and transmitted to BBU for demodulation.
SNR (dB)
For the latter one, channel estimation is realized at BBU,
Fig. 6. Performance comparison under low SNR. and then sent back to RRU for pre-filtering. DMRS-based
pre-filtering provides lossless performance, but its hardware
implementation in RRUs is a little complex. Meanwhile, for
the architecture of SRS-based pre-filtering, RRU hardware
70 implementation is simplified at the cost of a slight performance
loss. Finally, simulation results have verified the tradeoff
between implementation complexity and performance in prac-
Throughtput (Mb/s)

60 tical systems.
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