Category Archives: Channel Modeling

Fundamentals of Linear Array Processing – Receive Beamforming

In the previous two posts we discussed the fundamentals of array processing particularly the concept of beamforming (please check out array processing Part-1 and Part-2). Now we build upon these concepts to introduce some linear estimation techniques that are used in array processing. These are particularly suited to a situation where multiple users are spatially distributed in a cell and they need to be separated based upon their angles of arrival. But first let us introduce the linear model; I am sure you have seen this before.


Here, s is the vector of symbols transmitted by m users, H is the n x m channel matrix, w is the noise vector of length n and x is the observation vector of length n. The channel matrix formed by the channel coefficients is deterministic (as opposed to probabilistic) in nature as it is purely dependent upon the phase shifts that the channel introduces due to varying path lengths between the transmit and receive antennas. The impact of a channel coefficient can be thought of as a rotation of the complex signal without altering its amplitude.

This means that the channel acts like a single tap filter and the process of convolution is reduced to simple multiplication (a reasonable assumption if the symbol length is much larger than the channel delay spread). The channel model does not accommodate for path loss and fading that are also inherent characteristics of the channel. But the techniques are general enough for these effects to be factored in later. Furthermore, it is assumed that the channel H is known at the receiver. This is a realistic assumption if the channel is slowly varying and can be estimated by sending pilot signals.

Beamforming Using a Uniform Linear Array
Beamforming Using a Uniform Linear Array

So going back to the linear model we see that we know x and H while s and w are unknown. Here w cannot be estimated since it’s random in nature (remember what the term AWGN stands for?) and we ignore it for the moment. The structure of s is known. For example if we are using BPSK modulation then the m symbols of the signal vector s can either be +1 or -1. So we can start the process of symbol detection by substituting all possible combinations of s1, s2…sm and determine the combination that minimizes


This is called the Maximum Likelihood (ML) solution as it determines the combination that was most likely to have been transmitted based upon the observation.

Although ML is conceptually very appealing and yields good results it becomes prohibitively complex as the constellation size or number of transmit antennas increases. For example for 2-Transmit case and BPSK modulation there are 2^(1 bit x 2 antennas)=2^2=4 combinations, which seems quite simplistic. But if 16-QAM modulation is used and there are 4-Transmit antennas the number of combinations increases to 2^(4 bits x 4 antennas)=2^16=65536. So we conclude that ML is not the solution we are looking for if computational complexity is an issue (which might become less of an issue as the processing power of devices increases).

Next we turn our attention to a technique popularly known as Zero Forcing or ZF (the origins of the name I still do not know). According to this technique the channel has a multiplicative effect on the signal. So to remove this effect we simply divide the signal by the channel or in the language of matrices we perform matrix inversion. Mathematically we have:




So we see that we get back the signal s but we also get a noise component enhanced by inverse of the channel matrix. This is the well-known problem of ZF called Noise Enhancement. Then there are other problems such as non-existence of the inverse when the channel H is not a square matrix (which only happens when the number of transmit and receive antennas is the same). The inverse of H also cannot be calculated if H is not full rank or determinant of H is zero.  So we now introduce another technique called Least Squares (LS). According to this the signal vector can be estimated as


This is also sometimes referred to as the Minimum Variance Unbiased Estimator, as described by Steven M. Kay in his classical book on Estimation Theory [Fundamentals of Statistical Signal Processing Vol-1]. This can be easily implemented in MATLAB using Moore Penrose Pseudo Inverse or pinv(H). This is much more stable than going for the direct inversion methods.

We next plot the Bit Error Rate (BER) using the code below. The number of receive antennas is varied from two to ten while the number of transmit antennas is fixed at four. The transmit antennas are assumed to be positioned at 30, 40, 50 and 60 degrees from the axis of the receive array. The receive antennas are separated by λ/2 meters. The frequency of operation is 1GHz but it is quite irrelevant to the scenario considered as everything is measured in multiples of wavelengths. The Eb/No ratio (roughly the signal to noise ratio) is varied from 5dB to 20dB in steps of 5dB.

Bit Error Rate for Changing Rx Array Length
Bit Error Rate for Changing Rx Array Length

As expected the BER for the two methods, other than ML, is more or less the same and decreases rapidly once the number of receive antennas becomes greater than number of transmit antennas (or number of signals).  The case where the number of receive antennas is less than number of signals (equal powered and with a small angular separation) is dealt with by Overloaded Array Processing (OLAP) techniques and have been discussed in detail by James Hicks [Doctoral Dissertation] a student of Dr. Reed at Virginia Tech.

Strangely enough it is seen that the overloaded case is not the worst part of the BER curve. The worst BER is observed when the number the number of transmit and receive antennas is the same (four in this case). In other words the BER gradually increases as the rank of the channel matrix increases and then decreases once it reaches its maximum value. This is quite interesting and obviously has to do with Noise Enhancement that we discussed earlier. This will be further investigated in future posts.

For further information on the above methods visit this interesting article.

Recent Update

So we struggled for a while to find out why the BER is worst at full rank and thought that there is something wrong in our model but ultimately we found that this has to do with how the pseudoinverse works and the way the tolerance limit (tol in MATLAB) for the singular values is set. We have found quite interesting results while experimenting with various inversion methods and the results are pending publication. Will keep you updated about the progress.



clear all
close all


theta=([30 40 50 60])*pi/180;





BER for BPSK-OFDM in Frequency Selective Channel

OFDM Tx-Rx Block Diagram

As the data rates supported by wireless networks continue to rise the bandwidth requirements also continue to increase (although spectral efficiency has also improved). Remember GSM technology which supported 125 channels of 200KHz each, which was further divided among eight users using TDMA. Move on to LTE where the channel bandwidth could be as high as 20MHz (1.4MHz, 3MHz, 5MHz, 10MHz, 15MHz and 20MHz are standardized).

This advancement poses a unique challenge referred to as frequency selective fading. This means that different parts of the signal spectrum would see a different channel (different amplitude and different phase offset). Look at this in the time domain where the larger bandwidth means shorter symbol period causing intersymbol interference (as time delayed copies of the signal overlap on arrival at the receiver).

The solution to this problem is OFDM that divides the wideband signal into smaller components each having a bandwidth of a few KHz. Each of these components experiences a flat channel. To make the task of equalization simple a cyclic prefix (CP) is added in the time domain to make the effect of fading channel appear as circular convolution. Thus simplifying the frequency domain equalization to a simple division operation.

Shown below is the Python code that calculates the bit error rate (BER) of BPSK-OFDM which is the same as simple BPSK in a Rayleigh flat fading channel. However there is a caveat. We have inserted a CP which means we are transmitting more energy than simple BPSK. To be exact we are transmitting 1.25 (160/128) times more energy. This means that if this excess energy is accounted for the performance of BPSK-OFDM would be 1dB (10*log10(1.25)) worse than simple BPSK in Rayleigh flat fading channel.


  1. Although we have shown the channel as a multiplicative effect in the figure above, this is only true for a single tap channel. For a multi-tap channel (such as the one used in the code above) the effect of the channel is that of a filter which performs convolution operation on the transmitted signal.
  2. We have used a baseband model in our simulation and the accompanying figure. In reality the transmitted signal is upconverted before transmission by the antennas.
  3.  The above model can be easily modified for any modulation scheme such as QPSK or 16-QAM. The main difference would be that the signal would have a both a real part and an imaginary part, much of the simulation would remain the same. This would be the subject of a future post. For a MATLAB implementation of 64-QAM OFDM see the following post (64-QAM OFDM).
  4. Serial to parallel and parallel to serial conversion shown in the above figure was not required as the simulation was done symbol by symbol (one OFDM symbol in the time domain represented 128 BPSK symbols in the frequency domain).
  5. The channel model in the above simulation is quasi-static i.e. it remains constant for one OFDM symbol but then rapidly changes for the next, without any memory.

Rayleigh Fading Envelope Generation – Python

When wireless signals travel from a transmitter to a receiver they do so after reflection, refraction, diffraction and scattering from the environment. Very rarely is there a direct line of sight (LOS) between the transmitter and receiver. Thus multiple time delayed copies of the signal reach the receiver that combine constructively and destructively. In a sense the channel acts as an FIR (finite impulse response) filter. Furthermore since the transmitter or receiver may be in motion the amplitude and phase of these replicas varies with time.

There are several methods to model the amplitude and phase of each of these components. We look at one method called the “Smiths Fading Simulator” which is based on Clark and Gans model. The simulator can be constructed using the following steps.

1. Define N the number of Gaussian RVs to be generated, fm the Doppler frequency in Hz, fs the sampling frequency in Hz, df the frequency spacing which is calculated as df=(2*fm)/(N-1) and M total number of samples in frequency domain which is calculated as M=(fs/df).
2. Generate two sequences of N/2 complex Gaussian random variables. These correspond to the frequency bins up to fm. Take the complex conjugate of these sequences to generate the N/2 complex Gaussian random variables for the negative frequency bins up to -fm.
3. Multiply the above complex Gaussian sequences g1 and g2 with square root of the Doppler Spectrum S generated from -fm to fm. Calculate the spectrum at -fm and +fm by using linear extrapolation.
4. Extend the above generated spectra from -fs/2 to +fs/2 by stuffing zeros from -fs/2 to -fm and fm to fs/2. Take the IFFT of the resulting spectra X and Y resulting in time domain signals x and y.
5. Add the absolute values of the resulting signals x and y in quadrature. Take the absolute value of this complex signal. This is the desired Rayleigh distributed envelope with the required temporal correlation.

The Matlab code for generating Rayleigh random sequence with a Doppler frequency of fm Hz is given below.

Knife Edge Diffraction Model

Diffraction is a phenomenon where electromagnetic waves (such as light waves) bend around corners to reach places which are otherwise not reachable i.e. not in the line of sight. In technical jargon such regions are also called shadowed regions (the term again drawn from the physics of light). This phenomenon can be explained by Huygen’s principle which states that as a plane wave propagates in a particular direction each new point along the wavefront is a source of secondary waves. This can be understood by looking at the following figure. However one peculiarity of this principle is that it is unable to explain why the new point source transmits only in the forward direction.

Image result for diffraction

The electromagnetic field in the shadowed region can be calculated by combining vectorially the contributions of all of these secondary sources, which is not an easy task. Secondly, the geometry is usually much more complicated than shown in the above figure. For example consider a telecom tower transmitting electromagnetic waves from a rooftop and a pedestrian using a mobile phone at street level. The EM waves usually reach the receiver at street level after more than one diffraction (not to mention multiple reflections).  However, an approximation that works well in most cases is called knife edge diffraction, which assumes a single sharp edge (an edge with a thickness much smaller than the wavelength) separates the transmitter and receiver.

The path loss due to diffraction in the knife edge model is controlled by the Fresnel Diffraction Parameter which measures how deep the receiver is within the shadowed region. A negative value for the parameter shows that the obstruction is below the line of sight and if the value is below -1 there is hardly any loss. A value of 0 (zero) means that the transmitter, receiver and tip of the obstruction are all in line and the Electric Field Strength is reduced by half or the power is reduced to one fourth of the value without the obstruction i.e. a loss of 6dB.  As the value of the Fresnel Diffraction Parameter increases on the positive side the path loss rapidly increases reaching a value of 27 dB for a parameter value of 5. Sometimes the exact calculation is not needed and only an approximate calculation, as proposed by Lee in 1985, is sufficient.

Fresnel Diffraction Parameter (v) is defined as:



d1 is the distance between the transmitter and the obstruction along the line of sight

d2 is the distance between the receiver and the obstruction along the line of sight

h is the height of the obstruction above the line of sight

and lambda is the wavelength

Diffraction Loss Using Knife-Edge Model

The MATLAB codes used to generate the above plots are given below (approximate method followed by the exact method). Feel free to use them in your simulations and if you have a question drop us a comment.

% Calculation of the path loss based on the value of
% Fresnel Diffraction Parameter as proposed by Lee
% Lee W C Y Mobile Communications Engineering 1985
% Copyright
clear all
close all


for n=1:length(v)

    if v(n) <= -1
    elseif v(n) <= 0
    elseif v(n) <= 1
    elseif v(n) <= 2.4

plot(v, G, 'b')
xlabel('Fresnel Diffraction Parameter')
ylabel('Diffraction Loss (dB)')
% Exact calculation of the path loss (in dB)
% based on Fresnel Diffraction Parameter (v)
% T S Rappaport Wireless Communications P&P
% Copyright
clear all
close all


for n=1:length(v)


plot(v, 20*log10(F),'r')
xlabel('Fresnel Diffraction Parameter')
ylabel('Diffraction Loss (dB)')

An interesting video explaining the phenomenon of diffraction.

Reflection vs Scattering in Ray-Tracing

In ray-tracing simulations one is faced with a complexity at points of intersection between rays and objects. How to handle the reflection, should it be specular or scattered. In this post we consider the two extreme cases; pure reflection vs scattering.

For this we consider that in the case of specular reflection the power of the ray is reduced by 3dB (that is R=0.5) and the ray continues as it would if there was no interaction with the object (off course direction would be changed with angle of reflection being equal to angle of incidence).

In the case of scattered ray we assume that the point of interaction between the ray and the object is a point source from where the rays are regenerated. Therefore there is a rapid drop in the E-field strength as the ray propagates away from the point of interaction.

clear all
close all

r=[r1 r2];

Er=[Er1 Er2];

Es=[Es1 Es2];

hold on
hold off

xlabel('Distance (m)')
ylabel('E-field (V/m)')

Reflected vs Scattered Ray

The simulation code above considers that a ray travels unobstructed for 100 m and at this point comes in contact with an object and is reflected (reflection coefficient of 0.5 is assumed) or scattered. The ray then again travels for another 100 m without coming in contact with an object.

It is observed that there is a rapid decrease in E-field strength of the scattered ray beyond 100 m. This is because the E-field strength at the point of interaction is much lower than that at the source and when this is considered to be a point source, re-generating the rays, the resulting E-field decays quite rapidly.

We assume that the reflection is specular in most of our simulations as this is closer to reality than assuming a fully scattered ray.


Eclipse 1.0 – A Paradigm Shift in RF Planning

NEW: Simulation of a Moving Transmitter (such as a car)

NEW: Simulation of a Moving Transmitter (such as a pedestrian)

Radio frequency planning is an essential component of network planning, roll-out, up-gradation, expansion etc. Several methods can be adopted for this from something as simple as free space models, empirical path loss models to the significantly more complicated, time consuming and expensive drive testing. Drive testing gives very accurate results but these results can be rendered useless by changing the position of an antenna or the tilt or transmit power of an antenna requiring another run in the field. One solution to this problem is ray-tracing which is very accurate but is usually considered to be very computationally expensive and of little practical value. But recent advances in computational power of machines coupled with efficient techniques have given a new lease of life to this method.

Eclipse is a near real-time simulation software for prediction of signal strength in urban areas. The software uses shooting and bouncing ray (SBR) method of ray tracing with 1 degree ray separation, 1 m step size and 9 interactions per ray path. The simulation parameters can be varied according to the resolution required. The code is highly optimized to give results in shortest possible time. It is especially useful for network planning of ultra-dense wireless networks where a dense network of antennas is placed on lamp posts instead of telecom towers. Various frequency bands can be simulated, along with different antenna radiation patterns and MIMO configurations.

Helsinki 3D Building Data


Path Followed by a Single Ray


Paths Followed by Multiple Rays


Received Signal Strength Over Area of Interest

Note: If you would like to run a test simulation send us a request at