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Antenna Selection in MIMO Systems

Shahab Sanayei and Aria Nosratinia, University of Texas at Dallas

ABSTRACT descramble signals that are transmitted simulta-

neously from multiple antennas; thus, one is able
Multiple-antenna systems, also known as mul- to send parallel independent data streams and
tiple-input multiple-output radio, can improve achieve overall system capacities that scale with
the capacity and reliability of radio communica- min(Mr, Mt). The possibility of a linear capacity
tion. However, the multiple RF chains associat- growth with the number of antennas has been
ed with multiple antennas are costly in terms of dazzling, especially knowing that increasing
size, power, and hardware. Antenna selection is power (SNR) only leads to logarithmic improve-
a low-cost low-complexity alternative to capture ments in capacity. These gains arise from resolv-
many of the advantages of MIMO systems. This ing parallel spatial paths in the channel, hence
article reviews classic results on selection diversi- the name spatial multiplexing. Examples of spa-
ty, followed by a discussion of antenna selection tial multiplexing include the Bell Labs Space
algorithms at the transmit and receive sides. Time (BLAST) architecture and its variants.
Extensions of classical results to antenna subset In the following, we present an overview of
selection are presented. Finally, several open antenna selection in MIMO systems, in the con-
problems in this area are pointed out. text of diversity/SNR as well as system capacity.


Impressive improvements in capacity and bit This section reviews antenna selection methods
error rates (BERs) have motivated the recent that capture diversity and improve the SNR of
interest in multiple-antenna radio systems, also the system. Diversity refers to the existence of
known as multiple-input multiple-output two or more signal paths that fade independent-
(MIMO) systems. Along with the gains, howev- ly. This happens when the radio channel consists
er, comes a price in hardware complexity. The of several paths that are sufficiently separated in
radio front end has a complexity, size, and price space, time, frequency, or (sometimes) polariza-
that scales with the number of antennas. It is tion. The key idea is that if several paths have
possible to alleviate this cost and at the same channel coefficients that are statistically inde-
time capture many of the advantages of MIMO pendent, it is unlikely that they will fade togeth-
systems by a technique known as antenna selec- er, so the probability is small that signal strengths
tion. This article is dedicated to a tutorial will fall below detection threshold.
overview of MIMO antenna selection methods.
MIMO signaling can improve wireless commu- RECEIVE ANTENNA SELECTION
nication in two different ways: diversity methods Diversity via multiple receive antennas is a direct
and spatial multiplexing. Diversity methods extension of traditional receive diversity ideas,
improve the robustness of the communication sys- and many of the results in multi-antenna receive
tem in terms of BER by exploiting the multiple diversity are similar to those in the literature on
paths between transmit and receive antennas. On RAKE receivers.
the receive side, this diversity is similar to that Consider a generalized diversity reception
provided by the RAKE receiver. Diversity can system as depicted in Fig. 1. The receiver sees
also be obtained with multiple transmit antennas, several versions of the transmit signal, each
but then one must address the mutual interfer- experiencing a different complex-valued fading
ence of simultaneously transmitting antennas. coefficient hi(t) and noise ni(t). To exploit diver-
This leads to a body of work known as space-time sity, these signals must be combined in a gainful
1 A suboptimal version of coding. Defining diversity order as the slope of the manner.
selection diversity, known BER–signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) curve, space- Diversity combining can be classified into
as scan diversity, tests the time codes are capable of delivering diversity three categories. Selection diversity chooses the
paths one by one until one order of MrMt, where Mr and Mt are the number path with the highest SNR, and performs detec-
is found with SNR above of receive and transmit antennas, respectively. tion based on the signal from the selected path.1
a predetermined thresh- Another MIMO technique, spatial multiplex- Maximal ratio combining (MRC) makes decisions
old. This path is used for ing, emerged from the fact that in a rich scatter- based on an optimal linear combination of the
detection. ing environment it is possible for the receiver to path signals. Equal gain combining (EGC) simply

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adds the path signals after they have been co-
phased. A summary and analysis of these meth-
ods is given in a classic paper by Brennan [1]. X +
Assume that the path coefficients are inde-
pendent, identically distributed, with Rayleigh
h1(t) n1(t)
magnitude and uniform phase, with average path
SNR of Γ. For our purposes, we are primarily
interested in the average receive SNR resulting X +
from optimal selection of one out of Mr path: Transmitter Receiver
1 h2(t) n2(t)
E[ γ s ] = Γ ∑ .
k =1 k

Therefore, adding diversity paths leads to dimin-

ishing returns in SNR. To be specific, the har- X +
monic sum leads to a logarithmic growth of SNR
as the number of paths is increased. hMr(t) nMr(t)
In comparison, MRC and EGC have average
receive SNRs that increase linearly with the num-
ber of paths, but MRC has higher average SNR n Figure 1. Receive diversity.
(up to 1.05 dB more in Rayleigh fading) [1].
The application of selection combining to
receive antenna selection is shown in Fig. 2,
where a single receive antenna is chosen from
among all antennas. Since only one RF branch is
available, we face a dilemma: we need to know
Fading Signal
all the branch SNRs for optimal selection, but signals processing
how can we know all SNRs simultaneously when RF chain Output
there is only one RF chain? There are several decoding
ways to address this problem based on the quasi-
stationarity of the channel gains. For example,
one may use a training signal in a preamble to Selection
transmitted data. During this preamble, the
n Figure 2. Receive antenna selection.
receiver scans the antennas, finds the antenna
with the highest channel gain, and selects it for
receiving the next data burst.
There are many practical considerations in
antenna selection. For example, the optimal
choice must be based on the SNR of the received
signals, but in practice it is easier to use an enve- RF chain
lope detector and select the branch with the Fading Signal
highest signal plus noise. The decision can also signals RF processing Output
be made based on either predetection or post- switch and
detection signals. decoding
The previous discussion assumed that the RF chain
receiver has only one RF chain. Quite possibly the
number of available RF chains may be more than Mr Lr
one, but less than Mr. In that case, a subset of the Selection
receive antennas must be selected and their sig-
nals combined. This is known as generalized selec- n Figure 3. A generalized selection diversity system.
tion, and the resulting gains as generalized selection
diversity (Fig. 3). It is also known as hybrid selec-
tion/maximal ratio combining [2]. The combina- form expression for equal gain generalized selec-
tion of the selected paths can be performed via tion combining.
either MRC or EGC. MRC gives better perfor-
mance, but requires multiplication by complex TRANSMIT ANTENNA SELECTION
numbers. EGC is easier, but is less efficient. Transmit antenna selection, unlike receive selec-
For generalized selection diversity, optimal tion, requires a feedback path from the receiver
antenna selection is achieved by choosing the Lr to the transmitter (Fig. 4). This feedback rate is
branches that have the largest SNR. This is true rather small, especially for single antenna selec-
regardless of whether MRC or EGC is used for tion. Aside from that difference, however, trans-
combining. mit antenna selection is very similar to receive
The equivalent SNR of generalized selection antenna selection; the antenna is selected that
combining with MRC has been calculated as provides the highest equivalent receive SNR.
Therefore, little else need be said about single
transmit antenna selection.
 1 To study multiple transmit antenna selection,
ΓGSC = ΓL 1 + ∑ kM= L+ 1  .
 k assume that there are L t RF chains and M t
antennas (Mt > Lt) at the transmitter, and one
We are not aware of a corresponding closed antenna at the receiver. Then we are faced with

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The basic
calculations for
diversity reception Signal Fading Signal
often assume processing signals processing
Input RF chain RF chain
and and
independent paths, coding decoding
but in practice the
paths may be
Selection feedback
correlated. Spatial
correlation reduces
the effectiveness of
n Figure 4. Transmit antenna selection.
any spatial diversity
the task of choosing the most suitable Lt out of CHANNEL CHARACTERISTICS AND
technique, including Mt transmit antennas. Then the phase and ampli- PERFORMANCE
selection diversity. tude of the transmit signals (subject to power
constraints) must be such that their superposi- Diversity combining in the presence of various
tion at the receiver results in maximal receive channel conditions has been the subject of
SNR. In this case, one should choose the L t numerous studies. Here we present a brief
transmit antennas with the highest channel gain. overview of several main results in the context of
This method, which is equivalent to beamform- selection diversity and generalized selection
ing over the selected antennas, is known as diversity.
hybrid maximal ratio transmission. The diversity order provided by all selection
Hybrid maximal ratio transmission requires methods discussed so far is MtMr. That is, both
the transmitter to know not only the Lt most suit- antenna selection and generalized antenna selec-
able transmit antennas, but also the (relative) tion, despite different complexities, provide the
complex-valued channel gains from each transmit same diversity order. However, diversity order by
antenna to the receiver. Obviously, this needs itself does not tell the entire story. At a given
more feedback than a simple selection diversity. channel condition, generalized selection has a
better performance than single-antenna selec-
TRANSMIT/RECEIVE SELECTION tion, as one would expect.
The next step is to apply selection diversity Selection diversity techniques require knowl-
simultaneously to both the transmitter and edge of channel conditions at the receiver for
receiver (Fig. 5). In this scenario, there are M t receive selection and at the transmitter for trans-
transmit and Mr receive antennas. The transmit mit selection. The estimation and feedback (if
and receive side have L t and L r RF chains, required) of channel state information takes
respectively. Therefore, it is possible to transmit some time, and the channel state must remain
L t parallel data streams, so a space-time code constant over that period. Therefore, the most
must be used to provide diversity. Denote the widely accepted channel model in this context is
overall Mr × Mt channel matrix by H, and the Lr the block-fading model.
× L t channel~matrix representing the selected The performance of selection diversity will
antennas by H. Let us now consider the example suffer if channel state does not remain station-
of orthogonal block space-time codes. 2 These ary, or if the estimate of channel state is inaccu-
codes have a very simple decoder and lead to an rate. Very little work has been done in
equivalent single-input single-output (SISO) characterizing the performance of antenna selec-
channel with the equivalent channel gain tion techniques in the presence of time varia-
tions or noisy channel estimates.
Lt Lt 2 The basic calculations for diversity reception
heq = ∑∑ h˜ij , often assume independent paths, but in practice
Lt i =1 j =1 the paths may be correlated. Spatial correlation
~ ~
reduces the effectiveness of any spatial diversity
where hij are the elements of H. The SNR of the technique, including selection diversity. The
2 Orthogonal block codes equivalent channel is proportional to the Frobe- effects of spatially correlated channels have been
for more than two trans- nius norm
~ 2
of the selected channel matrix ||H||2 studied extensively, showing that the diversity
mit antennas are limited = Σ ij |h ij | . Therefore, joint transmit/receive order cannot exceed the rank of the spatial cor-
in that their effective rate selection strategies must choose a subset of the relation matrix of the channel.
is less than one symbol rows and columns of H to maximize the sum of Performance analysis of selection combining
per transmission. Trellis the squared magnitudes of transmit-receive and generalized selection combining has been
space-time codes and channel gains. This is not an easy task; for exam- the subject of much research. In particular,
nonorthogonal block ple, successively choosing the best receivers and Alouini and Simon [3] analyzed the generalized
codes remove this limita- then the best transmitters will not necessarily selection combining over Rayleigh fading chan-
tion at the cost of higher result in an overall optimal choice. In fact, nels using the moment generating function
receiver computation except exhaustive search, no systematic solution method, and later [4] extended and simplified
complexity. For the pur- to joint transmit/receive antenna selection is cur- the expressions for independent but nonidenti-
poses of this tutorial, we rently known. Efficient (optimal or suboptimal) cally distributed Rayleigh paths. Mallik and Win
limit the discussion to joint selection of transmit and receive antennas [5] analyzed generalized selection combining in
orthogonal codes. remains an interesting open problem. correlated Nakagami fading. There is a large

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RF chain RF chain
Signal Signal
processing RF H RF processing
Input and and Output
switch switch
coding decoding

RF chain RF chain

LT MT MR LR Rx selection
Tx selection

n Figure 5. Antenna selection in MIMO.

body of work in this area, but further discussion RF chains, where Lr < Mr. Therefore, the prob-
of performance evaluation is beyond the scope lem is to choose Mr – Lr rows of~matrix H to be
of this tutorial. discarded and arrive at matrix H, such that the
capacity is maximized. A simple exact solution to
this problem is lacking. The only known exact
SPATIAL MULTIPLEXING AND solution is by exhaustive search, which is time
consuming. In the following we study two
CAPACITY approximate solutions.
As mentioned earlier, in a wireless fading chan- Applying the Taylor expansion of log(⋅), we
nel with sufficiently rich scattering, it is possible find
that at low SNR, capacity is proportional to
to achieve capacities with MIMO systems that ||H||2 (with higher-order terms being negligible).
were unthinkable even a decade ago. When the Therefore, at low SNR the antenna selection algo-
wireless channel has sufficient degrees of free- rithm can simply maximize the norm of the (select-
dom, the data streams transmitted from multiple ed) channel matrix. Thus, at low SNR, antenna
transmit antennas can be separated, thus leading selection for diversity gain and antenna selection
to parallel data paths. The capacity of the radio for capacity both follow the same strategy [6].
channel under these conditions grows with In other circumstances, norm-based selection
min(Mt, Mr), that is, linearly with the number of may not be optimal. Nevertheless, norm-based
antennas. The previous section concentrated on selection may be used because of its low compu-
antenna selection in MIMO channels from a tational complexity and known statistics [7, 8]. In
diversity or, equivalently, from a BER perfor- an attempt to achieve near-optimal selection,
mance viewpoint. In this section we discuss Gorokhov [9] suggested a decremental selection
antenna selection in light of MIMO system algorithm where, starting from the full channel
capacity in the presence of spatial multiplexing. matrix, the rows of H are discarded one by one
We again refer to Fig. 5, a multiple-antenna so that at each step the capacity loss is mini-
system with M t transmit and M r receive anten- mized. Further work [10, 11] showed that an
nas. The channel matrix H is an M r × M t com- incremental algorithm (instead of a decremental
plex valued matrix. We assume a block fading one) leads to less complexity and has almost the
model in which the channel statistics can be same capacity as optimal selection.
Rayleigh or Rician, and the system experiences An outline of the incremental selection algo-
additive Gaussian noise at the receive antennas. rithm (for high SNR) is as follows. Start by
The object is to select the best L r out of M r selecting the row vector with highest norm. At
antennas at the receive side and the best Lt out each selection step, project each remaining row
of M t antennas at the transmit side so that the vector on the orthogonal complement of the
resulting system capacity is maximized. Assum- span of the previously chosen vectors, and
ing equal power transmission from antennas, the choose the one whose projection has the largest
capacity as a function of the channel matrix is magnitude. Continue until exactly L r antennas
are selected.
 ρ ˜† ˜ Successive selection is a greedy algorithm for
C = log det  I + H H,
 Lt  maximizing capacity. As a result, successive
selection may not be strictly optimal. However,
where ρ is the receive SNR, H is the L r × L t simulations show that the ergodic capacity of
selected channel
matrix, I is the Lt~× Lt identity successive selection is indistinguishable from the
matrix, and H† is the Hermitian of H. true optimum. Also, it is shown [11] that succes-
ideal antenna selection technique choos- sive selection provides the full diversity of the
es H out of H such that the expression above is original MIMO system.
RECEIVE ANTENNA SELECTION In the context of spatial multiplexing (maximiz-
For the case of receive antenna selection, assume ing capacity), transmit antenna selection has
we have Mt = Lt transmit antennas and transmit many similarities with receive antenna selection.
RF chains, Mr receive antennas, and Lr receive The main difference, as mentioned earlier, is

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tions. One of the most important limitations
16 arises whenever the system bandwidth is larger
Full CSI at Tx than the coherence bandwidth of the channel
Optimal selection
14 Norm-based selection (i.e., when the channel is frequency-selective).
No CSI at Tx The different response of the channel at differ-
ent frequencies implies that at each band a dif-
ferent antenna selection is optimal. So whenever
the channel is highly frequency-selective, with
10 many uncorrelated frequency bands, antenna
selection may not be feasible or useful. Howev-

8 er, in moderately frequency-selective channels,

antenna selection still provides significant gains.
Antenna selection also presents several prac-
tical issues we have overlooked in this introduc-
tory tutorial. For example, the RF switches
4 available with current technologies are far from
ideal, a fact that may offset some of the advan-
2 tages of antenna selection. The most important
shortcoming of the practical switches is their
0 transfer attenuation, which must be compensat-
0 5 10 15 20 ed by more power from the output stage amplifi-
SNR (dB) er of the transmitter and by a more sensitive low
noise amplifier at the receiver.
n Figure 6. Capacity of transmit antenna selection for Mt = 8, Lt = Lr = Mr Finally, we note several open problems in
antenna selection. Analysis and code design for
= 2. Optimal selection and successive selection curves are identical.
antenna selection still requires more investiga-
tion. Also, the important problem of optimal
joint transmit and receive antenna selection is
that in the case of transmit selection, a feedback open. Performance evaluation of antenna selec-
path must exist to inform the transmitter which tion algorithms when the channel matrix is not
antennas to select. This feedback, in effect, gives perfectly known at the receiver is a seemingly
the transmitter some information about the state important yet relatively unexplored problem. The
of the channel. It is well known that the capacity combination of antenna selection with space-time
of a wireless channel with transmit-side channel signaling schemes has been noted by several
state information (CSI) is generally higher than investigators, but much work remains in this
without it. In other words, there is some excess area, and it is a worthy subject of future research.
capacity generated by the transmitter knowledge
of the channel. When the transmitter is fully REFERENCES
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S HAHAB S ANAYEI [S’04] (shahab.sanayei@student.utdallas.
edu) received his B.Sc. degree in electrical engineering from
Sharif University of Technology, Tehran, Iran, in 1995 and
his M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Rice University,
Houston, Texas, in 2002. From 1994 to 1997 he was with
the Intelligent Systems Laboratory at Sharif University of
Technology. From 1997 to 2000 he was an R&D engineer
with Towzin Electric Co., Tehran, Iran. Since September 2002
he has been with the Department of Electrical Engineering
at the University of Texas, Dallas, where he is currently pur-
suing his Ph.D. degree in electrical engineering. His research
interests include MIMO systems and information theory.

ARIA NOSRATINIA [M’97, SM’04] ( received

his B.S. degree in electrical engineering from the University
of Tehran, Tehran, Iran, in 1988, his M.S. degree in electri-
cal engineering from the University of Windsor, Ontario,
Canada, in 1991, and his Ph.D. degree in electrical and
computer engineering from the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign in 1996. From 1995 to 1996 he was
with Princeton University, New Jersey. From 1996 to 1999
he was a visiting professor and faculty fellow at Rice Uni-
versity, Houston, Texas. Since 1999 he has been with the
faculty of the University of Texas, Dallas, where he is cur-
rently associate professor of electrical engineering. His
research interests are in the broad area of communication
and information theory, particularly coding and signal pro-
cessing for the communication of multimedia signals. He
was the recipient of the National Science Foundation
Career award in 2000 and has twice received chapter
awards for outstanding service to the IEEE Signal Process-
ing Society.

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