HIGH TECHNOLOGY LETTERS| Vol.18 No.2| June 2012 |pp.186~190 doi:10.3772/j.issn.1006-6748.2012.02.


ProSync: A protective synchronization scheme for NC-OFDM based opportunistic spectrum sharing system①
Hou Wei (侯 炜) , Zhang Lin, Shan Xiuming (Complex Engineered Systems Laboratory, Department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University, Beijing 100084, P. R. China)

A protective synchronization scheme ( ProSync ) for the non-contiguous orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (NC-OFDM) system is proposed in this paper, aiming to minimize the impact of cross-band interference in opportunistic dynamic spectrum sharing networks. ProSync partly shrinks the preamble at the transmitter and exploits two multi-band filters at the receiver. By doing so, the potential interference suffered by NC-OFDM users, including both the cross-band interference and self interference, can be greatly reduced. Simulation results verify the effectiveness of ProSync, which is able to lower the carrier frequency offset (CFO) estimation error by up to 50%, compared with the traditional method. Key words: non-contiguous orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (NC-OFDM), synchronization, cross-band interference, opportunistic spectrum sharing applied to the OFDM signals plagued by interference from coexistent users. To this aim, a maximum likelihood (ML) method is used to estimate the CFO from the signal plagued by the narrow-band interference[10], and Ureten, et al. studied the pilot aided synchronization waveforms to improve the performance of symbol timing acquisition[11]. But these methods are computationally complex and difficult to implement. For NC-OFDM synchronization schemes, a traditional way is to add an adaptive multi-band filter prior to packet synchronization at the receiver, and such a way is studied in Ref. [12]. Although it is effective in mitigating the main interference, this method has at least three drawbacks: (1) Filtering cannot deal with the cross-band interference effectively when the occupied spectrum blocks of different users are crowded in frequency to improve the spectrum usage[6]. (2) Filtering leads to signal distortion or self interference which may affect data retrieval[12]. (3) A filter margin should be added to tolerate the unknown CFO between the transmitter-receiver pairs, which may incorporate extra interference. To the best of our knowledge, a synchronization design for the NC-OFDM systems has not been well studied so far. This paper proposes ProSync—a protective synchronization scheme for the NC-OFDM systems, aiming to protect its signal from being interfered by both the outer interference and self interference. ProSync has a shrinked preamble at the transmitter side, a corresponding “tight” multi-band filter and a “loose” multi-band filter at the receiver. Effectiveness of



Cognitive radio enables dynamic spectrum access/sharing to enhance the spectrum efficiency, which is the trend of future wireless communications and networking[1-3]. In this new opportunistic spectrum sharing networks, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) is an efficient physical layer technique. OFDM partitions wide-band spectrum into a large number of frequency subcarriers, allowing a transmission to dynamically occupy part of them. Non-contiguous OFDM (NC-OFDM) can utilize scattered spectrum blocks to expand the communication bandwidth and enhance the data rate[4], and thus it is a promising mechanism in distributed dynamic spectrum sharing systems[5]. However, when tight synchronization is infeasible in the OFDM-based spectrum sharing systems, cross-band interference occurs between the spectral adjacent users[6], which cannot be tackled simply by adding filters. This means that a NC-OFDM user is likely to be interfered as it may use multiple spectrum blocks. Therefore, protecting the signal from being interfered is the guidance for the design of the NC-OFDM system. The main task of OFDM synchronization is to find the symbol timing and estimate the carrier frequency offset (CFO). For contiguous OFDM systems, Schmidl, et al proposed a robust synchronization scheme utilizing two training symbols[7], and later a few improved schemes were put forward[8,9]. However, these approaches cannot be directly

① Supported by the National High Technology Research and Development Program of China (No. 2009AA11Z103). ② To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: hou-w05@mails.tsinghua.edu.cn Received on May 19, 2010

HIGH TECHNOLOGY LETTERS| Vol.18 No.2| June 2012 ProSync is verified through analytical and simulation results.

Fourier transform (IFFT) operation and CP insertion[7]. To reduce the impact of the cross-band interference, the edge subcarriers of the standard 1st training symbol should be shrinked in frequency, as illustrated in Fig.1(a). By cutting off the marginal N MG subcarriers on each of the spectrum boundaries and assigning the spare power to the remaining subcarriers, a “conservative” preamble has been produced. The 2nd training symbol is unchanged for the purpose of channel estimation. The process of preamble shrinking keeps the signal power but reduces the interference power by using the “tight” filter described below, which enhances the signal to interference plus noise power ratio (SINR), thus leading to better synchronization performance. · Receiver Design The proposed receiver in ProSync employs two multi-band filters for packet reception. As illustrated in Fig.1(b), a “tight” filter with narrowed bandwidth is placed in the initial synchronization path to perform coarse synchronization using the 1st training symbol, while a “loose” filter with comparatively wide bandwidth is used to filter the 2nd training symbol and data symbols. The passband bandwidth of each sub-filter within the “tight” multiband filter is in accord with the shrinked preamble to eliminate more interference. In contrast, the “loose” filter's passband (with respect to each sub-filter) is widened in order to tolerate the unknown CFO and keep the subcarrier orthogonality. Other functionalities of the NC-OFDM receiver share with the OFDM receivers.


System model

Considering a NC-OFDM based opportunistic spectrum sharing network, two links occupy a total of N frequency subcarriers dynamically. Extension to multiple links can be derived similarly. Taking one link as the intended signal link and the other as the interference link, this work assumes that the intended signal link uses up to N B non-contiguous spectrum blocks. An NC-OFDM packet consists of one preamble and a number of data symbols with a cyclic prefix (CP) inserted before each symbol. T and TCP are the symbol length and CP length, respectively. After the multipath fading channel, the received signal consists of the useful signal, interference and noise:

r (m)= å h(m-l ) s (l )+ å hI (m-lI ) sI (lI )+ w(m)
l =0 lI = 0

L -1

LI -1


where r is the received base-band signal with N / T as the sampling rate; s , sI and w refer to the useful signal (with potential CFO), interference and white Gaussian noise, respectively; h and hI denote the channel impulse response (length of L and LI ) of the signal link and the interference link, respectively. Assume that h and hI can be modeled by the same exponential power delay profile:

PD (m) = e- m / drms , m Î {0,1, 2,L , d max }


where d rms and d max refer to the root mean square delay and maximal delay, respectively. Without loss of generality, each signal path experiences a random phase rotation evenly distributed between 0 and 2p.



(a) Preamble design in frequency domain

This section introduces ProSync, a new synchronization scheme designed for the NC-OFDM systems. The design of ProSync involves the preamble design and the receiver design. Some practical issues are also discussed to facilitate system implementation. Besides, the performance of ProSync is analyzed theoretically.


Design of ProSync

·Preamble design In ProSync, the preamble consists of two equal-length training symbols, similar to the preamble in Ref. [7]. The first training symbol consists of two identical parts, used for fractional CFO estimation and coarse timing acquisition. The second symbol conveys a known sequence for the purposes of integer CFO estimation, fine timing acquisition and channel estimation. In practice, the two training symbols can be generated in frequency domain by transmitting the sequences on selected subcarriers, followed by the inverse fast

Fig. 1

(b) NC-OFDM receiver design Illustrating ProSync in preamble and receiver design

2.2 Practical issues
One special case for the preamble shrinking is that one or more of the used spectrum blocks contain less than 2 N MG subcarriers. In this case, the preamble shrinking will result in none subcarriers that participate in the related block(s). Actually, this case does not impair the synchronization performance as long as the remaining subcarriers are enough to

do synchronization. In practical systems, the largest spectrum block with conservative bandwidth is more suitable for synchronization and signaling because sensing errors are more likely to occur at small spectrum blocks. This requires the spectrum allocation strategies such that larger contiguous spectrum blocks should be selected with higher priority. For simplicity, this work does not take into account the spectrum sensing errors. The implementation of multi-band filter is a key issue at the NC-OFDM receiver. For an NC-OFDM user with N B spectrum blocks, the multiband filter can be realized by N B cascaded single filters: one band-pass filter followed by N B - 1 band-stop filters. This simplifies the filter design and system implementation. Specifically, we first apply a bandpass filter covering all the occupied spectrum blocks, and then use N B - 1 band-stop filters for the vacant spectrum blocks created by the occupied blocks. As to the “tight” multi-band filter, the bandwidth of the band-pass filter should be narrowed and the bandwidth of the band-stop filters should be widened. In contrast, the opposite operations apply to the “loose” filter. The operation of filtering may cause delay spread effect of the received signal. Since a single filter usually has specific filter length, the more non-contiguous spectrum blocks a user occupies, the stronger delay spread effect it suffers. Thus, this paper assumes that the number of non-contiguous spectrum blocks occupied by one user is under a certain threshold, which has been proved to be reasonable[13].

HIGH TECHNOLOGY LETTERS| Vol.18 No.2| June 2012 N / 2 ); then peak detection is performed to find the peak location p ; next the fractional CFO (normalized to subcarrier spacing) is estimated from the phase angle of the correlation peak at p: fˆo = Ð{
2 N
N / 2 -1 i =0

å r ( p + i)r ( p + i + N / 2)}
* F F



where Ð refers to phase angle extraction, rF* is the conjugate of rF . According to Ref. [6], the variance of CFO estimation

ˆ can be expressed by error Df o
ˆ ]» Var[ Df o 2 π N OCC ·SINR


where N OCC is the number of subcarriers occupied by the intended signal link, SINR is the average SINR over all occupied subcarriers. In Eq. (4), an implicit assumption is that the SINR is high and the independent interference conforms to Gaussian distribution, which is reasonable in practice. Next, the key step to calculate SINR is the average interference power estimation. Let W I be the set of subcarriers occupied by the interference link. According to Ref. [6], the average cross-band interference power at any frequency separation k (normalized to subcarrier spacing) is

PCBI,k =


Performance of ProSync




sin [ π (l - k )]+


T + TCP è

æ sin[2 π (l -k )] ö ç 1÷ 2 π ( l -k ) ø

The synchronization performance of ProSync can be characterized by symbol timing acquisition and CFO estimation. ·Symbol timing acquisition In ProSync, two types of synchronization are performed to achieve fine symbol timing. First, delay-correlation of the 1st training symbol and peak detection are performed to achieve the coarse symbol timing and fractional CFO estimation. Then, integer CFO is estimated in frequency utilizing the good auto-correlation property of the 2nd training symbol. After the coarse CFO compensation, the 2nd training symbol can be utilized again (in time domain) to improve the symbol timing[14]. Following such procedure, fine symbol timing can be achieved. However, fine CFO estimation cannot be improved much through repetition. Therefore, the following analysis assumes the perfect symbol timing acquisition and then focuses on examining the performance of CFO estimation. · CFO estimation CFO is divided into two parts: fractional CFO and integer CFO. The integer CFO can be estimated by the 2nd training symbol in frequency utilizing its good auto-correlation property, leaving the fractional CFO estimation beg the key issue in synchronization evaluation. The signal after being filtered by the “tight” multiband filter

N sin [



1 N

π (l - k )]

PI, l


where PI,l is the power of the interference link’s l th subcarrier. It is observed that the cross-band interference mainly takes effect near the spectrum block boundaries if viewed from the signal link’s receiver. Then the total interference power can be estimated by adding up the power contributed by each subcarrier of the interferer: PCBI = åk ÎWF | H (k ) |2 × | G (k ) |2 ×PCBI,k (6) where W F is the set of subcarriers within the passband of the “tight” filter described above; H ( k ) and G (k ) are the frequency-domain channel impulse response and filter impulse response at subcarrier k , respectively. Ideally, assume H ( k ) = 1 and G (k ) = 1 ( k Î W F ). So, Eq. (6) can be greatly simplified. ·Effectiveness of ProSync The denominator in Eq. (4) indicates that the preamble shrinking does not change the total power of the useful signal. So, in order to reduce the CFO estimation error, the interference power is expected to be cut down. Actually, Var[ Dfˆo ] decreases linearly along with the decrease of the interference power. By shrinking the training symbol and narrowing the filter's bandwidth, ProSync reduces the cardinality of W F in Eq. (6), and thus more cross-band

rF first goes into the complex delay-correlator (with length of

HIGH TECHNOLOGY LETTERS| Vol.18 No.2| June 2012 interference can be filtered out. The following example shows the effectiveness of ProSync quantitatively. For a typical IEEE 802.11 setting with OFDM parameters of N = 64 、 TCP = T / 4 [15] and QPSK modulation, Table 1 lists the average cross-band interference power (normalized to PI , the interference power per subcarrier) measured at the frequency separation variable k, where the interference link occupies an 8-subcarrier spectrum block. In addition, Table 1 lists the proportion of the interference power at k, allowing us to estimate the SINR enhancement in ProSync easily. For example, shrinking one subcarrier of the preamble and the “tight” filter can ideally reduce the average interference power by 49.7%, resulting in approximately a half reduction in the variance of CFO estimation error at high SNRs.
Table 1 k 1 2 3 4 Average cross-band interference power R(k) 49.7% 18.0% 10.3% 7.0% k 5 6 7 8

variance. Simulation results show that the curves of “ N MG = 0 ” and “ N MG = 2 ” are almost overlapped, approaching the theoretical bound. It explains that the “tight” filter for synchronization works well when the cross-band interference is absent. Next, a more practical setting is used to verify the effectiveness of ProSync when the cross-band interference is present. In this case, it is assumed that the initial CFO within a communication pair is uniformly distributed in [-2, 2] subcarriers, and one subcarrier is set as the guardband between adjacent spectrum blocks of different users. To allow for the potential CFO, the multiband filter extends 2 subcarriers to each side of the sub-filter. Meanwhile, the number of subcarriers shrinked for the 1st training symbol is N MG = 2 at each of the spectrum blocks’ boundaries, and each side of the “tight” and “loose” filters’ passband covers 2 less and 2 more subcarriers respectively. The simulation results are shown in Fig.3, which compares ProSync with the traditional scheme using only one “loose” filter for the whole packet. In this simulation, the number of non-contiguous spectrum blocks used by the intended signal link is 2. It is calculated that ProSync reduces the variance of CFO estimation error by about 50% to 80% when SNR ranges from 10 dB to 30 dB (assuming additive white Gaussian noise). This significant improvement shows the effectiveness of ProSync. Fig. 3 also plots the analytical result, and it approximately matches with the simulation results, especially at high SNRs.

PCBI,k (dB)
-9.0 -13.4 -15.8 -17.5

PCBI,k (dB)
-18.9 -19.9 -20.9 -21.6

R(k) 5.1% 4.0% 3.2% 2.7%

For the data symbols passing through the “loose” filter, it is clear that they are not affected by the “tight” filter at all, thus causing no self interference. Therefore, the double-filter structure is beneficial in both cross-band interference and self interference mitigation.


Simulation results

Simulation is used to evaluate the effectiveness of ProSync with Matlab. The simulation setting is as follows. Two links, one intended signal link and one interference link, are sharing a total of N = 64 subcarriers with TCP = T / 4 for both links. The intended signal link occupies 32 subcarriers, forming N B spectrum blocks. And the other subcarriers are used by the interference link, except that a guardband with the length of N GB subcarriers is inserted between the adjacent blocks. The “tight” multiband filter is generated using Hamming windows with the filter length N for each sub-filter. For the multipath fading channel, it is assumed that 8 paths are chosen with the parameters d rms = 4 and d max = 7 (refer to Eq.(2)). Each of the following simulation results is averaged over 100 000 runs. First, a simplified interference-free scenario is considered in the simulation to test the “tight” multiband filter when there are no coexistent users. In this case, filters with different configurations should have the same performance. Fig. 2 shows the simulation results on the impact of N MG , the filter margin. The abscissa is SNR and the ordinate is the CFO error
Fig. 2 Simulation results on the impact of filter margin


Fig. 3

Comparison of ProSync with the traditional scheme


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Fig. 4

Characterization of the impact of N B

A further investigation of the impact of N B on the performance of ProSync is depicted in Fig. 4. The CFO estimation goes worse gracefully as N B increases, due to the growing residual cross-band interference that cannot be fully mitigated. Therefore, it is reasonable to confine N B to be under a certain number in practical systems. Detailed study on the frequency-agility of NC-OFDM system can be found in Ref. [13]. The above results lead to the following findings. First, ProSync performs well under the settings with and without cross-band interference. Second, although multiple noncontiguous spectrum blocks can be used by one NC-OFDM user, the less number of occupied spectrum blocks is preferable to achieve better synchronization performance. Third, the separation of preamble from data symbols in a packet offers the opportunity of independent design for synchronization and data reception, leading to the proposed ProSync. Similar synchronization approaches may be exploited in the systems where the synchronization part is relatively independent.



NC-OFDM is a promising mechanism in opportunistic spectrum sharing networks, but it has to deal with the crossband interference originated from coexistent users and self interference created by filters. The proposed synchronization scheme ProSync, utilizing a shrinked preamble and two types of multi-band filters, well deals with the interference a user faces. Analytical and simulation results show the effectiveness of ProSync under various settings. In addition, ProSync is easy to be implemented based on the existing OFDM systems. The idea of designing ProSync is possible to be exploited in other similar systems to gain better performance.

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Hou Wei, born in 1981, is currently a Ph.D student at the department of Electronic Engineering, Tsinghua University, China. He received his M.S. degree and B.S. degree from Harbin Institute of Technology in 2005 and Harbin Engineering University in 2003, respectively. His research interests include wireless communications and cognitive radios.