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3240 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 8, NO.

6, JUNE 2009

OFDM Symbol Synchronization Using


Frequency Domain Pilots in Time Domain
Alessio Filippi and Semih Serbetli

Abstract—In this paper, we describe and evaluate a novel followed by simple equalization algorithms. However, the
symbol synchronization algorithm for Orthogonal Frequency receiver has to be synchronized with the transmitter both
Division Multiplexing (OFDM) systems especially suited for in frequency and time. The time synchronization in OFDM
channels with very long echoes. Most of the OFDM based
standards provide known pilots in the frequency domain for systems selects the block of samples to be processed by the
channel estimation purposes. The basic idea of our contribution receiver DFT. When the appropriate block of samples is not
consists of interpreting the frequency domain pilots in the time selected, it results in inter-block-interference (IBI) among the
domain to obtain a rough channel estimate before performing the successive OFDM symbols and inter-carrier-interference (ICI)
discrete Fourier transform (DFT) and use it to properly position due to the loss of circularity of the experienced channel. Both
the DFT window. The proposed method aims to maximize the
signal-to-inter-block-interference ratio after the DFT windowing. IBI and ICI degrade the OFDM system performance. There is
In short channels, where the channel length is shorter than the a significant amount of literature dealing with synchronization
cyclic prefix length, the proposed method looks for an inter- algorithms for OFDM systems. They can be framed in two
block-interference free windowing of the OFDM symbol. In long large families: those exploiting the cyclic structure of the
channels, where the channel length is longer than the cyclic OFDM symbols and those based on additional pilots designed
prefix of the OFDM symbol, the proposed method search for
the minimum inter-block-interference power windowing of the for synchronization, see [6] and references therein. The most
OFDM symbol. common methods use the cyclic extension to jointly detect
the beginning of the OFDM symbol and correct the frequency
Index Terms—Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing,
channel estimation, fine time synchronization, IBI, SINR. offset, see e.g. [7], [8]. However, these methods are optimal
only for non-frequency selective channels. Other methods
have been proposed e.g. in [9], [10], [11], which consider
I. I NTRODUCTION the presence of frequency selective channels, but assume

O RTHOGONAL Frequency Division Multiplexing either that the channel estimation stage feeds the channel
(OFDM) is a well known multi-carrier modulation knowledge back to the synchronization algorithm or that
technique which can provide significant robustness to pilots are designed to support the synchronization.
channels with long delay spreads at the cost of a loss in
In this paper, we propose a new time synchronization
spectral efficiency [1]. It has been adopted in many standards
method robust to severe multipath channels, i.e., to channels
such as, for instance, IEEE 802.11a/n [2], the 3GPP LTE
with the main echo not necessarily having the shortest
[3], the Digital Video Broadcasting for Terrestrial and
delay, such as those in single frequency networks (SFN)
Handheld (DVB-T/H) [4] and also in the recently approved
[12]. We notice that in most of the OFDM systems there
second generation DVB-T2 standard [5]. OFDM efficiently
are known pilots modulating some sub-carriers for channel
modulates N parallel sub-carriers by performing an N -point
estimation purposes. Since the DFT operation is linear, the
inverse discrete Fourier transform (IDFT) on N complex
pilots modulating given sub-carriers can be interpreted as
data symbols. The output of the IDFT consists of N samples
added (superimposed) to the time domain OFDM signal. The
which are referred to as an OFDM symbol. The OFDM
receiver can therefore make use of this known sequence prior
symbol is usually cyclically extended and transmitted over
to the DFT operation. The idea of using the frequency domain
the air. If the cyclic extension is at least as long as the
pilot in the time domain was first published in [13], [14],
maximum delay spread of the channel, if the channel is static
[15] to provide an alternative channel estimation technique
during the duration of one OFDM symbol and if the receiver
for DVB-T systems. In this paper, we further develop the
is perfectly synchronized, the sub-carriers orthogonality is
idea of using the frequency domain pilot in the time domain,
maintained at the receiver. Therefore, the data transmitted
but we target the refinement of the time synchronization in
on each sub-carrier can be recovered by means of a DFT
OFDM systems. The proposed method could be used in any
Manuscript received September 11, 2008; revised February 10, 2009 and OFDM system with pilots inserted in the frequency domain
April 2, 2009; accepted April 6, 2008. The associate editor coordinating the for channel estimation purposes. However, depending on the
review of this letter and approving it for publication was G. Colavolpe. particular pilot pattern ad-hoc solutions might be needed to
A. Filippi is with Philips Research, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (e-mail:
alessio.filippi@philips.com). achieve the required fine time synchronization performance.
S. Serbetli is with NXP Semiconductors - Corporate I&T Research, We show this by specifying in detail two possible applications
Eindhoven, The Netherlands (e-mail: semih.serbetli@nxp.com). of the proposed algorithm to the DVB-T/H standard which
This paper was presented in part in Vehicular Technology Conference, VTC
Fall 2007, Baltimore, MD, USA. has to operate in SFN. Since in SFN all transmitters radiate
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TWC.2009.081224 the same signal at the same time and frequency, they generate
1536-1276/09$25.00 
c 2009 IEEE

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FILIPPI and SERBETLI: OFDM SYMBOL SYNCHRONIZATION USING FREQUENCY DOMAIN PILOTS IN TIME DOMAIN 3241

Scattered Pilots
f q-n
... h(n) G

t
h(q) G

h(m) G
...

.
m-q-G
.
.

FFT window
[r(q), r(q+1),…, r(q+N-1)]
Fig. 1. Example of scattered pilot (SP) positioning in an OFDM system. The
black squares indicate the pilot positions, the empty squares the data position.
Fig. 2. Effects of a multipath channel on the time domain received OFDM
symbols.

an equivalent wireless channel that can be very challenging


for time synchronization algorithms.
of the paths are integer multiples of the sampling period T .
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section II In the following we will assume T = 1 and avoid the explicit
introduces the system model, describes the effect of time indication of T . Thus, the channel is a tap delay line with a
synchronization and defines the fine time synchronization as length Lc

the timing instance which minimizes the interference between hm , m ∈ [0, Lc − 1],
consecutive OFDM symbols. The proposed algorithm is h(m) = (4)
0, else.
described in Section III from a general perspective. The
algorithm is then applied to DVB-T/H in Section IV in two The received signal in discrete time can be expressed as
possible scenarios. Section V presents and comments the c −1
L

simulation results and Section VI concludes this work. r(l) = hm s(l − m) + η(l),
m=0
l = −∞, . . . , +∞, (5)
II. S YSTEM M ODEL
We consider an OFDM system with N sub-carriers signal- where η(l) is the additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) at the
ing in a frequency selective channel. Each OFDM symbol is receiver. Let us consider the case where the synchronization
composed of both data symbols and periodic scattered pilots algorithm chooses a DFT window of [r(q), r(q + 1), ..., r(q +
(SP) as, for instance, shown in Fig. 1. The data and pilots are N − 1)], q = −N − G, . . . , N + Lc − 1 to decode the 0th
modulated in blocks using an N -point IDFT to form an OFDM OFDM symbol as depicted in Fig. 2. The level of IBI caused
symbol with duration Tu = N T , where T is the sampling by choosing such a window position is highly dependent on
period. A cyclic prefix of duration TG = GT is added in the position of the first sample of the DFT window q, on
front of the signal to prevent/reduce IBI resulting in OFDM the length of the guard interval G and on the length of the
symbols of length Ts = Tu + TG = (N + G)T . Denoting channel impulse response (CIR) Lc . Note that the information
the transmitted data/pilot over the nth sub-carrier of the ith belonging to 0th OFDM symbol is transmitted through the
OFDM symbol by ai,n , the transmitted discrete time complex block [s(−G), s(−G + 1), ..., s(N − 1)], and s(l) = s(l + N )
baseband signal can be represented as for l = −G, . . . , −1, cf. (1). Let us first investigate the case
G ≥ Lc where we can choose an IBI free window for the DFT.
∞ N −1
1   j2πnl From (5), the optimum DFT window for IBI-free reception
s(lT ) = √ ai,n e N · (1)
N i=−∞ n=0 occurs when q is chosen as Lc −G−1 ≤ q ≤ 0. If erroneously
q < Lc − G − 1 is chosen, then there will be IBI from the
·v(lT − (N + G)iT ),
previous OFDM symbol. IBI signal from the previous OFDM
l = −∞, . . . , +∞, symbol in r(l) is the contribution from the {s(l)} with l < −G
with  and can be represented as
1, −G ≤ l < N, c −1
L
v(l) = (2)
0, else. IBIprevious (l) = hm s(l − m) (6)
We can explicitly indicate the dependancy on the OFDM sym- m=l+G+1

bol index i by making the change of variable l = k+i(N +G), and IBI power from the previous OFDM symbol at the lth
with k = −G, . . . , N − 1 and i = −∞, . . . , +∞ so that (1) OFDM sample is
becomes
c −1
L
(i)
s (kT ) = s(kT + i(N + G)T ) = (3) E{|IBIprevious (l)|2 } = |hm |2 = (7)
N −1
1 
m=l+G+1
j2πnk
√ ai,n e N . c −1
L
N n=0 = |hm |2 u(m − l − G − 1)
We assume that the signal is transmitted over a frequency m=0
2
selective fading channel. For the sake of simpler presentation, where E{|s(v)| } = 1 and u(d) = 1 if d ≥ 0 and 0 otherwise.
we assume that the channel is time-invariant and the delays The total IBI power from the previous OFDM symbol for a

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3242 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 8, NO. 6, JUNE 2009

Interference from
the next OFDM symbol
|h(q)|2 |h(q+G)|2 Interference from [16]. From (6)-(11), we observe that for both short and long
the previous OFDM symbol
delay spread channels, inappropriate synchronization leads to
IBI. The IBI not only increases the error floor due to the
… interference from the previous and next OFDM symbols, but
|h(m)|2
also distorts the circulant behavior of the received signal. Thus,
window of (G+1) the orthogonality of the sub-carriers is also lost leading ICI
No interference that further increases the error floor. Note that the ICI power
spread over the frequencies is the same as the IBI power.
Based on the above observations, synchronization algorithms
Fig. 3. Equivalent windowing operation done by synchronization should avoid or limit the amount of IBI power. Therefore, with
PIBI of (10), we define the fine time synchronization as
t0,fine = arg min PIBI (q). (12)
DFT window of [r(q), r(q + 1), ..., r(q + N − 1)] is q

−1
q+N Minimizing the IBI is equivalent to maximizing the signal to
PIBIprevious (q) = E{|IBIprevious (l)|2 } = (8) interference plus noise ratio (SINR) since the selected window
l=q size N  Lc . With Ps and Pη the signal and noise power
c −1
L −1
q+N respectively, the SINR as a function of the synchronization
2 point t0 reads as
= |hm | u(m − l − G − 1)
m=0 l=q Ps
c −1
L SINR(t0 ) = . (13)
2 Pη + PIBI (t0 )
= |hm | max(0, m − q − G),
m=0
q = −N − G, . . . , Lc − G − 1.
III. F INE T IME S YNCHRONIZATION
Another formulation of the IBI from the previous OFDM
symbol can be obtained by counting the number of OFDM In the previous section, we investigated the effect of
samples from the previous OFDM symbol for each multipath synchronization errors on the OFDM symbol reception. We
channel factor, i.e, m−q−G for hm , as in Fig. 2, and summing observe that incorrect synchronization leads to IBI and ICI that
up the total energy of the contribution of each multipath factor cause performance degradation. In this section, we propose
in the IBI. A similar analysis can be done for computing a fine time synchronization algorithm that aims at finding
the total IBI power from the next OFDM symbol for a DFT t0,fine of (12). The basic principle of the proposed fine time
window of [r(q), r(q + 1), ..., r(q + N − 1)] or just counting synchronization is using the frequency domain SP in a time
the number of OFDM samples from the next OFDM symbol domain correlation. The SP are commonly used for channel
with hn multipath channel gain, i.e., q − n as it can be seen in estimation in OFDM systems and they are widely used in the
Fig. 2. The resulting IBI power from the next OFDM symbol broadcast standards, e.g., DVB-T/H. In these standards, each
is OFDM symbol consists of N sub-carriers modulated with two
c −1
L disjoint sets, i.e., for ith OFDM symbol, the actual data sub-
PIBInext (q) = max(0, q − m)|hm |2 , (9) carrier set, Di , and the SP sub-carrier set Pi used for channel
m=0 estimation and synchronization. Then, the transmitted OFDM
q = 0, . . . , N + Lc − 1. symbol is, cf. (3),
When channels with Lc ≥ G are considered, there is no IBI s(l) = s(i) (k) = d(i) (k) + p(i) (k) = d(l) + p(l),
free window for the DFT. There will be IBI from both the k = −G, ..., N − 1, i = −∞, . . . , +∞,
previous and the next OFDM symbols and total IBI power
l = k + i(N + G) = −∞, . . . , +∞. (14)
can be expressed as
c −1
L with
PIBI (q) = |hm |2 f (m − q), (10) 1  j2πnk
d(i) (k) = √ ai,n e N , (15)
m=0 N n∈Di
where ⎧ 1  j2πnk
⎨ 0, n ∈ [0, G], p(i) (k) = √ ai,n e N .
f (n) = n − G, n > G, (11) N n∈Pi

−n, n < 0. Thus, the SP in frequency domain is a known sequence
We observe that synchronization is equivalent to a windowing superimposed on the data signal in the time domain. We
operation on the CIR h(m) of (4) where only a part of the then define the correlation between the overall superimposed
length (G + 1) of the CIR does not create any IBI. The sequence p(i) (k), k = −G, ..., N − 1, i = −∞, . . . , +∞ and
multipaths outside this window create IBI. As shown in Fig. 3 the superimposed sequence of the OFDM symbol i0 as
when a DFT window of [r(q), r(q + 1), ..., r(q + N − 1)] is +G−1
1 
x+N
chosen, h(q), h(q + 1), ...h(q + G) does not create any IBI. R(i0 ) (x) = p(l)p∗(i0 ) (l − x − G), (16)
A similar analysis of the IBI power has been presented in N +G
l=x

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FILIPPI and SERBETLI: OFDM SYMBOL SYNCHRONIZATION USING FREQUENCY DOMAIN PILOTS IN TIME DOMAIN 3243

with x = −∞, . . . , +∞. The properties of R(i0 ) (x) depend on 1) Coarse timing. Conventional coarse timing synchro-
the SP in frequency which are usually not designed to be used nization algorithms based on guard interval detection
in time domain. We assume in the following that the pilots in are used to derive an initial reference point and to
every OFDM symbol are separated by Np sub-carriers and estimate/correct the frequency synchronization error [7].
that their position is shifted by Ni sub-carriers every OFDM Within a randomly selected window of two OFDM
symbol (see Fig. 1 where Np = 12 and Ni = 3). Then, we symbols, the algorithm looks for the location for which
can assume that R(i0 ) (x) ≈ Kδ(x − mN/Np )δ(i − i0 ) with the correlation between the samples with a relative delay
K a proper constant and m an integer. In the Appendix, we of N is maximum. The algorithms calculates the metric
justify this approximation and show that it is mainly due to [7]
the properties of the pseudo random bit sequence which is

G−1
used to modulate the pilot sub-carriers [4]. With (3), (14) and λ(m ) = r(k + m )r∗ (k + m + N )
(15), the received signal can be expressed as k=0
c −1
L c −1
L m = 0, . . . , N + G − 1, (22)
r(l) = hm d(l − m) + hm p(l − m) + η(l). (17)
it estimates the energy of the received signal as
m=0 m=0

1
G−1
When we correlate the received signal with the known SP 
sequence of p(i0 ) (k) of (15), we obtain Er (m ) = (|r(k + m )|2 + (23)
2
k=0
 +G−1
1
x+N
+|r(k + m + N )|2 ),
c(x) = r(l)p∗(i0 ) (l − x − G)
N +G
l=x
m = 0, . . . , N + G − 1,
c −1
L
and selects the coarse timing
= hm R(i0 ) (x − m) + I(x) + η̃(x), (18)
m=0 t0,coarse = arg max

[|λ(m )| − Er (m )]. (24)
m
(i0 )
where R (x) is the autocorrelation function of (16) and Thus, we obtain a coarse estimate of where the OFDM
c −1
L symbol starts. Moreover, the phase of (22) also provides
1
I(x) = hm · (19) a frequency offset estimation [7] which needs to be
N +G m=0 corrected before correlating the received signal with a

x+N +G−1 known sequence.
(i)
d (l − m)p(i0 )∗ (l − x − G) 2) Time domain correlation. The correlation c(x) of
l=x (18) is calculated to derive a rough estimate of the
is the interference from the data part of the transmitted signal. channel impulse response h(m) of (4). Since the coarse
The interference term I(x) is not expected to significantly timing t0,coarse of (24) is within the support of the
impact the channel estimation quality. This can be inferred by channel impulse response h(m), the correlation c(x)
considering its second moment, i.e. is calculated around t0,coarse . The exact span of c(x)
  1  depends on the expected maximum length of the channel
E |I(x)|2 = (20) impulse response, i.e. on the guard interval.
(N + G)2
l m l m  3) Metric calculation. The metric PIBI (q) of (10) is
E hm d(i) (l − m)p(i0 )∗ (l − x − G) calculated using the rough channel estimation obtained

in step 2.
h∗m d(i)∗ (l − m )p(i0 ) (l − x − G) . 4) Fine synchronization. The fine time synchronization
t0,fine of (12) is founded as the minimum of the metric
Under the assumption of uncorrelated channel coefficients, of step 3.
uncorrelated data symbols, and zero correlation between data
and channel coefficient, we can substitute E {hm h∗m } =
σh2 m δ(m−m ) and E {d(l − m)d∗ (l − m )} = σd2 δ(m−m +
l − l ) and write (20) as
  Ep Eh σd2
E |I(x)|2 = , (21)
N +G
So far, the description of the algorithm is very general. The
2 2
where Ep , Eh = m σhm and σd are the energy of the algorithm can be applied to any OFDM system which uses
pilot sequence in time, the energy of the channel impulse frequency domain pilots for channel estimation. However, the
response and the variance of the data, respectively. The factor pilots are usually designed to be used in the frequency domain
1/(N + G) reduces the influence of the interference. By using and their properties in the time domain might not be as
the approximation R(i0 ) (x) ≈ Kδ(x − mN/Np )δ(i − i0 ), see desired. Therefore, when designing the proposed algorithm for
the Appendix, c(x) of (18) provides a rough channel estima- a specific OFDM based system, some specific solutions might
tion prior to the receiver DFT. We now have all the elements be required to ensure that the algorithm performs properly. In
to describe the general idea of the proposed algorithm. The the following, we develop two possible approaches suitable
proposed fine synchronization algorithm consists of four steps. for the DVB-T/H standard.

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3244 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 8, NO. 6, JUNE 2009

IV. T HE P ROPOSED A LGORITHM A PPLIED TO THE 0.16


DVB-T/H S TANDARD
0.14
A. The DVB-T/H standard
The DVB-T/H standard [4] defines the physical layer to 0.12

be used in the broadcast of digital video signal over the


0.1
terrestrial radio channel. The handheld version (DVB-H) adds
only minor changes to the DVB-T physical layer to deal with

AC2
0.08

mobile radio channels. DVB-T/H defines an OFDM based


0.06
modulation with 2k, 4k or 8k sub-carries and guard interval
options from 1/32 of the OFDM symbol duration up to 1/4 0.04
of the OFDM symbol duration. DVB-T/H supports the use of
0.02
SFN in which multiple transmitters synchronously transmit the
same signal in the same frequency. In the presence of an SFN, 0
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4
the receiver experiences long artificially created channels. SFN OFDM symbols (index)
channels create significant challenges for the time synchro-
nization because conventional time synchronization algorithms Fig. 4. Correlation of four consecutive DVB-T transmit OFDM symbols
tend to synchronize with respect to the strongest path of containing only pilots with the SP transmitted in the second OFDM symbol.
the channel impulse response. In the presence of SFN, the
strongest path might not be the first path to arrive. Therefore,
for DVB-T/H it is crucial to have a fine time synchronization • Selecting the received SP. The SP sequence depends on
algorithm which takes care of properly synchronizing the the index of the received OFDM symbol. Therefore, it
DFT window. The most common approach consists of using is necessary to detect the SP sequence. We propose to
the frequency domain channel estimation to refine the DFT correlate with all four possible SP in the time domain
positioning [17]. With the proposed algorithm, we can achieve and select the SP sequence which provides the largest
a fine time synchronization prior to the receiver DFT by correlation maximum. The correlation can be evaluated
exploiting the DVB-T/H SP inserted in the frequency domain only around t0,coarse to avoid waste of resources. After
as proposed in the following two approaches. deciding which SP sequence is used, we correlate the
received OFDM symbol with the known SP sequence
B. Short guard intervals to obtain c(x) of (18). This approach also provides an
alternative way to synchronize with respect to the SP
Let us consider the case on which the guard interval G sequence prior to the receiver DFT as shown in [18].
is shorter than 1/12 of the OFDM symbol duration, e.g. G • Solving the ambiguity problem. Since the SP sequence is
is 1/16 or 1/32 of the OFDM symbol duration. The SP in periodic with period N/Np , see Fig. 4, we should decide
DVB-T/H standard are spaced apart of Np = 12 sub-carriers, which taps are from the actual CIR and which ones are
change depending on the OFDM symbol index, see Fig. 1, and from the periodicity of the SP sequence. To solve this
have a period of four OFDM symbols. The performance of the ambiguity we use a window of length N/Np to detect
proposed algorithm depends on the time domain correlation the maximum energy window.
R(i) (x) of (16) of the frequency domain SP. Actually, DVB-
T/H standards define both SP and continuous pilot (CP) in the Once the ambiguity problem is solved a rough estimate ĥ(m)
frequency domain. Therefore, the proposed algorithm might of the channel impulse response is available and can be used
try to correlate the received time domain signal with the time to complete the last steps of the algorithm. The time domain
domain version of the SP and the CP or only of the SP, periodicity of the autocorrelation function limits the scope of
treating the remaining CP as noise. In Fig. 4 we plot |c(x)| of the possible channel impulse responses. Indeed, if the channel
(18) assuming an ideal channel hm = δ(m) with no noise is longer than N/Np , the rough channel estimation would be
and the transmission of four consecutive OFDM symbols. affected by aliasing. Therefore, the proposed algorithm for
We considered two possible choices of p(1) (k). In the first this specific case works only when the channel is shorter than
case p(1) (k) is the time domain representation of the SP and N/Np samples.
the CP of the second OFDM symbol. In the second case,
p(1) (k) is the time domain representation of only the SP of
C. Long guard intervals
the second OFDM symbol. We choose this later case, depicted
in Fig. 4, which appeared to be less noisy around the main Since DVB-T/H is designed to deal with long channels the
peak. We notice that the periodicity of the correlation function proposed fine synchronization algorithm should be able to deal
R(1) (x) is N/Np . As expected, the correlation sequence has with the longest channel, too. The longest guard interval is as
good properties, i.e., the correlation between the time shifted long as N/4 and, for the time being, we assume it corresponds
versions of the sequence is very low and the correlation to the maximum length of the channel impulse response. The
between different time domain SP sequences is low too. The SP in frequency domain are usually interpolated in time to
proposed algorithm described in Section III can be applied to obtain a denser pilot grid in frequency. We propose to do
this specific scenario. We only need to revisit step 2 defining something similar in the time domain. By summing up four
the following intermediate steps consecutive OFDM symbols in the time domain we obtain a

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FILIPPI and SERBETLI: OFDM SYMBOL SYNCHRONIZATION USING FREQUENCY DOMAIN PILOTS IN TIME DOMAIN 3245

0.7
that t0,fine of (12) is not unique. Therefore, we could improve
the selection of t0,fine by smoothing the metric PIBI (q) of
0.6 (10). The resulting t0,fine is less sensitive to the noisy estimate
of the channel impulse response, but it is also less precise
0.5 in the case the minimum value of PIBI (q) is given by few
choices of q. We will see in the simulation results how such a
0.4
small modification has significant influence on the algorithm
AC2

0.3
performance. The proposed algorithm is now able to deal
with very long channels by exploiting in the time domain
0.2 the structure of the pilot inserted in the frequency domain.
At least 16 OFDM symbols are required to obtain reasonable
0.1 performance. In a typical DVB-T setting with 8k sub-carriers,
this corresponds to a window duration of approximately 18ms.
0
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5
OFDM symbols (index)
V. N UMERICAL R ESULTS
4
x 10

Fig. 5. Correlation of the sum of four consecutive DVB-T transmit OFDM


A. General
symbols containing only pilots with all the SP transmitted. We verify the performance of the proposed algorithm
through simulations. We assume an SFN channel made of
two independent typical urban, six paths channels (TU6) as
superimposed pilot sequence defined in the European project COST [19]. The two TU6
3
 channels have the same energy. The separation of the two

p̃(k) = p(i ) (k) (25) TU6 channels changes depending on the simulation setting.
i =0 The transmitter and receiver follow the DVB-T standard with
made of all the SP inserted in the frequency domain. As the OFDM symbol duration TOFDM = 1.12ms, the useful
done in Fig. 4, we show in Fig. 5 the properties of the symbol duration Tu = 896μs and the guard interval duration
autocorrelation function of p̃(k) in absence of data and in TG = 224μs. The number of sub-carriers is N = 8192.
the presence of an ideal channel. Also in this case, treating The simulations assume a 16-QAM bit-mapper and a DVB-
the CP as noise seems to bring an advantage in the noise floor T convolution code with coding rate r = 2/3. To test the
level. Therefore, the known sequence used at the receiver does performance of the synchronization algorithm, we generate
not take into account the presence of the CP. The proposed a DVB-T signal, convolve with the channel and then we
algorithm described in Section III needs to be refined also in randomly select a window as long as two OFDM symbols
this scenario. Step 2 now requires the following intermediate to search for the coarse timing synchronization. In most of
steps the cases the SNR, in terms of carrier-to-noise (C/N) ratio as
defined in the DVB-T standard, is set to 25 dB which is close
• Sum eight consecutive windows of 2(N + G) samples
to the operational point of DVB-T. We further assume that the
starting from the timing reference t0,coarse − G to obtain
equalization perfectly knows the channel. The channel is not
7
 known by the synchronization algorithm.
ravg8 (k) = r(k + i(N + G)), (26)
i=0
B. Short guard intervals
k = t0,coarse − G, . . . , t0,coarse + 2N + G.
We consider the algorithm described in Subsection IV-B
We choose eight symbols instead of the minimum num- and evaluate its performance in terms of the SINR provided
ber of four to include some averaging of the data- by t0,fine . The SINR depends on the channel impulse response,
generated interference. We calculate the sum for k = cf. (10), which is assumed to be perfectly known in the
t0,coarse − G, . . . , t0,coarse + 2N + G to properly evaluate SINR formula used to evaluate the algorithm performance.
the correlation of (16) around t0,coarse . In Fig. 6, we depict the cumulative distribution function of
• Evaluate c(x) of (18) with ravg8 (k) in place of r(l) and the SINR of (13) provided by the ideal synchronization,
p̃(k) of (25) in place of p(i0 ) (k). the coarse synchronization and the proposed synchronization
• Solve the ambiguity problem. Since the SP sequence is algorithm. We assume a guard interval G = N/16 so that
denser, the period of the correlation function is N/3, there is no aliasing in the channel impulse response estimate.
see Fig. 5, but the ambiguity problem still exists. We The channel is an echo-TU6 channel with a relative delay
solve the ambiguity similarly to the case of short guard between the two TU6 channels uniformly distributed within
intervals, i.e. using a window of length N/3 to detect the the guard interval. We notice that, also in the case of ideal
maximum energy. time synchronization, there is a percentage of the channel
Once the ambiguity problem is solved a rough estimate ĥ(m) realizations which provides low SINR. This happens when the
of the channel impulse response is available and can be used to relative delay between the two TU6 channels is very close to
complete the last steps of the algorithm. We might also refine the guard interval length. In this case, the resulting channel is
the last step of the algorithm, i.e. the calculation of t0,fine longer than the guard interval and there is inevitable IBI. We
of (12). In the presence of a long guard interval it is likely also notice that the proposed algorithm performs very closely

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3246 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 8, NO. 6, JUNE 2009

cumulative ditribution function


1 1
ideal ideal
0.9 coarse 0.8 coarse
fine fine
0.6
0.8
0.4
cumulative ditribution function

0.7
0.2
0.6 0
−5 0 5 10 15 20 25
0.5 SINR (dB)

cumulative ditribution function


0.4 0.01
ideal
0.008 coarse
0.3
fine
0.006
0.2
0.004
0.1 0.002

0 0
−5 0 5 10 15 20 25 −5 0 5 10 15 20 25
SINR (dB) SINR (dB)

Fig. 6. Cumulative distribution function of the SINR provided by the Fig. 8. Cumulative distribution function of the SINR provided by the
proposed synchronization algorithm, by the ideal synchronization and by the proposed synchronization algorithm, by the ideal synchronization and by the
coarse time synchronization only. Short guard intervals case with the two TU6 coarse time synchronization only. Long guard intervals case with the two TU6
echoes with a random relative delay having a uniform distribution within the echoes with a relative delay as long as 90% of the guard interval. SNR=25
guard interval. SNR=25 dB, G = N/16. dB, G = N/4.

1
ideal very close to the SINR given by the ideal synchronization.
0.9 coarse
fine
OFDM systems are usually properly designed, i.e. the guard
0.8 interval is longer than the maximum delay spread. For this
reason we also consider the case of a fixed separation of
cumulative ditribution function

0.7
the two TU6 echoes equal to 90% of the guard interval.
0.6
This is a challenging scenario for the coarse synchroniza-
0.5 tion algorithm. The results are reported in Fig. 8, in a full
0.4 scale and with a zoom in the most interesting region. We
0.3
first notice that the ideal synchronization algorithm always
provides an SINR=SNR=25dB, i.e. there is always an IBI
0.2
free region available. The proposed synchronization algorithm
0.1
makes some mistakes. For instance, we notice that in 99% of
0
−5 0 5 10 15 20 25
the cases, the proposed algorithm provides an SINR> 20 dB
SINR (dB) and that only 0.01% of the times it provides an SINR< 15
dB. This seems a promising result. However, if we insert the
Fig. 7. Cumulative distribution function of the SINR provided by the proposed algorithm as a part of a full DVB-T/H simulation
proposed synchronization algorithm, by the ideal synchronization and by the chain, the results do not appear very promising. This is shown
coarse time synchronization only. Long guard intervals case with the two TU6
echoes with a random relative delay with a uniform distribution within the in Fig. 9 where the average BER is plotted versus the C/N.
guard interval. SNR=25 dB, G = N/4. We notice that there is almost no difference in terms of
uncoded BER, but, in the presence of coding, the proposed
synchronization algorithm shows an error floor. This is due to
to the ideal synchronization algorithm when the channel is the errors of the synchronization algorithm which limits the
shorter than the guard interval and also when the channel is average performance of the coded system. Since we think this
longer than the guard interval. scenario is the most extreme for the synchronization algorithm,
we propose to further improve the proposed algorithm by
C. Long guard intervals smoothing the estimated PIBI of (10). We select an averaging
filter as long as 5% of the guard interval and report the results
We consider the algorithm described in Subsection IV-C
in Fig. 10 in terms of the cumulative distribution function
and evaluate its performance in terms of the SINR provided by
of the SINR and of average coded BER. The presence of a
t0,fine . We make the same assumptions in the SINR calculation
smoothing filter significantly improves the performance of the
as in the case of short guard intervals. In Fig. 7, we depict the
synchronization algorithm. There will be an error floor due to
cumulative distribution function of the SINR of (13) provided
some rare error in the synchronization, but it is lower than the
by the proposed algorithm, the ideal synchronization algorithm
target BER of 2 × 10−4 as defined in the DVB-T standard.
and the coarse synchronization algorithm. The channel is an
echo-TU6 channel with the relative delay between the two
TU6 having a uniform distribution within the guard interval. VI. C ONCLUSIONS
Also in this case the algorithm shows its robustness also to The proposed algorithm uses channel estimation pilot to
channels longer than the guard interval providing an SINR provide a fine time synchronization in OFDM systems prior

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FILIPPI and SERBETLI: OFDM SYMBOL SYNCHRONIZATION USING FREQUENCY DOMAIN PILOTS IN TIME DOMAIN 3247

N −1

p(i) (k  )p∗(i0 ) (k  − k − G) +
0
10
ideal uncoded
fine uncoded k =k
−1 ideal coded
10
fine coded 
k−1
p(i+1) (k  )p∗(i0 ) (k  − k + N ) .
−2
10 k =−G
Average BER

−3
The pilot sequence in time p(i) (k) is the IDFT of the pilot
10
sequence in frequency. We assume that the pilots have a
−4
structure similar to Fig. 1 with a separation of Np in each
10
OFDM symbol and a shift of Ni between two consecutive
sequences. The same pilot sequence is repeated after Np /Ni
−5
10
OFDM symbols. The pilot sequence in frequency are gen-
erated as √modulated pseudo random bit sequences (PRBS)
−6
10
0 5 10 15 20 (·) = ± A, with A a constant [4]. With this notation the
C/N pilot sequence in time is
N/Np −1
Fig. 9. Average BER versus C/N. Ideal channel estimation for equalization.  
Uncoded and coded performance in the presence of ideal time synchronization p(i) (k  ) = (Np n + Ni i)ej2πNp k n/N
and the proposed algorithm. Long guard intervals case with the two TU6 n=0
echoes with a relative delay as long as 90% of the guard interval. G = 1/4. 
ej2πNi ik /N . (28)
The pilot sequence is periodic with period N/Np . We substi-
cumulative ditribution function

0.01
ideal
tute (28) in (27) and consider the first term (the second can be
0.008 fine worked out in a similar way). With some simple manipulation,
fine smooth
0.006 we obtain
0.004 −1
1
N
0.002 p(i) (k  )p∗(i0 ) (k  − k − G) = (29)
0
N +G 
−5 0 5 10 15 20 25 k =k
SINR (dB) N −1
1  
10
0
= ej2πNi ik /N e−j2πNi i(k −k−G)/N ·
ideal coded N +G 
fine smooth coded k =k
Average BER

−2
10 N/Np −1 N/Np −1
 
−4 · (Np n + Ni i)(Np n + Ni i0 ) ·
10
n =0 n=0
  
10
−6

0 5 10 15 20
ej2πNp k n/N e−j2πNp (k −k−G)n /N .
C/N
The summations over n and n can be interpreted as an approx-
imation of the expected value of (Np n+Ni i)(Np n +Ni i0 ).
Fig. 10. Cumulative distribution function of the SINR provided by the
proposed synchronization algorithm, by the ideal synchronization and by the Based on the properties of the PRBS sequences and some
proposed synchronization algorithm with a smoothing filter. Average coded further manipulation, we can write
BER in the presence of ideal time synchronization and the proposed algorithm.
N/Np −1 N/Np −1
Long guard intervals case with the two TU6 echoes with a relative delay as  
long as 90% of the guard interval. SNR=25 dB, G = N/4. (Np n + Ni i)(Np n + Ni i0 ) (30)
n =0 n=0
j2πNp k n/N  
e · e−j2πNp (k −k−G)n /N ≈
to the receiver DFT. It offers an alternative and promising way N/Np −1

for robust fine timing synchronization. The proposed algorithm ≈ Aej2π(k+G)nNp /N δ(i − i0 ) ≈
has been further developed to match the DVB-T/H signal n=0
structure and, with the adoption of specific solutions, we were ∞
 N N
able to achieve near-to-ideal performance. ≈ A δ(k + G − m )δ(i − i0 ).
m=−∞
Np Np
With (30), (29) simplifies to
A PPENDIX −1
1
N
p(i) (k  )p∗(i0 ) (k  − k − G) ≈ (31)
We want to justify the approximation R(i0 ) (x) ≈ Kδ(i − N +G 
k =k
i0 )δ(x−mN/Np ), with K a constant. We change the variables N −1
x = k + i(N + G) and l = k  + i(N + G), with k, k  = A N  j2πNi i0 (k+G)/N
≈ e ·
−G, . . . N − 1, split the sum in (16) in two terms, and write N + G Np 
k =k
(16) as ∞
 N
1 δ(k + G − m )δ(i − i0 )
R(i0 ,i) (k) = (27) m=−∞
Np
N +G

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3248 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 8, NO. 6, JUNE 2009

AN (N − k) j2πNi i0 (k+G)/N [12] Göran Malmgren, “Single frequency broadcasting networks," Ph.D.
≈ e ·
(N + G)Np Thesis, School of Electrical Engineering, Royal Institute of Technology

 (KTH), Stockholm, 1997.
N [13] X. Wang, Y. Wu, B. Caron, B. Ledoux, and S. Lafleche, “A channel
δ(k + G − m )δ(i − i0 ). characterization technique using frequency-domain pilot time-domain
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m=−∞ correlation method for DVB-T systems," in Proc. IEEE International
Conf. Consumer Electronics (ICCE), 2003, June 2003, pp. 294-295
A similar derivation can be done for the second term of (2). [14] X. Wang, Y. Wu;J.-Y. Chouinard, S. Lu, and B. Caron, “A channel
Therefore, the approximation R(i0 ) (x) ≈ Kδ(i − i0 )δ(x − characterization technique using frequency domain pilot time domain
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used to modulate the pilot sub-carriers. [15] S. Lu, A. Semmar, X. Wang, Y. Wu, J. Y. Chouinard, and P. Fortier,
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[5] “Frame structure channel coding and modulation for a second Italy. From 2001 to 2004 he was with Siemens in
generation digital terrestrial television broadcasting system Munich, Germany. While in Siemens, he pursued his
(DVB-T2)," June 2008, Blue-Book, [Online]. Available: PhD at the Technical University of Kaiserslautern
http://www.dvb.org/technology/dvbt2/a122.tm3980r5.DVB-T2.pdf under the supervision of professor P.W. Baier. In
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1621, Dec. 1997. sity, Istanbul, Turkey, in 2000, and the Ph.D. degree
[9] D. Lee and K. Cheun, “Coarse symbol synchronization algorithms for in electrical engineering from the Pennsylvania State
OFDM systems in multipath channels," IEEE Commun. Lett., vol. 6, University in 2005. His Ph.D. studies focused on
no. 10, pp. 446-448, Oct. 2002. transceiver design problems for multiuser multiple
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frequency synchronization for OFDM systems,” IEEE Trans. Wireless on multicarrier communications, multiple-antenna
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