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7, JULY 2009

A Blind CFO Estimator Based on

Smoothing Power Spectrum for OFDM Systems
Lu Wu, Xian-Da Zhang, Senior Member, IEEE, Pei-Sheng Li, and Yong-Tao Su

Abstract—Carrier frequency offset (CFO) estimation is a of the proposed method. Relations between the SPS method
critical problem in orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing and the Kurtosis, the VE methods are also provided. Finally,
(OFDM) systems. This letter proposes a blind CFO estimator simulation results demonstrate the validity of the proposed
based on smoothing the signal power spectrum. A closed-form
CFO estimate is also presented, which greatly reduces the estimator.
computational complexity of the proposed method. Analysis and
simulation results show that the proposed estimator is very II. T HE OFDM S YSTEM M ODEL
effective for OFDM systems.
Consider an OFDM system with N subcarriers. The
Index Terms—Carrier frequency offset (CFO), power spec- transmitted data in the ith block, defined as s(i) =
trum, orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM). [s0 (i), s1 (i), · · · , sN −1 (i)]T , are supposed to be independent
and circularly symmetric with zero mean and variance σs2 .
I. I NTRODUCTION They are then modulated onto the subcarriers by inverse
discrete Fourier transform (IDFT). The CP is inserted to avoid

O RTHOGONAL frequency-division multiplexing

(OFDM) is very sensitive to carrier frequency offset
(CFO) [1]. Existing CFO estimators can be classified as the
the intersymbol interference, with the length P no less than
the channel order L. A frequency-selective block fading chan-
nel is assumed. h(i) = [h0 (i), h1 (i), · · · , hL (i)]T denotes
data-aided ones [2]-[3] and the blind ones [4]-[8]. Recently, the channel impulse response, corresponding to the channel
blind estimators have received much attention due to the frequency response H(i) = [H0 (i), H1 (i), · · · , HN −1 (i)]T .
high bandwidth efficiency. The blind method in [4] takes Let  ∈ (−0.5, 0.5] represent the CFO normalized by the
advantage of the redundant information within the cyclic intercarrier spacing. At the receiver, the CP is first removed.
prefix (CP). Yao and Giannakis have developed the Kurtosis Then the received signal is compensated by the CFO candidate
estimator in [5] by measuring the non-Gaussian property ν and demodulated by discrete Fourier transform (DFT). So
of the received signal. However, these two methods usually the resulting signal on the kth subcarrier can be written as
suffer from performance degradation in frequency-selective
fading channels. The Variance (VE) method [6] exploits the yνk (i) = Ukk (δ)Hk (i)sk (i)

interference among subcarriers due to the CFO. And the + Ukn (δ)Hn (i)sn (i) + wk (i) (1)
Subspace method [7], proposed for the constant modulus n=k
(CM) constellations, utilizes the correlation of the channel.
However, one main drawback of such schemes is the high where δ =  − ν is the CFO estimation
computational complexity. error, Umn (δ) is the (m, n)th element of

To overcome the above obstacles, a blind CFO estimator φδ (i)FΛ(δ)FH , φδ (i)  ej N δ[i(N +P )+P ] ,
is derived for OFDM systems in this letter, by exploiting Λ(δ)  diag(1, ej2πδ/N , · · · , ej2πδ(N −1)/N ),
1 2π −1
the key idea of smoothing power spectrum (SPS). Similar F  { √N e N mn
}Nm,n=0 denotes the DFT matrix,
criterion has been advocated in [8], which can estimate as and wk (i) ∼ CN 0, σn2 is the independent noise. The second
well as our SPS method, but it is only proposed for the term in (1) represents the intercarrier interference (ICI). If
CM constellations. Besides, the noise is not considered in the the CFO is estimated perfectly, (1) becomes
analysis. However, this letter shows that the SPS method can yk (i) = Hk (i)sk (i) + wk (i). (2)
also be used for the non-CM cases. Interestingly, it is indicated
that the proposed objective function has a cosine form in the
noise case. More importantly, a closed-form CFO estimate
is obtained to greatly reduce the computational complexity A. The Proposed SPS Method
Using exactly the ith OFDM block, the classical signal
Paper approved by C. Tepedelenlioglu, the Editor for Synchronization and power spectrum can be given by
Equalization of the IEEE Communications Society. Manuscript received May
24, 2007; revised January 3, 2008 and June 15, 2008. 1 k 2
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of
Pr,ν |y (i)| .
(i) = (3)
China under Grants 60675002 and 60496311, and funded by the Basic Re-
N ν
search Foundation of Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science Similarly, the classical channel power spectrum has the form
and Technology (TNList).
The authors are with the State Key Laboratory on Intelligent Technol- 1
Phk+1 (i) = |Hk+1 (i)|2
ogy and Systems, Tsinghua National Laboratory for Information Science N
and Technology, Department of Automation, Tsinghua University, Beijing
100084, China (e-mail:;; 2πk n−l;
= hn (i)h∗l (i)e−j N (n−l) e−j2π N (4)
N n=0
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TCOMM.2009.07.070067 l=0

c 2009 IEEE

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Channel indicates that δ = 0 is a global minimum when A < 0 and
Received signal: without CFO compensation a global maximum when A > 0. The following propositions
Received signal: perfect CFO compensation
0.2 show the sign of A (proof is given in the Appendix B).
Proposition 2: If ks < 1 + 3+π 2 , A < 0 holds.
Classical Power Spectrum

Proposition 3: (1) For super-Gaussian signals (ks > 2), A >

0.15 0 always holds. (2) For sub-Gaussian signals (ks < 2), A < 0
exists if the channel power spectrum does not change fast
(L  N ). (3) For Gaussian signals (ks = 2), if the channel
is frequency selective, A > 0 holds.
Remark: In actual communications, normally used constel-
lations, e.g. quaternary phase-shift keying (QPSK), or 16-
quadrature amplitude modulation (16QAM), belong to the
case described in Proposition 2. That is to say, without the
0 knowledge of the channel, the CFO can be estimated by
0 10 20 30 40 50 60
Subcarrier Index minimizing J(ν) in (5), which means that the signal power
spectrum is smoothed.
Fig. 1. Power spectrums of the channel and the received signal: QPSK, Considering the cosine form in (6), a closed-form CFO
SNR=20dB,  = 0.3, N = 64, M = 1, P = L = 5. estimate can be obtained by employing parameter estimation.
Concretely, by evaluating J(ν) at three special points, e.g.
where n−lN ∈ [− N , N ] → 0 when N → 0, so the following
ν = − 41 , 0, 12 , denoted by J1 , J2 , J3 respectively, and trying
proposition can be directly obtained. to find  in (6), we can get the CFO estimate as
Proposition 1: If the channel order is greatly less than the ⎧
block size, Phk+1 (i) ≈ Phk (i) holds. ⎨ θ/2π, c0, A<0 or c0, A>0
Proposition 1 indicates that the channel power spectrum ˆ = θ/2π + 0.5, c<0, d0, A<0 or c>0, d0, A>0

is smooth when L  N . In practical OFDM systems, L is θ/2π − 0.5, c<0, d<0, A<0 or c>0, d>0, A>0
often no more than P . Since P is much less than N , e.g. (7)
P/N = 1/4, 1/8, 1/16 or 1/32 in IEEE 802.16a, supposing where θ  arctan(d/c), c  (J3 − J2 ) /2, and d  J1 −
L  N is reasonable. When the CFO is compensated (J2 + J3 ) /2.
completely, in the noise-free case of the CM constellations,
a smooth signal power spectrum, i.e. Pr,k
(i) ≈ Pr,
(i), can B. Relations to the Kurtosis and the VE Methods
be obtained due to (2), (3) and Proposition 1. Otherwise, The Kurtosis method [5] is developed based on the follow-
this property is destroyed due to the ICI. To make it clear, ing kurtosis-type objective function:
Fig. 1 plots the channel power spectrum and the signal power N −1
spectrum. The channel model used is given in Section IV. E[|yνk (i)|4 ]
JKurtosis (ν)  Nk=0 = A cos(2πδ) + B  (8)
It can be seen that the channel power spectrum is smooth −1
( k=0 E[|yνk (i)|2 ])2
as analysis, and the signal power spectrum without CFO
compensation fluctuates much more than the one with perfect N −1A , Bk are2all2 constants independent of δ [5]. Let T0 
CFO compensation. These remind us to construct a CFO ( k=0 E[|yν (i)| ]) , which is also a constant independent of
estimator by smoothing power spectrum (SPS). To measure δ [5]. The objective function of the VE method in [6] is shown
the fluctuation of Pr,ν
(i), we can make use of the difference as
between adjacent subcarriers and form the following objective

JVE (ν)  Var |yνk (i)|2 = T0 JKurtosis (ν)/N − T0 /N 2 . (9)

N −1 M−1 So JVE (ν) is an affine transform of JKurtosis (ν). Since
1   k 2
J(ν)  Pr,ν (i) − Pr,ν
(i) (5) JKurtosis (ν) is a cosine, the VE is equivalent to the Kurtosis
M i=0 method. Thus the curve fitting method in [5] can also be used
for the VE method.
where M is the number of the employed OFDM blocks, and
0 When M is sufficiently large, the proposed objective func-
Pr,ν (i)  Pr,ν (i). When M is sufficiently large and L  N ,
it can be demonstrated that (proof is given in the Appendix tion can be rewritten in (10). Due to (8) and (10), the main
A) difference between the Kurtosis method and the SPS method
lies in the second term of (10), which is about the correla-
J(ν) ≈ A cos(2πδ) + B (6)
tion of the adjacent subcarrier signals. As the channel order
2σ 2
N −1 (k −1)(N −1)ρm,m (2−k )ρ increases, the distribution of yνk (i) is closer to Gaussian even
where A = N 4s m=0 [ s 3 − sins2 πm,m −
 N if the CFO is compensated completely. Thus the performance
], ρx,y  E[|Hx (i)Hy (i)|2 ], ks 
a=m 2 (a−m)π sin N
of the Kurtosis method is degraded. Since non-Gaussian is
E[|sk (i)|4 ]/σs4 , and B is a constant independent of δ. (6) independent [9], the second term in (10), which can further
shows that the fluctuation of Pr,ν
(i) has the form of cosine weaken the correlation of the signal, reduces the performance
about δ. During the proof of (6), the assumption of the CM degradation of the Kurtosis method. Fig. 2 illustrates the
constellations is not used, which means that the proposed performance of the SPS and the Kurtosis methods varying
method can also be applied to the non-CM cases. (6) also with the channel order. The channel presented in Section IV

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0 0
10 10
Kurtosis(curve fitting): 16QAM, SNR=10dB
SPS(parameter estimation): 16QAM, SNR=10dB
Kurtosis(curve fitting): 16QAM, SNR=20dB
10 SPS(parameter estimation): 16QAM, SNR=20dB
Kurtosis(curve fitting): QPSK, SNR=10dB
SPS(parameter estimation): QPSK, SNR=10dB −2
Kurtosis(curve fitting): QPSK, SNR=20dB
−2 SPS(parameter estimation): QPSK, SNR=20dB

−3 −4
10 10

M=1, CP
M=1, Kurtosis(curve fitting)
10 M=1, VE(curve fitting)
M=1, SPS(parameter estimation)
−6 M=1, SPS(search)
10 M=1, Subspace(search)
M=10, CP
10 M=10, Kurtosis(curve fitting)
M=10, VE(curve fitting)
M=10, SPS(parameter estimation)
M=10, SPS(search)
−6 −8 M=10, Subspace(search)
10 10
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Channel Order SNR(dB)

Fig. 2. Robustness of the SPS method to the increased channel frequency Fig. 3. Performance of the SPS method varying with SNR: QPSK,  = 0.1,
selectivity:  = 0.1, N = 64, M = 10, P = 16, 5000 Monte Carlo trials. N = 64, P = L = 5, 5000 Monte Carlo trials.

is utilized. From the figure it can be seen that as analysis 10


above, the SPS method is more robust to the increased channel

frequency selectivity than the Kurtosis method.
In this section, the efficiency of the SPS method is ex-
amined in an OFDM system with N = 64 and P = 5.

A six-tap Rayleigh block fading channel is utilized with 10


the exponentially decaying powers set as E[|hn (i)|2 ] =

−n/(L+1) M=1, Kurtosis(curve fitting)
−m/(L+1) , n = 0, 1, · · · , L [10]. The performance of
 Le M=1, VE(curve fitting)
m=0 e
the SPS method in the case of QPSK constellation is shown 10
M=1, SPS(parameter estimation)
M=1, SPS(search)
in Fig. 3. Interestingly, the SPS method using parameter M=10, Kurtosis(curve fitting)
estimation performs as well as the one by search, which M=10, VE(curve fitting)
M=10, SPS(parameter estimation)
demonstrates the truth of (6). It also can be seen that the SPS M=10, SPS(search)
method obviously outperforms the CP, the Kurtosis and the 0 5 10 15 20 25 30
VE methods. The computational complexity for the objective SNR(dB)
function of the Subspace method is O(N 2 ), whereas the one
of the SPS method is only O(N ). However, Fig. 3 indicates Fig. 4. Performance of the SPS method varying with SNR: 16QAM,  = 0.1,
N = 64, P = L = 5, 5000 Monte Carlo trials.
that the performance of the SPS method approaches the one
of the Subspace method. In addition, performance comparison N −1
in the case of 16QAM constellation is illustrated in Fig. 4. It 2  k 4

= 2
E |yν | − E |yνk yνk+1 |2 . (10)
can be obtained that the SPS method also estimates better than N
the Kurtosis and the VE methods.

Define ρx,y  E |Hx Hy |2 , γs4  E[|sk (i)|4 ], and ks 

V. C ONCLUSIONS γs4 /σs4 . It has been proven in [5] that
This letter proposes a blind CFO estimator for OFDM −1


systems. A closed-form CFO estimate is also obtained to E |yνk |4 = Ccos(2πδ) + D (11)

reduce the computational complexity of the proposed method. k=0
Theoretical analysis and simulation results demonstrate the
good efficiency of the proposed estimator. where D is a constant independent of δ, and  C =
2σs4 N −1 ks 2
N2 m=0 6 (N − 1)ρm,m − a=m 2 (a−m)π

D ERIVATION OF (6) Let ȳνk  yνk − wk =

φδ (i) N −1 N −1 j 2π (δ+m−k)n
If M is large enough, J(ν) can be written as (time index i N m=0 H m s m n=0 e N [5], so the second
is omitted for notational brevity) term in (10) is

1   k 2 
N −1  −1 −1
k+1 2 2


J(ν) ≈ E |y | − |y | E |yνk yνk+1 |2 = E |ȳνk ȳνk+1 |2 + T

N2 ν ν
k=0 k=0 k=0

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⎛ ⎞  
N −1 N −1
1  ⎝  2σs4 G ks − 1 − 3+π 2 
N −1
= 4 Fmmaa + Fmppm ⎠ + T (12) < ρm,m (17)
N m=0 a=0
N4 m=0
N −1 N −1 where G = [(3 + π 2 )N 2 − π 2 ]/3π . 2
where Fxyzt  n,q,b,d=0 E[Hx Hy∗ Hz Ht∗ ]E[sx s∗y sz s∗t ] k=0
2π The expression of A can be rewritten as
ej N [(δ−k)(n−q+b−d)+(xn−yq+(z−1)b−(t−1)d)] , and T is a  
N −1
constant independent of δ. Thus, after some tedious but 2σs4  (ks − 1)(N 2 − 1) 2 − ks
straightforward algebra, we can show that A= 4 − ρm,m
N m=0 3 sin2 Nπ
⎨ A1 cos(2πδ) + B1 , a=m 2 ⎫
|Hm |2 − |Ha |2 ρm,m ⎬
N−1 E 
N −1
Fmmaa = A2 cos(2πδ) + B2 , a=m+1 (13) + −
⎩ sin2 aπ ⎭
A3 cos(2πδ) + B3 , else a=m+1 sin2 (a−m)π
N a=1 N
and 2σ 4 N−1
(k − 2)(N 2
− 1) (k − 2)
⎧ = 4 s
⎨ A4 cos(2πδ) + B4 , p=m−1 N m=0 3 sin2 Nπ
Fmppm = A4 cos(2πδ) + B5 , p=m+1 . (14)  2 ⎫
⎩ −1 E |Hm |2 − |Ha |2 ⎬
B6 , p = m−1, m, m + 1 N
+ (18)

4N 2 γs4 e−j N ρm,m sin2 (a−m)π ⎭
1 2 2 4
where A1 = 2π , A2 = 3 N (N −1)σs ρm,m+1 , a=m+1 N
(1−e−j N )2
N 2 σs4 ρa,m 2N 2 σs4 ρm,p where the last equation utilizes the fact that
A3 = − 2 (a−m−1)π , A4 = , B1 , B2 , B3 , N −1 2
a=1 cot (aπ/N ) = (N − 1)(N − 2)/3[11].
sin j 2π −j 2π
N (1−e N )(1−e N )
B4 , B5 and B6 are constants independent of δ. Substituting Consequently, Proposition 2 and Proposition 3 can be easily
(14) into (12), we get deduced from (17) and (18).

E |yνk yνk+1 |2 = C  cos(2πδ) + D (15) ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The authors would like to thank the paper Editor and
where D is a constant independent of δ. Due to Proposition six anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and
1, C  in (15) can be given by suggestions.

N −1 
2σs4 (ρm,m−1 + ρm,m+1 ) − 4γs4 ρm,m
C = 2π 2π − R EFERENCES
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