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2004 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 7, NO.

6, JUNE 2008

A New DFT-Based Channel Estimation Approach for


OFDM with Virtual Subcarriers by Leakage Estimation
Kyungchul Kwak, Sungeun Lee, Jihyung Kim, Student Member, IEEE,
and Daesik Hong, Senior Member, IEEE

Abstract—Equidistance in pilot spacing is an essential condi- performance. In this paper, we will call this performance
tion for discrete Fourier transform (DFT)-based channel esti- degradation in DFT-based channel estimation arising from
mation in OFDM systems. However, virtual subcarriers break VCs ”leakage.”
this condition, degrade the estimation performance, and cause
the interference (called ’leakage’) because the orthogonality Earlier attempts to overcome leakage include the windowing
of Fourier matrix is broken. To solve this problem, we first technique in the frequency domain by Baoguo Yang et al[4].
analyze the leakage using the DFT-inverse DFT process. The Dong Li et al estimate the channel frequency responses of
pilot subcarriers inside virtual subcarriers area are estimated pilot subcarriers inside the virtual subcarrier area using Wiener
by the inverse of the estimated leakage. Thus, the equidistance filtering to satisfy pilot-spacing equidistance[5]. Li’s estimator
condition is satisfied. The proposed estimator operates well in
realistic environment such as IEEE 802.16, and it is robust to an can reduce the complexity by adopting robust channel corre-
increase of virtual subcarriers. lation matrix comparing with linear minimum mean square
error (LMMSE) estimator.
Index Terms—Channel estimation, discrete Fourier transform
(DFT), orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM), We propose a new DFT-based channel estimation method
virtual subcarriers. in Section III that is designed to eliminate leakage from VCs.
Before we can develop this approach, however, the leakage
I. I NTRODUCTION must be analyzed, which we do in Section II. The proposed
channel estimation technique satisfies the equidistance condi-

C HANNEL estimation in orthogonal frequency division


multiplexing (OFDM) is generally performed using pilot
subcarriers. The comb-type pilot pattern is adequate for the
tion by the inverse of the estimated leakage. We next compare
our proposal with conventional estimators in Section IV using
simulation results, and we conclude this paper in Section V.
time-varying environment and multiple-input multiple-output
(MIMO) systems considering spectral efficiency, and requires
II. OFDM S YSTEM M ODEL AND C ONVENTIONAL
an interpolation technique between pilot subcarriers[1]. These
C HANNEL E STIMATION IN T IME D OMAIN
interpolation techniques are generally divided into the fre-
quency domain and the time domain. The interpolation tech- A. OFDM System Model
niques used in frequency domain are linear, second order and Let us consider an OFDM system transmitting Ne subcarri-
cubic interpolation[1][11]. Interpolation in the time domain is ers as data and N −Ne VCs out of N subcarriers. The N −Ne
done using DFT-based channel estimation[2]-[5]. If the pilot VCs are needed to control interferences with other systems,
spacing is identical for all pilot subcarriers, and the number of and the number of VCs is denoted as Nvc .
the pilot subcarriers used is greater than the maximum delay Next, let us assume that this system is perfectly synchro-
spread, DFT-based channel estimation has no interpolation nized. In addition, if the channel is time-invariant during one
error and exhibits better spectral efficiency than frequency OFDM symbol, the received frequency-domain data sample at
domain interpolation[2]-[5]. the k-th subcarrier is given as
Conventional OFDM systems such as IEEE 802.16[6] adopt
Y (k) = H(k)S(k) + W (k) , k = 0, 1, ..., N − 1 (1)
virtual subcarriers (VCs) in order to prevent the interference
with other systems and to ease the filter requirements. How- where Y (k), H(k) and S(k) are the received signal, the
ever, the equidistance condition for pilot spacing cannot be channel frequency response, and the transmitted signal, re-
satisfied by VCs, resulting in severely degraded interpolation spectively. W (k) is additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN)
2
with zero mean and variance, σw .
Manuscript received December 19, 2006; revised April 28, 2007 and
September 6, 2007; accepted September 13, 2007. The associate editor coor- Channel estimation is done by inserting pilot subcarriers
dinating the review of this letter and approving it for publication was A Grant. into the transmitted signal. Figure 1 shows the comb-type
This research has been supported by the MIC (Ministry of Information and pilot model considering VCs. Δp represents the spacing
Communication), Korea, under the ITRC (Information Technology Research
Center) support program supervised by the IITA (Institute of Information between pilot subcarriers and the equidistance pilot position
Technology Assessment) and by Korea Science & Engineering Foundation is indicated with ρ(·). Direct current (DC) denotes the start
through the NRL Program (Grant R0A-2007-000-20043-0). of DFT operation. If no VCs are used, all equidistance
K. Kwak, S. Lee, and D. Hong are in the Information and Telecom-
munication Lab. (B715), Dept. of Electrical and Electronic Engin., Yon- pilot subcarriers are positioned in the available bandwidth;
sei Univ., Seoul, Korea (e-mail: chulli@itl.yonsei.ac.kr, {softmind, dae- if VCs are present, however, some of the pilot subcarriers
sikh}@yonsei.ac.kr; homepage:mirinae.yonsei.ac.kr). should be positioned inside the virtual subcarrier area, and
J. Kim is with the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute
(ETRI), Daejeon, Korea (e-mail: savant21@etri.re.kr). the channel frequency responses (CFRs) inside the virtual
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/TWC.2008.061093. subcarrier area couldn’t be thus obtained. Let us assume
1536-1276/08$25.00 
c 2008 IEEE

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IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 7, NO. 6, JUNE 2008 2005

N/2
Δp than LS estimation of CIR and good estimation performance
Virtual subcarriers
when some conditions are satisfied since the complexity of N -
DC
point DFT operation is O (N log N ). The conditions are that
the number of pilot subcarriers is larger than the number of
0 ρ (1) ρ (2) …… ρ ( N pL ) ρ ( N pL + 1) …ρ ( N pL + N pI ) ρ ( N pL + N pI + 1) … ρ ( N p − 1) ρ ( N p ) N-1
channel taps and the distance of consecutive pilot subcarriers
L I R
N p
pilot subcarriers
Pilot subcarrier
N pilot subcarriers
p N pilot subcarriersp is identical to all pilot subcarriers, which involves the leakage
{ ( ) (
outside virtual subcarriers at Φ p = ρ (1) , ρ ( 2 ) ,..., ρ N p , ρ N p + N p + 1 ,..., ρ N p
Out L L I
) ( )} from the loss of orthogonality from DFT-IDFT process when
VCs exist. In order to show the effect of the leakage, DFT-
Virtual pilot subcarrier
{ ( ) ( )
Φ In = ρ N pL + 1 , ρ N pL + 2 ,..., ρ N pL + N pI ( )}
inside virtual subcarriers at p
based channel estimation is introduced in two cases, NpI = 0
Fig. 1. Allocations of pilot subcarriers with respect to virtual subcarriers. and NpI = 0 .
1) When NpI = 0 (no virtual subcarriers): The channel
frequency response (CFR) at the pilot subcarriers is first
that the total number of pilot subcarriers outside the virtual obtained by least squares (LS)
subcarrier area is NpOut , composed of NpL pilot subcarriers ∗
on the left side and NpR pilot subcarriers on the right side H̃ (ρ (p))LS = Y (ρ (p)) S (ρ (p))
. (4)
of the virtual subcarrier area. As shown in Figure 1, be- = H (ρ (p)) + W (ρ (p)) , p = 1, 2, ..., Np
cause NpI CFRs at the equidistance pilot subcarriers inside The distribution of W (ρ(p)) is not changed after multiplying
the virtual subcarrier area are unobtainable, the DFT-based ∗
S (ρ(p)) because S (ρ(p)) has unit transmit power.
channel estimation performance is severely degraded. For the The LS-estimated CFR vector for all pilot subcarriers in
simplicity, let us assume that Np = NpOut +NpI . Then, the pilot ΦOut is denoted as
p
subcarriers outside the virtual subcarrier area are located in the
set ΦOut
p = [ρ(1), ρ(2), ..., ρ(NpL ), ρ(NpL +NpI +1), ..., ρ(Np )]. H̃LS = HLS + WLS , (5)
The set of equidistance position
 L inside  the virtual
 L subcarrier
 where HLS and WLS are the CFR vector and noise vector
area is defined as ΦInp = [ρ N p + 1 , ...., ρ Np + NpI ]. in the LS-estimation for equidistant pilot subcarriers. The p-
th elements of HLS and WLS are H (ρ(p)) and W (ρ(p)),
B. LS Estimation of CIR p = 1, 2, .., NpOut, respectively. A N/Δp -point IDFT of (5) is
A conventional approach to estimate the channel in time represented as
domain is the least square (LS) estimation of channel impulse h̃LS = GH̃LS , (6)
response (CIR)[6]. The vector representation of (1) on the pilot where the N/Δp -point IDFT matrix, G , has the entries,
subcarriers could be shown as j2π (n−1)(m−1)
[G]m,n = √ 1 e N/Δp
, m, n = 1, 2, ..., N/Δp.
N/Δp
Y = SFp h + W , (2) Then, N -point DFT operation is performed to achieve the
where S is a NpOut × NpOut diagonal matrix whose (m, m) CFRs for whole subcarriers
element indicates the m-th pilot subcarrier in the set ΦOut
p H̃DFT = FGH̃LS = AHLS + AWLS = H + AWLS , (7)
and Fp is a NpOut -point DFT matrix whose l-th row is fpl =
 j2π(N Out −1)l
 where the normalized N × Np DFT matrix, F, has the entries,
j2πl j4πl p
− − − (n−1)(m−1)
√ 1
1e
Out
Np
e
Out
Np
...... e
Out
Np
, l ∈ ΦOut
p . [F]m,n = √ 1 e−j2π N , m = 1, 2, ..., N, n =
NpOut N/Δp

h denotes the CIR. 1, 2, ..., N/Δp , and the DFT-interpolation matrix is A = FG.
Then, the LS estimation of CIR can be denoted as (6) and (7) are hold only if the multi-path delays are the integer
times of the sampling interval.
† †
ĥ = (SFp ) Y = h + (SFp ) W , (3) 2) When NpI = 0 (with virtual subcarriers): When VCs
are present, only the CFRs outside the VCs can be achieved,
where † denotes the pseudo inverse of a matrix, and the
so that the LS-estimated CFRs are:
noise
 power of LS estimation
for CIR is calculated as 
 H H (k) + W (k) , k ∈ ΦOut
† † p
tr σw 2
(SFp ) (SFp ) , and tr{·} means the trace of H̃LS = . (8)
zero , k ∈ ΦIn
p
a matrix. Thus, the noise in (3) could be boosted by Fp As (8) clearly shows, it is impossible to obtain the CFRs
when VCs exist. Moreover, the complexity of LS estimation inside the virtual subcarrier area, causing leakage arising from
of CIR  is high because of pseudo inverse whose complexity
3  the loss of orthogonality in the DFT-IDFT process. Based on
is O NpOut . However, this complexity can be reduced (7), the CFRs including the leakage can be written as
by one matrix inverse calculation since the pilot subcarriers vc
in different OFDM symbol are positioned in the same subcar- H̃vc
DFT = H − FĜH + AW LS
, (9)
riers. = H − Ileak + AWLS
where Ĝ is a N/Δp × NpI matrix, and which consists of NpI
C. DFT-based Channel Estimation columns of G from the (NpL +1)-th column to the (NpL +NpI )-
Another approach of channel estimation in time domain is th column. Hvc is a NpI × 1 vector representing the unobtain-
DFT-based channel estimation[4][5]. The advantages of DFT- able CFRs inside the virtual subcarrier area. Ileak = FĜHvc
based channel estimation are that it has lower complexity denotes the leakage interfering with the estimated channel.

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2006 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 7, NO. 6, JUNE 2008

III. P ROPOSED C HANNEL E STIMATION M ETHOD BASED First Step Second Step
ON L EAKAGE E STIMATION (The DFT-based channel estimation (The elimination of leakage)
with leakage)
Rx.
As outlined in Section II-C, the leakage over the estimated Estimate Estimate
signal F LS Est- DFT-based
channels results from the loss of orthogonality in the DFT- H LS
F Channel H vc
IDFT process. Our approach seeks to eliminate it by estimat- T imation Estimation (CFRs at
(CFRs at Φ )
In
ing the leakage and then creating artificial CFRs inside the p
Φ Inp and Φ Out
p )
virtual subcarrier area. This will make it possible to satisfy
equidistance pilot spacing, in turn enabling us to achieve DFT-
Used Φ Out
p , Φp
leak
Φ Out
p
Φ leak
p Φ Out
p , Φp
In

pilot set
based channel estimation without leakage.
Before proceeding to our proposed channel estimation, we
Estimated DFT-based Whitening
first derive the leakage at the k-th subcarrier based on (9) channel Channel
(in order to analyze how the leakage affects the estimation 
H Estimation Noise
Third Step
performance) as
(The DFT-based channel estimation
vc without leakage) Φ Out
p , Φp
In
Φ Out
p , Φp
In
Ileak (k) = fk ĜH
NpI
1

sin Δπ (ρ(NpL +l)−k)
Fig. 2. Block diagram of the proposed channel estimation.
= N/Δp H(ρ(NpL + l)) sin πp ρ(N L +l)−k × (10)
N( )
 l=1  1 
p

L 1
exp jπ ρ(Np + l) − k Δp − N ,
B. The second step : Compensation for leakage

where fk is the k-th row of F. In (10), ρ(NpL + l) − k is After DFT-based channel estimation, the estimated CFR
multiples of Δp for k ∈ ΦOut because the differences between vector, H̃vc DFT , has leakage. Meanwhile, the CFRs at Φp
leak
p
Out are estimated by LS estimation and DFT-based estimation with
all elements
 of Φ p are
 also multiples of Δp . As a result,
leakage. Therefore, based on (10), the leakage at Φleak can be
sin Δπp ρ(NpL + l) − k becomes zero for k ∈ ΦOut p , thus
p
estimated by
Ileak (k) is also zero. These results show the CFRs at ΦOut p vc
are estimated exactly, i.e., there is no leakage. Ĩleak = fρleak (1) ; fρleak (2) ; ...; fρleak (NpI ) ĜH̃
leak
Φp
Estimating the leakage is essential if we wish to create (11)
artificial CFRs inside the virtual subcarrier area, and this can = H̃leak − H̃vc DFT ,
be done using non-comb-type pilot subcarriers. Therefore, Φleak
p

we should identify the position of these additional pilot where [·]Φleak is a subvector containing rows corresponding
subcarriers. p
  leak
to Φp and [A; B] is the vertical concatenation of matrices
The numerator of (10), sin Δπp ρ(NpL + l) − k , is maxi-
A and B. Ĩleak is the estimated leakage vector distributed by
mized when ρ(NpL +l)−k is Δp (m+0.5) and m is an integer, noise. H̃leak is LS-estimated CFR at Φleak p . Figure 3 illustrates
i.e., the leakage could be large at the midpoint between two the leakage estimation process for ITU-R vehicular A channel,
consecutive comb-type pilot subcarriers.
 On the other hand, N = 1024, Nvc = 158, Δp = 32, and SNR = ∞. The
π
the denominator of (10), sin N ρ(NpL + l) − k , decreases solid line and dotted line denote the original CFR, H, and the
as ρ(NpL + l) − k becomes smaller, i.e., the leakage could be DFT-based-estimated CFR, H̃vc DFT , respectively. The leakage
large when k comes as close to the virtual subcarrier area estimation is performed by subtracting the DFT-estimated
as possible. Therefore, in order to estimate the leakage, pilot CFRs from the LS-estimated CFRs at Φleak p .
subcarriers for leakage estimation should be located at the In (11), let us assume the leakage model matrix, L, as
midpoint between two comb-type pilot subcarriers, and as
close to the virtual subcarrier area as possible. The position L = F̂Ĝ = fρleak (1) ; fρleak (2) ; ...; fρleak (NpI ) Ĝ . (12)
set of the NpI pilot subcarriers for estimating the leakage is
defined as Φleak
p = [ρleak (1)ρleak (2)...ρleak (NpI )]. From Theorem 1. in [7], the following condition suggests that
As shown in Figure 2, the proposed channel estimation the leakage model matrix, L, has full rank as NpI since both
procedure is separated into 3 parts. In the first step, DFT- ranks of F̂ and Ĝ are NpI ,
based channel estimation is performed with leakage. In the    
second step, the leakage is estimated and eliminated. DFT- rank F̂Ĝ = rank F̂ , if and only if there are
(13)
based channel estimation can then be performed in the third X such that ĜX = I ,
step without the leakage.
where I is an N/Δp × N/Δp identity matrix. Therefore, the
rank of L is NpI , and L is invertible.
A. The first step : DFT-based channel estimation with leakage Then, the unobtainable CFRs inside the virtual subcarrier
area can be estimated as
LS estimation on ΦOut
p and Φleak
p is performed by (4). DFT- 
based channel estimation is then performed for LS-estimated H̃vc = L−1 H̃leak − H̃vc DFT
CFRs on ΦOut vc
p . The CFRs estimated with the leakage, H̃DFT ,
Φleak
p . (14)
vc −1
are obtained as (9). = H + L [W]Φleak
p

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Virtual subcarrier area


0 Noise boost by pseudo inverse
Original CFR, H 10
vc
1 CFR by DFT estimator, H DFT
Pilot position of ΦOut
p

Pilot position of Φ leak


p
In
Pilot position of Φ p
0.8 MSE improvement achieved
by eliminating the leakage
Amplitude of CFR

-1
10
0.6

MSE
leak
0.4
Estimate the leakages, I leak at Φ p
vc Nvc = 158,Δ p=32, DFT-estimator
I leak = H leak − H DFT
-2 Nvc = 158,Δ p=16, DFT-estimator
In The elimination of leakage 10
0.2
Predict CFRs at Φ p by equi-distance condition Nvc = 158,Δ p=32, LS-estimator of CIR
Nvc = 158,Δ p=32, Proposed estimator
Nvc = 0 ,Δ p=32, DFT-estimator
0
368 384 400 416 432 448 480 512 544 576 592 608 624
Subcarrier 5 10 15 20 25
SNR
Fig. 3. Leakage estimation at Φleak
p , N =1024, Nvc = 158, Δp = 32, SNR
= ∞, ITU-R vehicular A channel. Fig. 4. MSE of the proposed and DFT-based channel estimation via SNR ,
N =1024, Nvc = 158, Δp = 32, ITU-R vehicular A channel.

From (14), we can see that the equidistance condition


of the pilot spacing is satisfied. The CFR estimate at full is set to 2.3GHz. These parameters match the standards
equidistance, HLS , is obtained as of IEEE 802.16[9]. In the vehicular A channel model, the

maximum channel delays are approximately 26 samples of
H̃LS = H̃LLS ; H̃vc ; H̃R
LS = HLS + W̃ , (15)
OFDM signal in the time domain. In order to satisfy the
where H̃LLS and H̃R sampling theorem, the spacing between two consecutive pilot
LS are the LS-estimated CFRs on the left
side and right side of the virtual subcarrier area of ΦOut subcarriers, Δp , must not exceed a value around 32[10].
p ,
To prove the effectiveness of proposed estimator, the pilot
respectively. W̃ = WLS + [0NpL /2×1 ; L−1 [W]Φleak ; 0 Np ×1 ]
R
p spacing, Δp , is set to 32.
and 0NpL ×1 and 0NpR ×1 are zero vectors with lengths NpL and
Figure 4 shows the MSE performances of the DFT-based,
NpR , respectively. LS, and proposed channel estimation via SNR. It is assumed
that the number of VCs is 158, which is also the same as
C. The third step : DFT-based channel estimation without IEEE 802.16[9], ΦOut p = [0, 32, ..., 416, 608, ..., 992], ΦIn
p =
leakage [448, 480, 512, 544, 576] and Φleak
p = [368, 400, 432, 592, 624]
We know from the result of (15) that W̃ is not a white noise for Δp = 32. The square, triangle, and circle mark show
vector. Moreover, the boosted noise, L−1 [W]Φleak , could the simulation results of the DFT-based, LS, and proposed
p
increase the estimation error. For this reason, we can adopt estimator, respectively. In order to prove the robustness against
a whitening process to use with (15) the change of VCs and data-efficiency of the proposed es-
timator, the MSE results of the DFT-based estimator with
−1 −1 −1
Rw̃ 2 H̃LS = Rw̃ 2 HLS + Rw̃ 2 W̃ , (16) (Nvc = 0, Δp = 32) and (Nvc = 158, Δp = 16) are denoted
as the solid line without mark and the dotted line with square
where Rw̃ is a whitening matrix of W̃ and represented as [8]
⎡ ⎤ mark, respectively.
INpL 0 0 The performance of the DFT-based channel estimation
⎢  H ⎥
Rw̃ = ⎣ 0 L−1 L−1 0 ⎦ , (17) does not improve even when the SNR increases, because the
0 0 INpR unobtainable CFRs inside the virtual subcarrier area make a
MSE floor. Despite more pilot subcarriers for the DFT-based
where INpL and INpR are identity matrices whose size are NpL estimator with Δp = 16, the MSE performance of the DFT-
and NpR , respectively. based estimator is severely degraded than that of the proposed
The full set of CFRs after whitening noise can then be estimator due to the leakage. Moreover, compared with the
estimated by DFT-based channel estimation as case of Nvc = 0, the performance degradation of the proposed
  estimator is negligible.
−1 −1
H̃w = ARw̃ 2 H̃LS = H + A Rw̃ 2 − I HLS + W . (18) Because of the noise boost from (3), the MSE of the LS-
estimation is the largest at low SNR among the considered
IV. S IMULATION R ESULTS channel estimation methods. On the other hand, the MSE of
The ITU-R vehicular A channel model was used for our the proposed channel estimation is almost the same as the
simulations[9]. The total number of subcarriers, N , is 1024 lowest MSE when Nvc = 0, because the leakage is eliminated
and the CP length to prevent inter-symbol interference (ISI) is by the estimation of the unobtainable CFRs.
128. The used bandwidth is 10MHz and the carrier frequency The superiority of the proposed channel estimation can

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2008 IEEE TRANSACTIONS ON WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS, VOL. 7, NO. 6, JUNE 2008

SNR=15dB, Δp=16,DFT-based estimator


Noise boost
SNR=15dB, Δp=32,LS-estimator Large Nvc degrades
-1 by pseudo inverse the performance of
10 SNR=15dB, Δp=32,Proposed estimator
LS-estimator
-1
10 SNR=25dB, Δp=16,DFT-based estimator
SNR=25dB, Δp=32,LS-estimator
BER improvement
by eliminating the leakage SNR=25dB, Δp=32,Proposed estimator

MSE
BER

-2
10

Performance degradation
Nvc = 158,Δ p=32,DFT-estimator from the increase of Nvc
Nvc = 158,Δ p=16,DFT-estimator -2
10
Nvc = 158,Δ p=32,LS-estimator of CIR Proposed estimator is
Robust to the increase of Nvc
Nvc = 158,Δ p=32,Proposed estimator
-3
10 Nvc = 0 ,Δ p=32,DFT-estimator
Perfect channel estimation

2 6 10 14 18 22 26 0 30 94 158
SNR Number of virtual subcarriers, Nvc

Fig. 5. BER of the proposed and DFT-based channel estimation via SNR , Fig. 6. MSE of the proposed and DFT-based channel estimation via Nvc ,
N =1024, Nvc = 158, Δp = 32, ITU-R vehicular A channel. SNR=20dB and SNR=30dB, N =1024, Δp = 32, ITU-R vehicular A channel.

also be demonstrated with the bit error rate (BER), which is subcarriers. Analysis and simulations show that the proposed
depicted in Figure 5. The simulation environments of Figure channel estimation method achieves better estimation perfor-
5 are the same as those in Figure 4. BPSK is used for the mance than the conventional method and does so indepen-
modulation. As with Figure 4, the BER for the proposed esti- dently of any increase in the number of virtual subcarriers.
mator is much better than those achieved with the conventional
DFT-based estimator and LS-estimator. ACKNOWLEDGMENT
Figure 6 emphasizes the robustness of the proposed channel The authors would like to thank Mr. Michael Collins for
estimation against an increase in the number of VCs. The his assistance in revising English in this article.
SNRs are fixed at 15dB and 25dB for the comparison of mid-
range SNR and high SNR. The x-axis and y-axis of Figure R EFERENCES
6 are the numbers of VCs and the MSE, respectively. The
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