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Transportation Agents for

On-Scene Networked Incident Management

Orthogonal Frequency Division

Multiplexing for Wireless Networks

Standard IEEE 802.11a





Graduate Student
Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

December, 2000

1. Introduction _______________________________________________________________ 1
2. The Standard IEEE 802.11a _________________________________________________ 5
3. Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance __________________________ 10
4. Propagation Characteristics of mobile radio channels ______________________ 11
4.1. Attenuation____________________________________________________________ 12
4.2. Multipath Effects ______________________________________________________ 12
4.2.1. Rayleigh fading __________________________________________________________ 12
4.2.2. Frequency Selective Fading __________________________________________________ 13
4.3. Delay Spread __________________________________________________________ 14
4.4. Doppler Shift __________________________________________________________ 15
5. OFDM ____________________________________________________________________ 16
5.1. General Structure______________________________________________________ 16
5.2. Implementation________________________________________________________ 18
5.2.1. Guard time and cyclic extension _______________________________________________ 20
5.2.2. Windowing_____________________________________________________________ 20
5.3. Forward Error Correction Coding ______________________________________ 22
5.3.1. Block Codes ____________________________________________________________ 22
5.4. Interleaving ___________________________________________________________ 24
6. Synchronization __________________________________________________________ 26
6.1. Synchronization Using Special Training Symbols_________________________ 29
7. Detection _________________________________________________________________ 31
7.1. Coherent Detection ____________________________________________________ 32
7.2. Two-Dimensional Channel Estimators ___________________________________ 33
8. Simulation ________________________________________________________________ 36
Conclusion__________________________________________________________________ 38
Acknowledgements __________________________________________________________ 39
References__________________________________________________________________ 39
Figure 1. Concept of OFDM signal: orthogonal multicarrier technique..........................................2
Figure 2. Spectra of (a) an OFDM subchannel and (b) and OFDM signal. .....................................3
Figure 3. 5-Ghz frequency spectrum allocation ................................................................................7
Figure 4. IEEE 802.11a frame format for 5 GHz. .............................................................................8
Figure 5. IEEE 802.11a channel scheme.........................................................................................10
Figure 6. Typical Rayleigh fading while the Mobile Unit is moving (900 MHz)[11] .....................13
Figure 7. Multipath Delay Spread ...................................................................................................15
Figure 8 OFDM modulator..............................................................................................................17
Figure 9. Block diagram of an OFDM transceiver..........................................................................19
Figure 10. OFDM frame with cyclic extension and windowing for (a) single ................................21
Figure 11. Convolutional encoder (k = 7) .......................................................................................22
Figure 12. BER of the (16,11,4) RM code and rate 2/3 memory 2 and 3 ........................................24
Figure 13. Convolutional interleaver ..............................................................................................26
Figure 14. Synchronization using the cyclic prefix..........................................................................26
Figure 15. Received phasor, showing effect of noise on the received phase angle .........................28
Figure 16. OFDM training structure ...............................................................................................30
Figure 17. Block diagram of an OFDM receiver with coherent detection......................................32
Figure 18. Pilot Sequence Generator ..............................................................................................34
Figure 19. Pilot Frequency Allocation ............................................................................................34
Figure 20. Simulink OFDM Model ..................................................................................................36
Figure 21. OFDM Signal Spectrum .................................................................................................37
Figure 22. Received constellation for a given amout of noise.........................................................38

Table 1. Typical attenuation in a radio channel ..............................................................................12
Table 2. Cumulative distribution for Rayleigh distribution [11] .....................................................13
Table 3. Typical Delay Spread [11].................................................................................................15
Table 4. Physical layer parameters. ................................................................................................19
Table 5. Physical layer parameters. ................................................................................................20

Abstract. Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) is a special case of

multicarrier transmission, where a single datastream is transmitted over a number of lower rate
subcarriers. In July 1998, the IEEE standardization group decided to select OFDM as the
basis for their new 5-GHz standard, targeting a range of data stream from 6 up to 54 Mbps.
This new standard is the first one to use OFDM in packet-based communications, while the
use of OFDM until now was limited to continuous transmission systems.
In this project, transmitter and receiver were simulated according to the parameters
established by the standard, to evaluate the performance and different possibilities in the
implementation. Also, some considerations about forward error correction coding,
synchronization and channel estimation are given oriented to improve the system performance.

1. Introduction
OFDM is of great interest by researchers and research laboratories all over the
world. It has already been accepted for the new wireless local area network standards IEEE
802.11a, High Performance LAN type 2 (HIPERLAN/2) and Mobile Multimedia Access
Communication (MMAC) Systems. Also, it is expected to be used for wireless broadband
multimedia communications.

Data rate is really what broadband is about. The new standard specify bit rates of up
to 54 Mbps. Such high rate imposes large bandwidth, thus pushing carriers for values
higher than UHF band. For instance, IEEE802.11a has frequencies allocated in the 5- and
17- GHz bands.

This project is oriented to the application of OFDM to the standard IEEE 802.11a,
following the parameters established for that case.

OFDM can be seen as either a modulation technique or a multiplexing technique.

One of the main reasons to use OFDM is to increase the robustness against frequency
selective fading or narrowband interference. In a single carrier system, a single fade or
interferer can cause the entire link to fail, but in a multicarrier system, only a small
percentage of the subcarriers will be affected. Error correction coding can then be used to
correct for the few erroneous subcarriers. The concept of using parallel data transmission
and frequency division multiplexing was published in the mid-1960s [1, 2]. Some early

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development is traced back to the 1950s [3]. A U.S. patent was filed and issued in January
1970 [4].

In a classical parallel data system, the total signal frequency band is divided into N
nonoverlapping frequency subchannels. Each subchannel is modulated with a separate
symbol and then the N subchannels are frequency-multiplexed. It seems good to avoid
spectral overlap of channels to eliminate interchannel interference. However, this leads to
inefficient use of the available spectrum. To cope with the inefficiency, the ideas proposed
from the mid-1960s were to use parallel data and FDM with overlapping subchannels, in
which, each carrying a signaling rate b is spaced b apart in frequency to avoid the use of
high-speed equalization and to combat impulsive noise and multipath distortion, as well as
to fully use the available bandwidth.

Figure 1. Concept of OFDM signal: orthogonal multicarrier technique

versus conventional multicarrier technique

Figure 1 illustrates the difference between the conventional nonoverlapping

multicarrier technique and the overlapping multicarrier modulation technique. As shown in
Figure 1, by using the overlapping multicarrier modulation technique, we save almost 50%
of bandwidth. To realize the overlapping multicarrier technique, however we need to

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reduce crosstalk between subcarriers, which means that we want orthogonality between the
different modulated carriers.

The word orthogonal indicates that there is a precise mathematical relationship

between the frequencies of the carriers in the system. In a normal frequency-division
multiplex system, many carriers are spaced apart in such a way that the signals can be
received using conventional filters and demodulators. In such receivers, guard bands are
introduced between the different carriers and in the frequency domain, which results in a
lowering of spectrum efficiency.

It is possible, however, to arrange the carriers in an OFDM signal so that the

sidebands of the individual carriers overlap and the signals are still received without
adjacent carrier interference. To do this, the carriers must be mathematically orthogonal.
The receiver acts as a bank of demodulators, translating each carrier down to DC, with the
resulting signal integrated over a symbol period to recover the raw data. If the other
carriers all beat down the frequencies that, in the time domain, have a whole number of
cycles in the symbol period T, then the integration process results in zero contribution from
all these other carriers. Thus, the carriers are linearly independent (i.e., orthogonal) if the
carrier spacing is a multiple of 1/T.

(a) (b)
Figure 2. Spectra of (a) an OFDM subchannel and (b) and OFDM signal.

Much of the research focuses on the high efficient multicarrier transmission scheme
based on "orthogonal frequency" carriers. In 1971, Weinstein and Ebert applied the
discrete Fourier transform (DFT) to parallel data transmission systems as part of the
modulation and demodulation process. Figure 2(a) shows the spectrum of the individual
data of the subchannel. The OFDM signal, multiplexed in the individual spectra with a

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frequency spacing b equal to the transmission speed of each subcarrier, is shown in Figure
1(b). Figure 2 shows that at the center frequency of each subcarrier, there is no crosstalk
from other channels. Therefore, if we use DFT at the receiver and calculate correlation
values with the center of frequency of each subcarrier, we recover the transmitted data with
no crosstalk. In addition, using the DFT-based multicarrier technique, frequency-division
multiplex is achieved not by bandpass filtering but by baseband processing.

Moreover, to eliminate the banks of subcarrier oscillators and coherent demodulators

required by frequency-division multiplex, completely digital implementations could be
built around special-purpose hardware performing the fast Fourier transform (FFT), which
is an efficient implementation of the DFT . Recent advances in very-large-scale integration
(VLSI) technology make high-speed, large-size FFT chips commercially affordable. Using
this method, both transmitter and receiver are implemented using efficient FFT techniques
that reduce the number of operations from N2 in DFT down to N log N.

In the 1980s, OFDM was studied for high-speed modems, digital mobile
communications, and high-density recording. One of the systems realized the OFDM
techniques for multiplexed QAM using DFT, and by using pilot tone, stabilizing carrier
and clock frequency control and implementing trellis coding are also implemented.
Moreover, various-speed modems were developed for telephone networks.

In the 1990s, OFDM was exploited for wideband data communications over mobile
radio FM channels, high-bit-rate digital subscriber lines (HDSL; 1.6 Mbps), asymmetric
digital subscriber lines (ADSL; up to 6 Mbps), very-high-speed digital subscriber lines
(VDSL; 100 Mbps), digital audio broadcasting (DAB), and high-definition television
(HDTV) terrestrial broadcasting.

The OFDM transmission scheme has the following key advantages:

ü Makes efficient use of the spectrum by allowing overlap

ü By dividing the channel into narrowband flat fading subchannels, OFDM is more
resistant to frequency selective fading than single carrier systems are.
ü Eliminates ISI and IFI through use of a cyclic prefix.
ü Using adequate channel coding and interleaving one can recover symbols lost due to
the frequency selectivity of the channel.
ü Channel equalization becomes simpler than by using adaptive equalization
techniques with single carrier systems.
ü It is possible to use maximum likelihood decoding with reasonable complexity, as
discussed in OFDM is computationally efficient by using FFT techniques to
implement the modulation and demodulation functions.

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ü In conjunction with differential modulation there is no need to implement a channel

ü Is less sensitive to sample timing offsets than single carrier systems are.
ü Provides good protection against cochannel interference and impulsive parasitic

In terms of drawbacks OFDM has the following characteristics:

ü The OFDM signal has a noise like amplitude with a very large dynamic range,
therefore it requires RF power amplifiers with a high peak to average power ratio.
ü It is more sensitive to carrier frequency offset and drift than single carrier systems
are due to leakage of the DFT.

2. The Standard IEEE 802.11a

The IEEE 802.11 specification is a wireless LAN (WLAN) standard that defines a set
of requirements for the physical layer (PHY) and a medium access control (MAC) layer.
For high data rates, the standard provides two PHYs - IEEE 802.11b for 2.4-GHz operation
and IEEE 802.11a for 5-GHz operation. The IEEE 802.11a standard is designed to serve
applications that require data rates higher than 11 Mbps in the 5-GHz frequency band.

The wireless medium on which the 802.11 WLANs operate is different from wired
media in many ways. One of those differences is the presence of interference in unlicensed
frequency bands, which can impact communications between WLAN NICs. Interference
on the wireless medium can result in packet loss, which causes the network to suffer in
terms of throughput performance.

Current 2.4-GHz 802.11b radios handle interference well because they support a
feature in the MAC layer known as fragmentation. In fragmentation, data frames are
broken into smaller frames in an attempt to increase the probability of delivering packets
without errors induced by the interferer.

When a frame is fragmented, the sequence control field in the MAC header
indicates placement of the individual fragments and whether the current fragment is the last
in the sequence. When frames are fragmented into request-to-send (RTS), clear-to-send
(CTS), and acknowledge (ACK), control frames are used to manage the data transmission.
Therefore, using fragmentation, designers can avoid interference problems in their WLAN

But interference is not the only problem for today's WLAN designers. Security
issues are also a major concern. To solve potential security problems, the IEEE has

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incorporated a MAC-level privacy mechanism within the 802.11 specification, which

protects the content of data frames going over a wireless medium from eavesdroppers. The
mechanism, dubbed wired equivalent privacy (WEP), is an encryption engine that takes the
contents of the entire data frame and passes them through an encryption algorithm. The
encrypted data frames are transmitted with the WEP bit set in the frame control field of the
MAC header. The received encrypted data frames are decrypted using the same encryption
algorithm employed by the sending unit.

The encryption algorithm used by 802.11 is RC4. RC4 is a symmetric stream cipher
developed by RSA Data Security, Inc. that supports variable key lengths up to 256 bits.
The standard specifies a 40-bit key, but many 802.11-compliant products shipping today
support key lengths of up to 128 bits.

In order for a mobile station to communicate with other mobile wireless NICs in a
given service area, it must first locate those wireless NICs or access points. To enable
communication between the mobile station and the NIC, active and passive scanning
techniques are supported in the MAC.

Passive scanning involves listening for traffic only on an 802.11 network. Passive
scanning allows a mobile wireless NIC to find an IEEE 802.11 network while minimizing
DC power consumption. In this mode, the wireless NIC listens for special frames called
beacons and probe responses, while extracting information about the particular frequency
channel. Although passive scanning expends minimal power, the cost is the time spent
listening for a frame on a channel that is idle or may never occur.

Active scanning, on the other hand, requires the scanning wireless NIC to transmit
and receive responses from 802.11 wireless NICs and access points. Active scanning
allows the mobile wireless NIC to interact with another wireless NIC or access point. The
802.11 standard does not specify a method for scanning. However, many WLAN OEMs
support both methods and variants to differentiate their products in the market.

When developing WLAN systems, choosing the right modulation and frequency
band should be a priority in RF design, especially when designing IEEE 802.11a radios.
For the past decade, WLAN systems have been designed to operate in the unlicensed 2.4-
GHz frequency band. The 2.4-GHz band provides 83 MHz of total contiguous bandwidth,
spanning from 2.4 to 2.483 GHz.

Moving to the 5-GHz band offers over three times the operating bandwidth over the
available spectrum in the 2.4-GHz band. The 5-GHz band is also less susceptible to
interference, unlike the 2.4-GHz unlicensed band, which shares spectrum with other
wireless appliances such as Bluetooth devices.

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There are, however, a few things to consider when switching to 5 GHz. The first is
that the frequency allocation isn't contiguous across the band, and the transmit power levels
are restricted depending on which block of frequency is occupied. Secondly, in order to
achieve the same effective range as covered in the 2.4-GHz band, the transmit power of a
5-GHz system must be slightly increased. As a designer of 5-GHz radios, these issues must
be carefully considered in product development.

In the US, 300 MHz of bandwidth is allocated in the 5-GHz band to WLANs under
the rules of the Unlicensed-National Information Infrastructure (U-NII). The bandwidth is
fragmented into two blocks that are noncontiguous across the 5-GHz band.

In Europe, only Hiperlan WLANs are allowed to operate in the 5-GHz frequency
band. A total of 455 MHz of spectrum is allocated for Hiperlan radios. The frequency
spectrum allocations for each of the geographic regions are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. 5-Ghz frequency spectrum allocation

It's important to point out that although the PHY specifications for IEEE 802.11a
are similar to the Hiperlan2, radios compliant with the 802.11a specification are not
allowed to operate in the 5-GHz band according to ETSI rules. Efforts are under way by
IEEE 802 and ESTI together with the ITU-R to harmonize a global allocation of 5-GHz
spectrum for WLANs. Global harmonization could occur by late 2001.

When the IEEE 802.11 began evaluating proposals for 802.11a, the working group
adopted a joint proposal from NTT and Lucent that recommended orthogonal frequency

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division multiplexing (OFDM) as the baseline technology for 5-GHz WLAN systems.
OFDM was chosen because of its superior performance in combating fading multipath.
This battle is extremely important, particularly in applications that transmit streaming

During the development of the 802.11a specification, ESTI was charging ahead with
a 5-GHz WLAN project called Hiperlan2. They too adopted OFDM. For the most part, the
PHY for 802.11a is similar to Hiperlan2. The differences between the two standards are
minimal and reside in the method by which convolution encoding is used to generate the
OFDM symbols and data rates. But it has been said that by making the convolution
encoder a programmable feature in the baseband processor, the same silicon can be used to
support both standards. This is an extremely attractive feature for those who want to
develop products for both standards. Unfortunately, the MAC layers are very different.

In the U-NII band, eight carriers are spaced across 200 MHz in the lower spectrum
(5.150 - 5.350 GHz) and four carriers are spaced across 100 MHz in the upper spectrum
(5.725 - 5.825 GHz). The channels are spaced 20 MHz apart, which allows for high bit
rates per channel. The channel scheme used for 5 GHz is illustrated in figure 4.

Figure 4. IEEE 802.11a frame format for 5 GHz.

As figure 2 illustrates, there are 52 subcarriers per channel in the 5-GHz band. Of
these channels, only 48 carry actual data. The remaining four subcarriers are used as pilot
tones, which assist in phase tracking for coherent demodulation. The duration of the guard
interval is equal to 800 ns, which provides excellent performance on channels with delay
spread of up to 250 ns. To efficiently use the spectrum provided in the 5-GHz range,
designers of IEEE 802.11a systems use OFDM techniques. OFDM is a unique form of
multicarrier modulation. The basic concept is to transmit high data rate information into

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several interleaved, parallel bit streams and let each of these bit streams modulate a
separate sub carrier. In this way, the channel spectrum is passed into a number of
independent, non-selective frequency sub-channels for transmission between wireless NICs
and access points.

The OFDM modulation technique is generated through the use of complex signal
processing approaches such as fast Fourier transforms (FFTs) and inverse FFTs in the
transmitter and receiver sections of the radio. One of the benefits of OFDM is its strength
in fighting the adverse effects of multipath propagation with respect to intersymbol
interference in a channel. OFDM is also spectrally efficient because the channels are
overlapped and contiguous.

OFDM is well tested and has been adopted by a number of standards bodies for
several applications, including a wired global standard for asymmetric digital subscriber
line (ADSL) and for digital audio broadcasting (DAB) in the European market.

To complement OFDM, the IEEE 802.11a specification also offers support for a
variety of other modulation and coding alternatives. For example, the standard allows
engineers to combine BPSK, QPSK, and 16-QAM modulations with convolution encoding
(R = 1/2 and constraint length seven) to generate data rates of 6, 12, and 24 Mbps. All
other combinations of encoding rates, including R = 2/3 and R = 3/4 combined with 64-
QAM, are used to generate rates up to 54 Mbps, which are optional in the standard.

During development of the 802.11a standard, the IEEE 802.11 working group
carefully optimized the PHY for traffic transmitting multimedia content such as streaming
video. The packet date frame defined in the 802.11a specification consists of the PHY
header, PHY layer convergence protocol (PLCP) and the payload (PSDU). This is similar
to the structure used in the IEEE 802.11b specification.

The first field of the PLCP header is called the preamble. The preamble consists of
12 symbols, which are used to synchronize the receiver. The second field is the signal
field. The signal field is used to indicate the rate at which the OFDM symbols of the PSDU
payload are transmitted.

The PLCP header is always BPSK modulated and convolution encoded at R = 1/2.
The PSDU packet payload is modulated and transmitted at the rate indicated in the signal
field. This rate is variable from 6 up to 54 Mbps. The structure of the packet data frame is
illustrated in figure 5.

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Figure 5. IEEE 802.11a channel scheme

3. Carrier Sense Multiple Access/Collision Avoidance

Since different physical transmission layers are supported by IEEE 802.11, the
wireless MAC protocol should be transparency to physical layers, which include Direct
Sequence Spread Spectrum (DSSS), Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS)
diffused infrared and recently OFDM. Since spectrum is a scare resource above all
different physical layers, the throughput and packet delay performance is one of the most
critical considerations in the design of a wireless MAC protocol.

The basic protocol level in the 802.11 MAC protocol is the Distributed
Coordination Function (DCF), which supports asynchronous communication between
multiple users [5]. The DCF allows sharing medium between similar and dissimilar
systems through the use of the CSMA/CA and a random back off delay algorithm. The
CSMA/CA is similar to the Carrier Sense Multiple Access with Collision Detection
(CSMA/CD) used in a Ethernet. As the Ethernet, the CSMA/CA uses carrier-sense
mechanism to determine whether other terminals are using the medium. If a channel is
sensed idle, the packet transmission is started immediately in both cases. However, if the
channel is sensed busy, the CSMA/CA and the CSMA/CD operate differently to resolve
the contention. In the case of the CSMA/CD, when a terminal senses a busy channel, it
waits until the channel goes idle and then it transmits a packet with probability one. When
two or more terminals are waiting to transmit, a collision is absolutely occurred because
each terminal will transmit immediately at the end of channel busy period. While a
terminal, operates in the CSMA/CA protocol, senses the busy channel, it waits until the
channel goes idle and waits for delay period, which is called backoff delay. In the
CSMA/CA, the collision probability between multiple terminals under above situation is
reduced since a random backoff arrangement is used to resolve medium contention
conflicts. The Collision Detection (CD) function detects collisions in the CSMA/CD, but
the CD function is not viable in wireless LANs because the dynamic range of signals in the
medium is very large. Thus, packet transmission errors are increased in wireless

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communication environments. The IEEE 802.11 MAC protocol supports coexisting

asynchronous and time-bounded services using different priority levels with different Inter
Frame Space (IFS) delay controls.

Three kinds of IFS are used to support three backoff priorities such as a Short IFS
(SIFS), a Point coordination function IFS (PIFS) and Distributed Coordination function
IFS (DIFS); SIFS is the shortest IFS and is used for all immediate response actions which
include ac-knowledgement (ACK) packet transmissions, Clear To Send (CTS) packet
transmissions and contention-free response packet transmissions. PIFS is a middle length
IFS and is used for terminal polling in time-bounded services. DIFS is the longest IFS and
is used as a minimum delay for asynchronous transmission in the contention period.
A random backoff algorithm of the IEEE 802.11 MAC is similar to that of
Ethernet.The slot time is the sum of transmitter turn-on time, medium propagation delay
and medium busy detect response time. In wireless communication environments, packet
transmission suffers from “hidden terminal”, so IEEE 802.11 MAC protocol provides three
alternative ways of packet transmission flow control [5]. First, actual data packet is only
used for packet transmission which is called Basic CSMA/CA. Second, immediate positive
acknowledgements are employed to confirm the successful reception of each packet. We
call this scheme Stop-and-Wait (SW) CSMA/CA. The last is 4-Way Handshake (4-WH)
CSMA/CA which use Request
To Send (RTS) and Clear To Send (CTS) packets prior to the transmission of the actual
packet. The packet transmission flow of three kinds of CSMA/CA is summarized as follow

1. Basic CSMA/CA: Data – Data - …

2. SW CSMA/CA: Data - ACK - Data - ACK - …
3. 4WH CSMA/CA: RTS - CTS - Data - ACK -…

4. Propagation Characteristics of mobile radio channels

In an ideal radio channel, the received signal would consist of only a single direct
path signal, which would be a perfect reconstruction of the transmitted signal. However in
a real channel, the signal is modified during transmission in the channel. The received
signal consists of a combination of attenuated, reflected, refracted, and diffracted replicas
of the transmitted signal. On top of all this, the channel adds noise to the signal and can
cause a shift in the carrier frequency if the transmitter, or receiver is moving (Doppler
effect). Understanding of these effects on the signal is important because the performance
of a radio system is dependent on the radio channel characteristics.

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4.1. Attenuation
Attenuation is the drop in the signal power when transmitting from one point to
another. It can be caused by the transmission path length, obstructions in the signal path,
and multipath effects. Any objects, which obstruct the line of sight signal from the
transmitter to the receiver, can cause attenuation.
Shadowing of the signal can occur whenever there is an obstruction between the
transmitter and receiver. It is generally caused by buildings and hills, and is the most
important environmental attenuation factor.
Shadowing is most severe in heavily built up areas, due to the shadowing from buildings.
However, hills can cause a large problem due to the large shadow they produce. Radio
signals diffract off the boundaries of obstructions, thus preventing total shadowing of the
signals behind hills and buildings. However, the amount of diffraction is dependent on the
radio frequency used, with low frequencies diffracting more then high frequency signals.
Thus high frequency signals, especially, Ultra High Frequencies (UHF), and microwave
signals require line of sight for adequate signal strength. To over come the problem of
shadowing, transmitters are usually elevated as high as possible to minimise the number of
obstructions. Typical amounts of variation in attenuation due to shadowing are shown in
table 1.

Description Typical Attenuation due to Shadowing

Heavily built-up urban center 20dB variation from street to street
Sub-urban area (fewer large buildings) 10dB greater signal power then built-up urban center
Open rural area 20dB greater signal power then sub-urban areas
Terrain irregularities and tree foliage 3-12dB signal power variation
Table 1. Typical attenuation in a radio channel

Shadowed areas tend to be large, resulting in the rate of change of the signal power
being slow. For this reason, it is termed slow-fading, or log-normal shadowing.

4.2. Multipath Effects

4.2.1. Rayleigh fading

In a radio link, the RF signal from the transmitter may be reflected from objects
such as hills, buildings, or vehicles. This gives rise to multiple transmission paths at the

The relative phase of multiple reflected signals can cause constructive or destructive
interference at the receiver. This is experienced over very short distances (typically at half
wavelength distances), thus is given the term fast fading. These variations can vary from

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10-30dB over a short distance. Figure 6 shows the level of attenuation that can occur due to
the fading.

Figure 6. Typical Rayleigh fading while the Mobile Unit is moving (900 MHz)[11]

The Rayleigh distribution is commonly used to describe the statistical time varying
nature of the received signal power. It describes the probability of the signal level being
received due to fading. Table 2 shows the probability of the signal level for the Rayleigh

Signal Level % Probability of Signal

(dB about median) Level being less than the
value given
10 99
0 50
-10 5
-20 0.5
-30 0.05
Table 2. Cumulative distribution for Rayleigh distribution [11]

4.2.2. Frequency Selective Fading

In any radio transmission, the channel spectral response is not flat. It has dips or
fades in the response due to reflections causing cancellation of certain frequencies at the
receiver. Reflections off near-by objects (e.g. ground, buildings, trees, etc) can lead to
multipath signals of similar signal power as the direct signal. This can result in deep nulls
in the received signal power due to destructive interference.

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For narrow bandwidth transmissions if the null in the frequency response occurs at
the transmission frequency then the entire signal can be lost. This can be partly overcome
in two ways.

By transmitting a wide bandwidth signal or spread spectrum as CDMA, any dips in

the spectrum only result in a small loss of signal power, rather than a complete loss.
Another method is to split the transmission up into many small bandwidth carriers, as is
done in a COFDM/OFDM transmission. The original signal is spread over a wide
bandwidth thus, any nulls in the spectrum are unlikely to occur at all of the carrier
frequencies. This will result in only some of the carriers being lost, rather then the entire
signal. The information in the lost carriers can be recovered provided enough forward error
corrections is sent.

4.3. Delay Spread

The received radio signal from a transmitter consists of typically a direct signal, plus
reflections of object such as buildings, mountings, and other structures. The reflected
signals arrive at a later time than the direct signal because of the extra path length, giving
rise to a slightly different arrival time of the transmitted pulse, thus spreading the received
energy. Delay spread is the time spread between the arrival of the first and last multipath
signal seen by the receiver.

In a digital system, the delay spread can lead to inter-symbol interference. This is
due to the delayed multipath signal overlapping with the following symbols. This can
cause significant errors in high bit rate systems, especially when using time division
multiplexing (TDMA). Figure 7 shows the effect of inter-symbol interference due to delay
spread on the received signal. As the transmitted bit rate is increased the amount of inter-
symbol interference also increases. The effect starts to become very significant when the
delay spread is greater then ~50% of the bit time.

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Figure 7. Multipath Delay Spread

Table 3 shows the typical delay spread that can occur in various environments. The
maximum delay spread in an outdoor environment is approximately 20µsec, thus
significant intersymbol interference can occur at bit rates as low as 25kbps.

Environment or cause Delay Spread Maximum Path

Length Difference
Indoor (room) 40nsec - 12m - 60 m
Outdoor 1usec - 20usec 300m - 6km
Table 3. Typical Delay Spread [11]

Inter-symbol interference can be minimized in several ways. One method is to

reduce the symbol rate by reducing the data rate for each channel (i.e. split the bandwidth
into more channels using frequency division multiplexing). Another is to use a coding
scheme, which is tolerant to intersymbol interference such as CDMA.

4.4. Doppler Shift

When a wave source and a receiver are moving relative to one another the frequency
of the received signal will not be the same as the source. When they are moving toward
each other the frequency of the received signal is higher then the source, and when they are
approaching each other the frequency decreases. This is called the Doppler effect. An

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

example of this is the change of pitch in a car’s horn as it approaches then passes by. This
effect becomes important when developing mobile radio systems.

The amount the frequency changes due to the Doppler effect depends on the relative
motion between the source and receiver and on the speed of propagation of the wave. The
Doppler shift in frequency can be written: [10]
∆f ≈ ± f 0
where ∆f is the change in frequency of the source seen at the receiver, fo is the frequency of
the source, v is the speed difference between the source and transmitter, and c is the speed
of light.

For example: Let fo= 5.9 GHz, and v = 80km/hr = 22.22m/s (50 miles/hr aprox) then
the Doppler shift will be:
22.22m / s
f 0 = 5.9 x10 9 Hertz = 437 Hz
3 x10 8 m / s
This shift of 437Hz in the carrier will generally not effect the transmission.
However, Doppler shift can cause significant problems if the transmission technique is
sensitive to carrier frequency offsets or the relative speed is higher, which is the case for
OFDM. If we consider now a link between to cars moving in opposite directions, each one
with a speed of 80 km/hr, the Doppler shift will be double.


5.1. General Structure

The basic principle of OFDM is to split a high-rate datastream into a number of
lower rate streams that are transmitted simultaneously over a number of subcarriers. The
relative amount of dispersion in time caused by multipath delay spread is decreased
because the symbol duration increases for lower rate parallel subcarriers. The other
problem to solve is the intersymbol interference, which is eliminated almost completely by
introducing a guard time in every OFDM symbol. This means that in the guard time, the
OFDM symbol is cyclically extended to avoid intercarrier interference.

An OFDM signal is a sum of subcarriers that are individually modulated by using

phase shift keying (PSK) or quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). The symbol can be
written as:

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

ì N2S −1 ü
ï i + 0.5 ï
s (t ) = Reí å d i + N S / 2 exp( j 2π ( f c − )(t − t s ))ý , t S ≤ t ≤ t S + T
ïi = − N S T ï
î 2 þ
s (t ) = 0, t < t S and t > t S + T
where :
NS is the number of subcarriers
T is the symbol duration
fc is the carrier frequency

The equivalent complex baseband notation is given by:

s (t ) = åd NS
i+ N S / 2 exp( j 2π
(t − t s )) , tS ≤ t ≤ tS + T
i =−

s (t ) = 0, t < t S and t > t S + T

In this case, the real and imaginary parts correspond to the in-phase and quadrature
parts of the OFDM signal. They have to be multiplied by a cosine and sine of the desired
frequency to produce the final OFDM signal. Figure 8 shows the block diagram for the
OFDM modulator.

Serial .
. OFDM signal
QAM data to .

Figure 8 OFDM modulator

The complex baseband OFDM signal defined the equation (1) is the inverse Fourier
transform of Ns QAM input symbols. The time discrete case is the inverse discrete Fourier
transform. In practice, this transform can be implemented very efficiently by the inverse
fast Fourier transform (IFFT). The IFFT drastically reduces the amount of calculations by
exploiting the regularity of the operations in the IDFT.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

5.2. Implementation
In practice, the OFDM signal for the standard IEEE 802.11a is generated as follows:
In the transmitter, binary input data is encoded by a rate ½ convolutional encoder. The rate
can be increased to 2/3 and ¾. After interleaving, the binary values are converted to QAM
values. Four pilot values are added each 48 data values, resulting in a total of 52 QAM
values per OFDM symbol. The symbol is modulated onto 52 subcarriers by applying the
Inverse Fast Fourier Transform (IFFT). The output is converted to serial and a cyclic
extension is added to make the system robust to multipath propagation. Windowing is
applied after to get a narrower output spectrum. Using an IQ modulator, the signal is
converted to analog, which is upconverted to the 5 GHz band, amplified, and transmitted
through the antenna.

Basically, the receiver performs the reverse operations of the transmitter, with
additional training tasks. In the first step, the receiver has to estimate frequency offset and
symbol timing, using special training symbols in the preamble. After removing the cyclic
extension, the signal can be applied to a Fast Fourier Transform to recover the 52 QAM
values of all subcarriers. The training symbols and the pilot subcarriers are used to correct
for the channel response as well as remaining phase drift. The QAM values are then
demapped into binary values, and finally a Viterbi decoder decodes the information bits.

Figure 9 shows the block diagram of an OFDM modem, including the transmitter
and the receiver. The IFFT modulates a block of input QAM values onto a number of
subcarriers. In the receiver, the subcarriers are demodulated by the FFT, which is the
reverse operation of the IFFT. These two operations are almost identical. In fact, the IFFT
can be made using an FFT by conjugating input and output of the FFT and dividing the
output by the FFT size. This makes it possible to use the same hardware for both the
transmitter and the receiver. Of course, this saving in complexity is only possible when the
modem does not have to transmit and receive simultaneously, which is the case for the

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Add cyclic
IQ modulator extension

FEC Encoder Interleaving QAM Mapping Pilot Insertion Serial to Parallel to

Binary Parallel Serial
input data IFFT (TX)


Channel Parallel to Serial to

FEC Decoder Deinterleaving QAM demapping Parallel
Correction Serial

AGC Amp Frequency

Timing and signal Remove
IQ Detector frequency cyclic
synchronization extension
AFC Clock

Figure 9. Block diagram of an OFDM transceiver

In case of the standard IEEE 802.11a, the parameters for the physical layer (e.g. for
OFDM) are as follows:

Data rate Modulation Coding rate Coded bits per Coded bits per Data bits per
(Mbits/s) (R) subcarrier OFDM symbol OFDM symbol
6 BPSK 1/2 1 48 24
9 BPSK 3/4 1 48 36
12 QPSK 1/2 2 96 48
18 QPSK 3/4 2 96 72
24 16-QAM 1/2 4 192 96
36 16-QAM 3/4 4 192 144
48 64-QAM 2/3 6 288 192
54 64-QAM 3/4 6 288 216
Table 4. Physical layer parameters.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Parameter Value
NSD : Number of data subcarriers 48
NSP : Number of pilot subcarriers 4
NS : Number of subcarriers, total 52 (NSD + NSP)
∆F : Subcarrier frequency spacing 0.3125 MHz (=20 MHz/64)
TFFT : IFFT/FFT period 3.2 µs (1/∆F)
TPREAMBLE : PLCP preamble duration 16 µs (TSHORT + TLONG)
TSIGNAL : Duration of the SIGNAL BPSK-OFDM symbol 4.0 µs (TGI + TFFT)
TGI : GI duration 0.8 µs (TFFT /4)
TGI2 : Training symbol GI duration 1.6 µs (TFFT /2)
TSYM : Symbol interval 4 µs (TGI + TFFT)
TSHORT : Short training sequence duration 8 µs (10 ×TFFT /4)
TLONG : Long training sequence duration 8 µs (TGI2 + 2×TFFT)
Table 5. Physical layer parameters.

5.2.1. Guard time and cyclic extension

One of the most important problems in for wireless communications is the multipath
delay spread. OFDM deals with it very efficiently. The parallel transmission implies that
the input datastream is divided in NS subcarriers and the symbol duration is made NS times
smaller, which also reduces the relative multipath delay spread, relative to the symbol time,
by the same factor.

The intersymbolic interference is almost completely eliminated by introducing a

guard time for a each OFDM symbol. The guard time is chosen larger than the expected
delay spread such that multipath components from one symbol cannot interfere with the
next symbol. This guard time could be no signal at all but the problem of intercarrier
interference (ICI) would arise. Then, the OFDM symbol is cyclically extended in the guard
time. Using this method, the delay replicas of the OFDM symbol always have an integer
number of cycles within the FFT interval, as long as the delay is smaller than the guard
time. Multipath signals with delays smaller than the guard time cannot cause ICI.

If multipath delay exceeds the guard time by a small fraction of the FFT interval
(for example 3%), the subcarriers are not orthogonal anymore, but the interference is still
small enough to get a reasonable constellation. Considering that the multipath delay
exceeds the guard time by 10% of the FFT interval, the constellation is seriously affected
and an unacceptable error rate is obtained.

5.2.2. Windowing
Essentially, an OFDM signal consists of a number of unfiltered QAM subcarriers.
This means that the out-of-band spectrum decreases rather slowly, following a sinc

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

function. For larger number of subcarriers, the spectrum goes down rapidly in the
beginning, which is caused by the fact that the sidelobes are closer together.

To make the spectrum decrease faster, windowing is applied to the OFDM signal.
The standard doesn’t specify the kind of window to be used but an example is included
using the following function [5]:
ì 2æπ æ t ö ö÷ TTR T
ïsin çç çç 0.5 + ÷÷
÷ for (− < t < TR )
ï 2
è è T TR ø ø 2 2
ïï TTR T
wT (t ) = í1 for ( ≤ t < T − TR ) (2)
ï 2 2
ï 2æπ æ t − T ö ö÷ TTR T
ïsin çç çç 0.5 − ÷ for (T − ≤ t < T + TR )
ïî è2è TTR ÷ø ÷ø 2 2

considering that TTR is the transition time between two consecutive periods of FFT, as it
can be seen in Figure .

Figure 10. OFDM frame with cyclic extension and windowing for (a) single
reception or (b) two receptions of the FFT period

Figure 10 also illustrates the possibility of extending the windowing function over
more than one period, TFFT , and additionally shows smoothed transitions by application of
a windowing function, as exemplified in Equation (2). In particular, window functions that
extend over multiple periods of the FFT are utilized in the definition of the preamble.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Several other conventional windows were simulated including raised cosine, Hann,
Hamming, Blackman and Kaiser. The best performance was obtained for the Blackman
window, considering the resulting stopband attenuation and the transition bandwidth.

5.3. Forward Error Correction Coding

According to the standard, data must be encoded with a convolutional encoder of
coding rate R = 1/2, 2/3, or 3/4, corresponding to the desired data rate. The convolutional
encoder uses the industry-standard generator polynomials, g0 = 1338 and g1 = 1718 of rate
R = 1/2, as shown in Figure 11.
Output data A

Input data Tb Tb Tb Tb Tb Tb Tb

Output data B

Figure 11. Convolutional encoder (k = 7)

The bit denoted as “A” shall be output from the encoder before the bit denoted as
“B”. Higher rates are derived from it by employing “puncturing”. Puncturing is a
procedure for omitting some of the encoded bits in the transmitter reducing the number of
transmitted bits and increasing the coding rate, and inserting a dummy “zero” metric into
the convolutional decoder on the receive side in place of the omitted bits. Decoding by the
Viterbi algorithm is recommended.

Even thought the convolutional code is established by the standard, block codes
may be more desirable in certain applications, such as packet voice or data
communications, in which the length of the packet may be made equal to a multiple of the
code length. In these applications, block codes are more attractive than convolutional
codes, since the memory of the convolutional codes must be brought to a known state to
terminate the trellis, which lowers the effective code rate.

5.3.1. Block Codes

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

A block code encodes a block of k input symbols into n coded symbols, with n
being larger than k. The purpose of adding the redundant n-k symbols is to increase the
minimum Hamming distance, which is the minimum number of different symbols between
any pair of code words. For a minimum Hamming distance of dmin, the code can correct t
errors where t is given by:
æ d −1ö
t ≤ floor ç min ÷ (3)
è 2 ø

The minimum Hamming distance is upperbound by the number of redundant

symbols n-k as:
d min ≤ n − k + 1 (4)
For binary codes, only repetition codes and single-parity check codes reach this
upperbound. A class of nonbinary codes that doesn’t reach the above bound are the Reed-
Solomon codes. Because of their good distance properties and the availability of efficient
coding and decoding algorithms, Reed-Solomon codes are the most popularly used block
codes. Reed-Solomon codes are defined for block symbols with m bits per symbol, where
the code length n is related to m by:
n = 2m −1
The number of input symbols k is related to m and the required minimum Hamming
distance dmin as:
k = 2 m − d min
There appears to be little flexibility in the available code lengths. However, a Reed-
Solomon code can easily be shortened to any arbitrary length by leaving a number of input
bits zero and deleting the same amount of output bits. It is also possible to extend the code
length to a power of 2 by adding an extra parity symbol.

Using equations (3) and (4), a Reed-Solomon code can correct up to floor ((n-k)/2)
erroneous symbols. Each symbol contains m bits, so a maximum amount of m floor((n-
k)/2) erroneous bits may be corrected. If the Reed-Solomon code is designed to correct up
to two symbol errors containing 8 bits per symbol, it cannot correct an arbitrary
combination of three bit errors, as these errors can occur in three different symbols. This
characteristic makes Reed-Solomon codes particularly useful for correcting bursty
channels. The OFDM link in presence of fading multipath is a very good application for
this code.

Another block codes is the Reed-Muller code [6]. Using the Viterbi algorithm with
soft decision it results a very attractive implementation.

Using the results from [7], the performance of this code can be evaluated and
compared with that of convolutional codes. Also, compared with other block codes, Reed–

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Muller codes are preferable where soft decision decoding is required since they have a
simple structure, resulting in computationally manageable decoding.

Figure compares the performance of the (16,11,4) RM code with rate 2/3, memory 2
and 3 punctured convolutional codes [8]. This figure shows that the performance curve of
the (16,11,4) RM code falls midway between that of the two convolutional codes.

Figure 12. BER of the (16,11,4) RM code and rate 2/3 memory 2 and 3

5.4. Interleaving

Because of the frequency fading of typical radio channels, the OFDM subcarriers
generally have different amplitudes. Deep fades in the spectrum may cause groups of
subcarriers to be less reliable than others, thereby causing bit errors to occur in bursts
rather than being randomly scattered. Interleaving is applied to randomize the occurrence
of bit errors prior to decoding. At the transmitter, the coded bits are permuted in a certain
way, which makes sure that adjacent bits are separated by several bits after interleaving.

According to the standard, all data bits must be interleaved by a block interleaver
with a block size corresponding to the number of bits in a single OFDM symbol, NCBPS.
The interleaver is defined by a two-step permutation. The first permutation ensures that
adjacent coded bits are mapped onto nonadjacent subcarriers. The second ensures that
adjacent coded bits are mapped alternately onto less and more significant bits of the
constellation and, thereby, long runs of low reliability (LSB) bits are avoided.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Considering k the index of the coded bit before the first permutation, i the index
after the first and before the second permutation and j the index after the second
permutation, just prior to modulation mapping, the first permutation is defined by the rule:

i = (NCBPS/16) (k mod 16) + floor(k/16) k = 0,1,…,NCBPS–1

The function floor (.) denotes the largest integer not exceeding the parameter.

The second permutation is defined by the rule:

j = s × floor(i/s) + (i + NCBPS–floor(16 × i/NCBPS)) mod s i=0,1,… NCBPS–1

The value of s is determined by the number of coded bits per subcarrier, NBPSC, according

s = max(NBPSC /2,1)

The deinterleaver, which performs the inverse relation, is also defined by two
permutations. Here, j denotes the index of the original received bit before the first
permutation, I the index after the first and before the second permutation, and k the index
after the second permutation, just prior to delivering the coded bits to the convolutional
(Viterbi) decoder. The first permutation is defined by the rule:

i = s × floor(j/s) + (j + floor(16 × j/NCBPS)) mod s j = 0,1,… NCBPS–1

s = max(NBPSC /2,1)

The second permutation is defined by the rule:

k = 16 × i –(NCBPS–1)floor(16 × i/NCBPS) i = 0,1,… NCBPS–1

Instead of a block interleaver, it is possible to use a convolutional interleaver. Figure 13

shows a convolutional interleaver. The interleaver cyclically writes each input symbol or
bit into one of the K shift registers that introduce a delay of 0 to k-1 symbol durations.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Input T T Output
data data



Figure 13. Convolutional interleaver

6. Synchronization
Before an OFDM receiver can demodulate the subcarriers, it has to perform at least
two synchronization tasks. The first one is to find out where the symbol boundaries are and
what the optimal timing instants are to minimize the effects of intercarrier interference
(ICI) and intersymbol interference (ISI). The second task is to estimate and correct the
carrier frequcncy offset of the received signal to avoid the ICI.

Also, for coherent receivers, the carrier phase has to be synchronized. Further, a
coherent QAM receiver needs to detect the amplitudes and phases of all subcarriers to
define the decision boundaries for the QAM cosntellation of each subcarrier.

Usually, the OFDM received signal has a frequency offset, which immediately
results in ICI. This means that the subcarries are not perfectly orthogonal, producing phase

Using the cyclic prefix an considering that the first TG seconds of each symbol is
identical to the last part, this property can be exploited for both timing and frequency
synchronization, using a system showed in figure 14.

Phase of Frequency
Conjugation maximum offset

OFDM Maximum
ò dt Timming
TG correlation

Figure 14. Synchronization using the cyclic prefix

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

This device correlates a TG long part of the signal with a part that is T seconds
delayed. The output can be written as [12]:

x(t ) = ò r (t − τ )r (t − τ − T )dτ

The correlation function produce several peaks, corresponding to the different

symbols and the peak amplitudes show a significant variation. The reason for this is that
although the average power for a T-seconds interval of each OFDM symbol is constant, the
power in the guard time can substantially vary from this average power level. Another
effect is the level of the undesired correlation sidelobes between the main correlation
peaks. These sidelobes reflect the correlation between two pieces of the OFDM signal that
belong partly or totally to two different OFDM symbols. Because different OFDM
symbols contain independent data values, the correlation output is a random variable,
which may reach a value that is larger than the desired correlation peak. The standard
deviation of the random correlation magnitude is related to the number of independent
samples over which the correlation is performed. The larger the number of independent
samples, the smaller the standard deviation is. In the extreme case where the correlation is
performed over only one sample, the output magnitude is proportional to the signal power,
and there is no distinct correlation peak in this case. In the other extreme case where the
correlation is performed over a very large number of samples, the ratio of sidelobes-to-
peak amplitude will go to zero. Because the number of independent samples is proportional
to the number of subcarriers, the cyclic extension correlation technique is only effective
when a large number of subcarriers are used, preferably more than 100. An exception to
this is the case where instead of random data symbols, specially designed training symbols
are used. In this case, the integration can be done over the entire symbol duration instead of
the guard time only. The level of undesired correlation sidelobes can be minimized by a
proper selection of the training symbols.

The phase of the correlation output is equal to the phase drift between samples that
are T seconds apart. Hence, the frequency offset can simply be found as the correlation
phase divided by 2πT. This method works up to a maximum absolute frequency offset of
half the subcarrier spacing. To increase this maximum range, shorter symbols can be used,
or special training symbols with different PN sequences on odd and even subcarrier
frequencies to identify a frequency offset of an integer number of subcarrier spacings [13].

The noise performance of the frequency offset estimator is now determined for an
input signal r(t) that consists of an OFDM signal s(t) with power P and additive Gaussian
noise n(t) with a one-sided noise power spectral density of N0 within the bandwidth of the
OFDM signal:

r(t) = s(t) + n(t)

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

The frequency offset estimator multiplies the signal by a delayed and conjugated
version of the input to produce an intermediate signal y(t) given by [13]

y(t) = r(t)r*(t - T) = |s(t)|2 exp(jφ) + n(t)s*(t - T)+ n*(t - T)s(t) + n(t)n*(t - T) (5)

The first term in the right-hand side of the equation 5 is the desired output
component with a phase equal to the phase drift over a T-second interval and a power
equal to the squared signal power. The next two terms are products of the signal and the
Gaussian noise. Because the signal and noise are uncorrelated, and because noise samples
separated by T seconds are uncorrelated, the power of the two terms is equal to twice the
product of signal power and noise power.

Finally, the power of the last term is equal to the squared noise power. If the input
SNR is much larger than one, the power of the squared noise component becomes
negligible compared with the power of the other two noise terms.

The frequency offset is estimated by averaging y(t) over an interval equal to the
guard time TG and then estimating the phase of y(t). Because the desired output component
of ( ) is a constant vector, averaging reduces the noise that is added to this vector.
Assuming that the squared noise component may be neglected, the output SNR is
approximated as [13].
SNR0 ≅ = G
2 PN 0 / TG 2 N 0

Figure show the effect of noise on the received phase angle. If we let the amplitude
of the transmitted signal be 1, and the length of the noise vector be A with angle f, then the
received phase error is θerr.

Figure 15. Received phasor, showing effect of noise on the received phase angle

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Using trigonometry,



The signal to ratio determines the relative amplitude of the received signal and the
noise level. Since the signal is scaled to an amplitude of 1, the amplitude of the noise is:

The SNR is base on the amplitudes of the signals thus must be scaled correctly
when converting it to dB.
Substituting this in,

6.1. Synchronization Using Special Training Symbols

The synchronization technique based on the cyclic extension is particularly suited to
tracking or to blind synchronization in a circuit-switched connection, where no special
training signals are available. For packet transmission, however, there is a drawback
because an accurate synchronization needs an averaging over a large (>10) number of
OFDM symbols to attain a distinct correlation peak and a reasonable SNR. For high-rate
packet transmission, the synchronization time needs to be as short as possible, preferably a
few OFDM symbols only. To achieve this, special OFDM t symbols can be used for which
the data content is known to the receiver. In this, the entire received training signal can be
used to achieve synchronization, whereas the cyclic extension method only uses a fraction
of each symbol.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

According to [5], the physical layer convergence procedure (PLCP) preamble field
is used for synchronization. It consists of 10 short symbols and 2 long symbols, shown in
figure 16.

Figure 16. OFDM training structure

Figure 16 shows the OFDM training structure (PLCP preamble), where t1 to t10
denote short training symbols and T1 and T2 denote long training symbols. The PLCP
preamble is followed by the SIGNAL field and DATA. The total training length is 16 µs.
The dashed boundaries in the figure denote repetitions due to the periodicity of the inverse
Fourier transform.

A short OFDM training symbol consists of 12 subcarriers, which are modulated by

the elements of the sequence S, given by

S–26, 26 = 13 / 6 × {0, 0, 1+j, 0, 0, 0, –1–j, 0, 0, 0, 1+j, 0, 0, 0, –1–j, 0, 0, 0, –1–j, 0, 0, 0,

1+j, 0, 0, 0, 0,0, 0, 0, –1–j, 0, 0, 0, –1–j, 0, 0, 0, 1+j, 0, 0, 0, 1+j, 0, 0, 0, 1+j,
0, 0, 0, 1+j, 0,0}

The multiplication by a factor of is in 13 / 6 order to normalize the average power of

the resulting OFDM symbol, which utilizes 12 out of 52 subcarriers.

The fact that only spectral lines of S–26:26 with indices that are a multiple of 4 have
nonzero amplitude results in a periodicity of TFFT/4 = 0.8 µs. The interval TSHORT is equal to
ten 0.8 µs periods (i.e., 8 µs).

A long OFDM training symbol consists of 53 subcarriers plus a zero value at dc,
which are modulated by the elements of the sequence L, given by

L–26, 26 = {1, 1, –1, –1, 1, 1, –1, 1, –1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, –1, –1, 1, 1, –1, 1, –1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 0,1,
–1, –1, 1, 1, –1, 1, –1, 1, –1, –1, –1, –1, –1, 1, 1, –1, –1, 1, –1, 1, –1, 1, 1, 1, 1}

This information is used, also, to estimate the channel and to improve the system

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

The receiver has to perform two operations: tracking and acquisition. During the
tracking mode, only small frequency fluctuations have to be corrected. But during the
acquisition mode the frequency offset can take large values. This is the most challenging
task to be managed by the synchronizer structure.

During the tracking mode, it can be assume that the remaining frequency offset is
substantially smaller than ∆F/2, with ∆F representing the subcarrier frequency spacing (for
the standard, ∆F=0.3125MHz [5]). Considering just one subchannel, then this frequency
synchronization problem is similar to that in case of single carrier problem. Therefore,
frequency estimation algorithms derived from maximum likelihood theory [14] can be used
in this case. The underlying principle of these frequency algorithms is that the frequency
estimation problem can be reduced to a phase estimation problem by considering the phase
shift between two subsequent subchannel samples. The influence of the modulation is
removed in this case by the multiplication with the conjugate complex value of the
transmitted symbols.

The known symbols are taken from the training sequence and the pilot signals. In
several papers, like [14], it is recommended to transmit the synchronization sequences in
different channels instead of doing it over a single subchannel. They should be spread
uniformly over the whole frequency domain. That is how the standard implement it.

Equations (6) and (7) in [15] describe generalized estimators for this cases. In order
to avoid a large decoder performance degradation due to the crosstalk, it may be necessary
to correct the frequency offset prior to the demodulation even during the tracking mode. It
is theoretically possible to correct a small offset on the subchannel level. In practice, this
will depend on the maximum magnitude of the frequency offset which the tracking unit has
to cope with.

The acquisition process should be performed fast. The special acquisition training
preamble should be avoided to increase the transmission efficiency. Using the same
training synchronization symbols from the pilot signals, the operation involved in
acquiring an initial frequency offset estimate coincides with the search operation for the
training symbols transmitted on the channel. The acquisition rule is based on the fact that
the magnitude of the correlation function reaches a maximum, if the estimation coincides
with the received frequency. The acquisition time is directly proportional to the frequency
range to be scanned, depending of the expected Doppler value in the channel.

7. Detection
In an OFDM link, the data bits are modulated on the subcarriers by some form of
phase shift keying (PSK) or quadrature amplitude modulation (QAM). To estimate the bits

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

at the receiver, knowledge is required about the reference phase and amplitude of the
constellation on each subcarrier. In general, the constellation of each subcarrier shows a
random phase shift and amplitude change, caused by carrier frequency offset, timing offset,
and frequency selective fading. To cope with these unknown phase and amplitude
variations, two different approaches exist. The first one is coherent detection, which uses
estimates of the reference amplitudes and phases to determine the best possible decision
boundaries for the constellation of each subcarrier. The main issue with coherent detection
is how to find the reference values without introducing too much training overhead. The
second approach is differential detection, which does not use absolute reference values, but
only looks at the phase and/or amplitude differences between two QAM values.
Differential detection can be done both in the time domain and in the frequency domain. In
the first case, each subcarrier is compared with the subcarrier of the previous OFDM
symbol. In the case of differential detection in the frequency domain, each subcarrier is
compared with the adjacent subcarrier within the same OFDM symbol. Differential
detection implies differential encoding, which is not the case for the standard IEEE
802.11a, so this last case will not be treated.

7.1. Coherent Detection

Figure 17 shows a block diagram of a coherent OFDM receiver. After
downconversion and analog-to-digital conversion, the fast Fourier transform (FFT) is used
to demodulate the N subcarriers of the OFDM signal. For each symbol, the FFT output
contains N QAM values. However, these values contain random phase shifts and amplitude
variations caused by the channel response, local oscillator drift, and timing offset. It is the
task of the channel estimation block to learn the reference phases and amplitudes for all
subcarriers, such that the QAM symbols can be converted to binary soft decisions.

RF ADC FFT Coherent Deinterleaving Decoding Binary

Receiver Detection Output


Figure 17. Block diagram of an OFDM receiver with coherent detection.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

7.2. Two-Dimensional Channel Estimators

In general, radio channels are fading both in time and in frequency. Hence, a
channel estimator has to estimate time-varying amplitudes and phases of all subcarriers.
One way to do this is to use a two-dimensional channel estimator that estimates the
reference values based on a few known pilot values. In this case, the signal has 4
subcarriers containing known pilot values to allow the estimation.

To be able to interpolate the channel estimates both in time and frequency from the
available pilots, the pilot spacing has to fulfill the Nyquist sampling theorem, which states
that the sampling interval must be smaller than the inverse of the double-sided bandwidth
of the sampled signal. For the case of OFDM, this means that there exist both a minimum
subcarrier spacing and a minimum symbol spacing between pilots. By choosing the pilot
spacing much smaller than these minimum requirements, a good channel estimation can be
made with a relatively easy algorithm. The more pilots are used, however, the smaller the
effective SNR, becomes that is available for data symbols. Hence, the pilot density is a
tradeoff between channel estimation performance and SNR loss.

To determine the minimum pilot spacing in time and frequency, we need to find the
bandwidth of the channel variation in time and frequency, These bandwidths are equal to
the Doppler spread Bd in the time domain and the maximum delay spread τmax in the
frequency domain [16]. Hence, the requirements for the pilot spacings in time and
frequency st and sf are
st < 1/Bd

sf < 1/τmax

These simple equations can be used to estimate the theoretical limits of the standard.
In terms of Doppler effect, and considering that the pilot signals are transmitted
continuously, the pilot spacing in time is not a limitation.

The spacing in frequency imposes a limit to the delay spread. The pilots signal are
the subcarriers number –21, -7, 7 and 21. This means that the spacing between pilots is
4.375MHz (21×0.3125MHz). In these conditions, the maximum delay spread τmax to be
allowed is 228 nsec.

In the literature, there are several algorithms to estimate the OFDM channel the one
explained in [12]. This algorithm can be used with the parameters indicated by the
standard. According to it, the pilots must be BPSK modulated by a pseudo binary sequence
to prevent the generation of spectral lines.The contribution of the pilot subcarriers for the
nth OFDM symbol is produced by Fourier transform of sequence P, given by:

December, 2000 Page 33 - 40

OFDM for Wireless Networks

P –26, 26 = {0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0,0, 0, 0, 0, 0,

0, 1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, –1, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0}

The polarity of the pilot subcarriers is controlled by the sequence, p n , which is a

cyclic extension of the 127 elements sequence and is given by:

p 0..126 = {1,1,1,1, -1, -1, -1,1, -1, -1, -1, -1, 1,1, -1,1, -1, -1,1,1, -1,1,1, -1, 1,1,1,1,
1,1, -1,1,1,1, -1,1, 1, -1, -1,1, 1,1, -1,1, -1, -1, -1,1, -1,1,-1,-1, 1,-1,-1,1,
1,1,1,1, -1,-1,1,1,-1,-1,1,-1, 1,-1,1,1, -1,-1,-1,1, 1,-1,-1,-1, -1,1,-1,-1, 1,-1,1,1,
1,1,-1,1, -1,1,-1,1,-1,-1,-1,-1, -1,1,-1,1, 1,-1,1,-1, 1,1,1,-1, -1,1,-1,-1, -1,1,1,1,
-1,-1,-1,-1, -1,-1,-1}

The sequence, pn can be generated by the scrambler defined by figure 18 when the
“all ones” initial state is used, and by replacing all “1’s” with –1 and all “0’s” with 1. Each
sequence element is used for one OFDM symbol.

X7 X6 X5 X4 X3 X2 X1

Figure 18. Pilot Sequence Generator

The subcarrier frequency allocation is shown in figure 19.

Figure 19. Pilot Frequency Allocation

The channel estimation techniques were designed to estimate a channel that varied
both in time and frequency. These techniques are especially suitable for continuous
transmission systems such as Digital Audio Broadcasting or Digital Video Broadcasting.
Even thought the standard has previsions about it, according to [12] they are not very
suited for packet-type communications for two reasons. First, in many packet transmission

December, 2000 Page 34 - 40

OFDM for Wireless Networks

systems, such as wireless LAN, the packet length is short enough to assume a constant
channel during the length of the packet. This means there is no need to estimate time
fading, which greatly simplifies the channel estimation problem. Second, using pilots
scattered over several OFDM data symbols introduces a delay of several symbols before
the first channel estimates can be calculated. Such a delay is undesirable in packet
transmission like in an IEEE 802.11 wireless LAN, which requires an acknowledgment to
be sent after each packet transmission. Any delay in the reception of a packet will also
delay the acknowledgment and hence decrease the effective throughput of the system. An
additional disadvantage is the fact that the receiver needs to buffer several OFDM symbols,
thereby requiring extra hardware.

However, for applications with fading and strong Doppler effect, like the signal
between a car in movement and an access point in a highway, the pilot signals can be
useful to improve the BER. The mobile channel introduces multipath distortion of the
signaling waveforms. Both the amplitude and phase are corrupted and the channel
characteristics changes because of movements of the mobile. In order to perform coherent
detection, reliable channel estimates are required.

The problem is to decide where and how often to insert pilot symbols. The spacing
between the pilot symbols shall be chosen small enough to enable reliable channel
estimates but large enough not to increase the overhead too much.

In a multicarrier system there exist a unique opportunity to determine various parts

of the channel impulse response, as opposed to a single-carrier system. It is no use to make
efforts to determine already known parts. The impact of pilot signals was analyzed by
Cavers in [17] who made an exhaustive theoretical analysis for single-carrier systems. He
pointed out that it was appropriate that 14% of the sent symbols were pilot symbols to be
able to handle large Doppler values (fdTS = 0.05). This means that the standard pilot
scheme could be redundant. Also, Tufvesson and Maseng [18] analyzed several pilot
patterns specifically for OFDM systems, arriving to the conclusion that the ability to
estimate the channel reliably when it changes due to e.g. vehicle movements is highly
dependent on the pilot pattern used. By rearranging the pilot pattern it is, in some cases,
possible to handle 10 times higher Doppler frequency and to reduce the number of needed
pilot symbols the same amount, still retaining the same bit error rate. Alternatively the new
pilot pattern could be used to reduce the bit error rate up to a factor 5, even more in a low
noise environment. For a given propagation environment, e.g. a base station site, it is
possible to precalculate a suitable pilot pattern. This is an alternative to improve the
standard performance in terms of throughput.

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

8. Simulation
The OFDM system was modeled using Matlab to allow various parameters of the
system to be varied and tested, including those established by the standard. The aim of
doing the simulations was to measure the performance of OFDM under different channel
conditions, and to allow for different OFDM configurations to be tested.
OFDM Modulation and Demodulation
Run "Parameters.m" in the Workspace before simulation

C 1
Random int Block MATLAB MATLAB Complex to
Encoder A-QASK Time
interleave Function Function Real
Random Data PIlot Insertion zeropad
Convolutional Interleave Mapping Serial to parallel
IQ Modulator Subsystem Window Add cyclic Im(u)
Function Parallel to serial Extension IFFT
blackman MATLAB Complex to
Out1 In1 IFFT Time
Function Imag


Buffered FFT
Frame Scope
Complex Complex
Rayl Fading Rician Noise

Complex Rayleigh fading Additive Rician Noise AWGN


FFT Out1 In1
Function Function

Commutator2 Remove zeros FFT Remove cyclic Serial to parallel1 IQ Demodulator Subsystem
simout1 C1 1

A-QASK To Workspace
interleave Viterbi Decoder
A-map QASK Pulse
demod baseband Interleave1
Viterbi Decoder
Rece iver

Out1 0
In1 Out1 In2

Error counter Subsystem

Delay Subsystem
The following routines must be included in the path:
Run "constellation" after the simulation zerounpad.m
in the workspace to watch the received constellation cyclic.m

Figure 20. Simulink OFDM Model

December, 2000 Page 36 - 40

OFDM for Wireless Networks

Using MatLab 5.3 and Simulink the OFDM transceiver was simulated. The model
can be seen in figure 20

The simulation includes all the stages for transceiver and receiver, according to the
standard. Because of the Matlab sampling time, the transmission was implemented in
baseband to avoid long periods of simulation.

Considering Gaussian and Rician noise and Rayleigh fading effect, a good
approximation to the real performance can be observed, over all in the degradation of the
BER. Also the channel effect can be observed in the output constellation before the Viterbi
decoder using some routines in MatLab.

In figure 21, the OFDM signal spectrum can be seen corresponding to a random
binary input sequence. According to the standard, the 0 (DC) input must be set to zero in
the IFFT implementation. This can be clearly observed at frequency zero on the graph.





B 15
d 10
a 5



-8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8
Frequency (MHz)

Figure 21. OFDM Signal Spectrum

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OFDM for Wireless Networks

Using the 64QAM modulation scheme, the signal is observed after the QAM
demodulator with the distortion due to the noise. The effect of the channel over the
constellation can be seen in the figure 22.

Figure 22. Received constellation for a given amout of noise


The IEEE802.11 Standard Committee has developed the standard for wireless
networks with a 5GHz PHY layer and OFDM modulation. But, the industry has not offered
any interface yet. Many companies are still researching and developing, over all for the
receiver, which is the key part of the system. The standard does not give rules about it and
its implementation is up to the designer.

According to the simulations, OFDM appears to be a good modulation technique for

high performance wireless telecommunications. Some factors were not tested here like
peak power clipping, start time error and the effect of frequency stability errors.

The codification used for the system could be improved, just using block codes
instead of convolutional codes, but this fact would be out of the standard. Also, the pilot
signal distribution could be modified to reduce the redundancy.

December, 2000 Page 38 - 40

OFDM for Wireless Networks

The use of channel estimation is a very interesting function to be added to the

receiver to make the system more resistant to fading and Doppler effects, over all, if it is
going to be used aboard of cars in a highway.

Wireless LAN is a very important application for OFDM and the development of
the standard promises to have not only a big market but also application in many different


I would like to thank my supervisor Dr Ronald Iltis for the suggestions, ideas and
advise. I would also like to thank Mr Ramez Gerges and Prof Stephen Pope for their
support, and talks to keep me on track.

Finally, I would like to thank my family for the patience during the writing of this


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