Adaptive Power Loading for OFDM-based

Cognitive Radio Systems
Gaurav Bansal, Md. Jahangir Hossain, and Vijay K. Bhargava
University of British Columbia, 2356 Main Mall
Vancouver, BC, V6T 1Z4, Canada
Email: {gauravbs, jahangir, vijayb}@ece.ubc.ca
Abstract—Cognitive radio (CR) technology is an innovative ra-
dio design philosophy which aims to increase spectrum utilization
by exploiting unused spectrum in dynamically changing environ-
ments. Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) is a
potential modulation technique for CR networks’ air interface. In
this paper, we study and explore optimal power loading algorithm
for an OFDM-based CR system and the rate in each subcarrier is
adjusted according to the power. As such the downlink capacity of
the CR user is maximized while the interference introduced to the
primary user remains within a tolerable range. We also propose
two suboptimal loading algorithms that have less complexity. The
performance of optimal and suboptimal schemes are compared
with the performance of classical power loading algorithms that
are used for conventional OFDM-based systems e.g., water-filling
and uniform power but variable rate loading schemes. Presented
numerical results show that for a given interference threshold
the proposed optimal scheme allows the CR users to transmit
more power in order to achieve higher transmission rate than
the classical loading algorithms. These results also show that
the proposed suboptimal schemes offer a performance close to
the optimal scheme. Finally, we study the effect of subcarrier
nulling mechanism on the performance of different algorithms
under consideration.
Keywords: 1) Cognitive radio, 2) Opportunistic spectrum
access, 3) OFDM, 4) Link adaptation, and 5) Interference
reduction.
I. INTRODUCTION
Radio spectrum is one of the most scarce and valuable
resources for wireless communications. Given this fact, new
insights into the use of spectrum have challenged the tradi-
tional approaches to the spectrum management. Actual mea-
surements have shown that most of the allocated spectrum
is largely underutilized [1]. Spectrum-Policy Task Force ap-
pointed by Federal Communications Commissions (FCC) has
also reported similar views about the underutilization of the
allocated spectrum [2].
Spectral efficiency can be increased significantly by giving
opportunistic access of the frequency bands to a group of
potential users (referred to as secondary or CR users) for
whom the band has not been licensed. Cognitive radio (CR)
has been proposed as a way to improve spectrum efficiency by
exploiting unused spectrum in dynamically changing environ-
ments. The CR design is an innovative radio design philosophy
which involves smartly sensing the swaths of spectrum and
then determining the transmission characteristics (e.g., symbol
rate, power, bandwidth, latency) of a group of secondary users
based on the behavior of the users to whom the spectrum
has been licensed (referred to as primary users). Although
opportunistic spectrum access would allow CR user to identify
and access available spectrum resources, one of the main
concerns is to utilize the available spectrum resources in an
efficient manner.
Due to great flexibility in dynamically allocating the unused
spectrum among the CR users as well as the easy analysis of
the spectral activity of the primary users [3], in literature or-
thogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) has already
been recognized as a potential transmission technology for CR
systems. Since both CR and primary users may exist in side by
side band and their access technologies may be different, the
mutual interference is the limiting factor for performance of
both networks. Specifically, in [4] the authors have shown that
using OFDM modulation causes mutual interference between
the primary and the CR users due to the non-orthogonality of
the transmitted signals. The amount of interference introduced
to the primary user’s band by a CR user’s subcarrier depends
on the power allocated in that subcarrier as well as the spectral
distance between the subcarrier and the primary user’s band.
The authors have also studied the effect of subcarriers’ nulling
mechanism which reduces the interference in the primary
user’s band.
In order to exploit the time varying nature of fading gains
across the OFDM subcarriers, power loading algorithms have
been proposed in literature [5]. These algorithms have maxi-
mized the transmission capacity of an OFDM system and are
useful for conventional wireless networks where there is only
one group of users i.e., primary users. Since there is a mutual
interference between CR and primary users when both type
of users co-exist in side by side band, use of the classical
loading algorithms e.g., uniform power but variable rate and
water-filling algorithms for CR users may result in higher
mutual interference in the primary users’ band. Throughout the
paper we consider CR downlink scenario where interference
introduced to the primary users is the limiting factor but not the
transmit power of CR user. In fact such an interference limited
scenario limits the transmit power as well as the achievable
transmission rate of CR users. Hence, the design problem is
that given an interference threshold prescribed by the primary
users, how much power should be transmitted into each CR
user’s subcarrier such that the transmission rate of the CR user
is maximized.
According to the classical power loading schemes e.g.,
1-4244-0353-7/07/$25.00 ©2007 Crown Copyright
This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.
water-filling, more power should be loaded into the subcar-
rier which has higher channel gain. However the amount of
interference, introduced by allowing transmission in a CR
user’s subcarrier, depends on the location of the subcarrier with
respect to the primary user’s spectrum. From the interference
point of view, more power should be loaded into a distant
subcarrier. Therefore, it requires a judicious loading policy
which not only consider the fading gain of the subcarrier but
also the spectral distance of the subcarrier from the primary
user’s band.
Motivated by the aforementioned challenging task and the
interference model studied in [4], in this paper, we propose an
optimal power loading scheme using Lagrange formulation.
This loading scheme maximizes the downlink transmission
capacity of the CR users while keeping the interference
induced to the primary users below a specified threshold.
As the complexity of the optimal scheme can be quite high
for practical implementation, we also propose two suboptimal
schemes. In a related work, the authors in [6] have proposed
an unequal bit loading algorithm for a non-contiguous (NC)-
OFDM-based CR system. In NC-OFDM based transmission
system, subcarriers, which could potentially interfere with
other users’ transmission, are deactivated. Further we study the
effect of subcarrier nulling mechanism on the performance of
different algorithms under consideration. Selected numerical
results are presented in later sections.
II. SYSTEM MODEL
We consider the same side by side CR radio access model
as assumed in [4]. Basically, it is assumed that the frequency
band B which has been occupied by the primary user(s) is
known and is located in the middle (see Fig. 1). The bandwidth
sensed by the CR users for possible transmission is located on
each side of the primary user band as shown in Fig. 1. OFDM
modulation scheme is employed for CR users and the available
bandwidth for CR transmission is divided into N subcarriers,
N/2 on each side and each having a bandwidth of ∆f.
We assume that each subcarrier goes under frequency flat
fading and the instantaneous fading gains are perfectly known
at the transmitter. The transmit power is adaptively loaded
in each CR user’s subcarrier. With an ideal coding scheme,
the transmission rate at i
th
carrier, R
i
for the transmit power,
P
i
and channel fading gain h
i
is connected via the Shannon
capacity formula and is given by
R
i
(P
i
, h
i
) = ln

1 +
|h
i
|
2
P
i
σ
2
+J
i

, (1)
where σ
2
denotes the AWGN noise variance, and J
i
denotes
the interference introduced by the primary user into the CR
user’s subcarrier.
Due to the coexistence of primary and CR users, there are
two types of interference in the system [4], one is introduced
by the primary users into the CR user band and the other is
introduced by the cognitive users into the primary user band.
A. Interference introduced by CR user’s signal
The power density spectrum of the i
th
subcarrier in CR user
band can be written as [4]
φ
i
(f) = P
i
T
s

sin πfT
s
πfT
s

2
, (2)
where P
i
is the total transmit power emitted by the i
th
sub-
carrier in CR user’s band and T
s
is the symbol duration. The
interference introduced by the i
th
subcarrier to the primary
user band is the integration of the power density spectrum of
the i
th
subcarrier across the primary user band and can be
written as
I
i
(d
i
, P
i
) = P
i
T
s

di+B/2
di−B/2

sin πfT
s
πfT
s

2
df, (3)
where d
i
represents the distance between the i
th
subcarrier of
CR user band and the primary user band. I
i
(d
i
, P
i
) represents
the interference introduced by the i
th
subcarrier into the
primary user band. The interference in eq. (3) should also
take fading gain from the secondary user base station to the
primary user receiver into account. We use a normalised fading
gain of 1.
B. Interference introduced by primary user’s signal
The power density spectrum of the primary user signal
after the M-fast Fourier transform (FFT) processing can be
expressed by the following expected value of the periodogram
[4]
E{I
N
(w)} =
1
2πM

π
−π
φ
PU
(e
jw
)

sin(w −ψ)M/2
sin(w −ψ)/2

2
dψ,
(4)
where w represents the frequency normalized to the sampling
frequency and φ
PU
(e
jw
) is the power density spectrum of the
primary user signal. Primary user signal has been taken as an
elliptically filtered white noise process with an amplitude P
PU
[4]. The interference introduced by the primary user signal to
the i
th
subcarrier will be the integration of the power density
spectrum of the primary user signal across the i
th
subcarrier
and can be written as
J
i
(d
i
, P
PU
) =

di+∆f/2
di−∆f/2
E{I
N
(w)}dw, (5)
where J
i
(d
i
, P
PU
) represents the interference introduced by
the primary user signal into the i
th
subcarrier of CR user’s
band.
III. OPTIMAL SCHEME
The goal is to maximize the sum capacity while keeping
the instantaneous interference introduced to the primary users
below a certain threshold. Therefore, we can formulate the
following constrained optimization problem
C = max
Pi
N
¸
i=1
R
i
(P
i
, h
i
), (6)
This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.
Fig. 1. Distribution of primary and CR users.
s.t.
N
¸
i=1
I
i
(d
i
, P
i
) ≤ I
th
, (7)
and
P
i
≥ 0, (8)
where C denotes the transmission capacity of the CR users, N
denotes the total number of subcarriers, R
i
denotes the trans-
mission rate in i
th
subcarrier and I
th
denotes the interference
threshold prescribed by the primary users. This optimization
problem can be solved using the iterative approach. As we
will see that the constraint is on the interference limits the
transmit power as well as the achievable transmission rate of
the CR users. Using Lagrange formulation we can write
L(P
i
, λ) =
N
¸
i=1
R
i
(P
i
, h
i
) −λ(
N
¸
i=1
I
i
(P
i
, d
i
) −I
th
), (9)
where λ is the Lagrange constraint. Now, substituting eq. (1)
in eq. (9) and differentiating eq. (9) with respect to P
i
we can
write
∂L
∂P
i
=
1
1 +
|hi|
2
Pi
σ
2
+Ji
|h
i
|
2

2
+J
i
)
−λ
∂I
i
δP
i
....
Ki
, (10)
where K
i
= T
s

di+B/2
di−B/2

sin πfTs
πfTs

2
df. Equating eq. (10) to
zero and after some manipulations optimal transmit power in
i
th
subcarrier can be written as
P

i
=
1
λK
i

σ
2
+J
i
|h
i
|
2
. (11)
Now, the value of λ can be calculated by the following
equation
N
¸
i=1
I
i
(d
i
, P

i
) = I
th
. (12)
The interference due to i
th
subcarrier with power P
i
can be
written as [4]
I
i
= P
i
K
i
. (13)
Now using eqs. (11), (12) and (13), we can write
N
¸
i=1

1
λ


2
+J
i
)K
i
|h
i
|
2

= I
th
. (14)
Rearranging the above equation, λ can be expressed as
λ =
N
I
th
+
¸
N
i=1
Ki(σ
2
+Ji)
|hi|
2
. (15)
If power comes out to be negative for some subcarriers using
eqs. (11) and (15), zero power is assigned to that subcarrier
for which the power comes out to be the most negative
value. Then whole scheme is reiterated for the remaining
subcarriers. Hence, by using the above scheme we calculate the
optimal power allocation policy that maximizes the transmis-
sion capacity of the CR users while keeping the interference
introduced to the primary users below the specified threshold.
It is important to note that the value of λ in eq. (15) is
independent of subcarrier index. If the power for some of
the subcarriers comes out to be negative, several iterations
may require in reaching the optimal solution. Therefore, the
complexity of the optimal scheme can be quite high depending
on the scenario. In what follows, we propose sub-optimal
schemes namely scheme A and scheme B and also state
the uniform power loading but variable rate and waterfilling
schemes for CR scenario.
IV. SUBOPTIMAL SCHEMES
Heuristic schemes proposed in this section are based on
the fact that the interference introduced to the primary user
band by the CR user subcarrier’s increases as the spectral
distance between them decreases. If we ignore the second
term (
σ
2
+Ji
|hi|
2
) from the power profile of eq. (11), the power
is inversely proportional to the parameter K
i
which depends
on the spectral distance of the i
th
subcarrier from the primary
user’s band. As such in order to reduce the interference, less
power should be assigned to the subcarriers which are near to
the primary user’s band and more power should be assigned to
the subcarriers which are far from the primary user band. This
suggests that the power can be distributed like a ladder profile
as shown in Fig. 2. The total transmit power is determined such
that the total interference introduced by all the subcarriers is
equal to the interference threshold. Now, based on the step
size of the ladder, we propose suboptimal schemes as follows.
A. Scheme A
In this scheme, the step size is fixed and is equal to the
power level of the subcarrier which is nearest to the primary
user band. Hence, the power in the i
th
subcarrier can be
written as
P
A
i
= P ∗ i, (16)
where P will be determined by the value of I
th
. Now using
eq. (16) the total interference introduced to the primary user
band with this power distribution can be written as
N
¸
i=1
K
i
∗ P ∗ i = I
th
. (17)
This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.
Using eqs. (16) and (17), the power allocated to i
th
subcarrier
according to scheme A, P
A
i
can be expressed in desired closed-
form as
P
A
i
=
i ∗ I
th
¸
N
i=1
K
i
∗ i
. (18)
B. Scheme B
In this scheme, the step size of the ladder is inversely
proportional to K
i
. Hence, the power in the i
th
subcarrier
can be written as
P
B
i
= P/K
i
, (19)
where P will be determined by the value of I
th
as follows.
Eq. (17) will hold in this case as well. By substituting eq. (17)
in eq. (19) the power allocation policy for scheme B, P
B
i
can
be expressed as
P
B
i
=
I
th
N ∗ K
i
. (20)
C. Uniform Power Loading/Waterfilling Scheme
The classical OFDM loading algorithms: uniform power
loading and waterfilling schemes are suboptimal for such a
interference limited scenario as they do not have constraint
on the interference. In fact unform power loading scheme is
a special case of sub-optimal scheme A when P
A
i
is assumed
as P. Therefore, for a given interference threshold I
th
, power
allocated to the ith subcarrier with uniform power loading,
P
U
i
can easily expressed as
P
U
i
=
I
th
¸
N
i=1
K
i
. (21)
For distributing power according to waterfilling scheme we
first determine the total power used by the uniform scheme
in transmitting at the given interference threshold. Using this
total power as the power constraint we determine power for
each subcarrier using the waterfilling algorithm.
V. NUMERICAL RESULTS
In the numerical results presented in this section, we use the
values of T
s
, ∆f and B to be 4µ seconds, 0.3125 MHz and
0.3125 MHz respectively. Additive white Gaussian (AWGN)
noise variance of 10
−6
is assumed. The channel gain’s h
i
is
assumed to be Rayleigh fading with an average channel power
gain of 10dB. Further, we assume that there are ten subcarriers
for CR users, five on each side of the primary user band.
In Fig. 3, we plot the achievable transmission rate of
CR user versus interference introduced to the primary user
band for different schemes under considerations. From this
figure, we observe that for a given interference threshold, the
optimal scheme achieves the highest transmission rate for CR
users. We can also see that the transmission rate that can
be achieved using the sub-optimal schemes is higher than
the conventional uniform-power but variable rate loading and
water-filling algorithms. It is also obvious that the scheme B
performs better than scheme A. It is important to mention
from Fig. 3 that the uniform loading and waterfilling schemes
have the lowest achievable data rate. In our results in Fig.
Fig. 2. Ladder profile of power distribution.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
55
Interference introduced to the Primary user band (in Watts)
M
a
x
i
m
u
m

t
r
a
n
s
m
i
t
t
e
d

d
a
t
a

r
a
t
e

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

b
i
t
s
/
s
e
c
.
)
uniform−loading/water−filling scheme
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal Scheme
Fig. 3. Maximum transmitted data rate of CR user vs Interference introduced
to the primary user’s band.
3, the maximum transmitted data rate achieved by uniform
power loading and water-filling is same as using uniform
power loading does not produce any visual degradation in
the performance. This is because varying both rate and power
leads to a negligible higher capacity gain over varying just rate
alone as reported in [7]. In Fig. 4, we present the transmit
power of the CR user versus the interference introduced to the
primary user’s band for various schemes under consideration.
We can observe from Fig. 4 the optimal scheme allows to
transmit higher power than the other schemes for a given
interference threshold. The uniform power loading and water-
filling are able to load least amount of power as they do
not take judiciously interference into account in their loading
policy for a given interference threshold.
VI. EFFECT OF SUBCARRIERS NULLING MECHANISM
In [4], the authors have studied the effect of nulling the
subcarriers and have shown that the interference introduced
to the primary user band can be reduced by nulling the
subcarriers which are adjacent to the primary user band. The
This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
x 10
−4
Interference introduced to the primary user band (in Watts)
P
o
w
e
r

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

W
a
t
t
s
)
Uniform−loading/water−filling scheme
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal scheme
Fig. 4. Power of CR user vs Interference introduced to the primary user’s
band.
reason behind it is that the adjacent subcarriers produce the
maximum amount of interference. It also implies that for a
given interference threshold, more power can be allocated into
the far apart subcarriers than the amount of power allocated
into the neighboring subcarriers. As a consequence one can
expect that higher transmission rate can be achieved using
more power. However, nulling adjacent subcarriers loose the
degrees of freedom as the adjacent subcarrier is assigned
with zero power even when it has a very good channel gain.
Therefore, nulling creates a trade-off. Here we study the effect
of nulling on the proposed suboptimal, uniform power loading
and water-filling schemes.
In Fig. 5, we plot maximum transmission rate of CR user
versus interference introduced to the primary user band for
two proposed suboptimal schemes, uniform power loading and
water-filling schemes for one nulling. Here, by one nulling
we mean that we null one subcarrier from each sides of the
primary user band that are nearest to it. Similar results have
been plotted in Fig. 6 for two nulling case. In these we have
also plotted the data rate of the optimal scheme for sake of
comparison. From Figs. 5 and 6, we can observe that after
nulling the performance of sub-optimal schemes and uniform
power loading/water-filling scheme improves as compared to
no nulling, but still the optimal scheme performs the best
and transmits maximum data rate for a given interference
threshold. We did not consider more number of nulling as
the performance degrades and they have been checked via
simulation.
In Figs. 7 and 8 we present the plots for the transmit power
of CR user versus interference introduced to the primary user
band for all the suboptimal schemes, for one nulling and
two nulling cases, respectively. The interesting observation
is that as we increase the nulling for sub-optimal schemes
and uniform power loading/water filling scheme they can load
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
30
35
40
45
50
55
Interference introduced to the Primary user band (in Watts)
M
a
x
i
m
u
m

t
r
a
n
s
m
i
t
t
e
d

d
a
t
a

r
a
t
e

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

b
i
t
s
\
s
e
c
.
)
One−nulling case
Uniform−loading/water−filling scheme
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal scheme
Fig. 5. Maximum transmitted data rate of CR user vs Interference introduced
to the primary user band for one-nulling case.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
25
30
35
40
45
50
55
Interference introduced to the primary user band (in Watts)
M
a
x
i
m
u
m

t
r
a
n
s
m
i
t
t
e
d

d
a
t
a

r
a
t
e

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

b
i
t
s
\
s
e
c
.
)
Two−nulling case
Uniform−loading/water−filling scheme
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal scheme
Fig. 6. Maximum transmitted data rate of CR user vs Interference introduced
to the primary user band for two-nulling case.
more power than the optimal scheme but the transmission
rate is lower than the optimal scheme. The reason of this
phenomenon is that although the suboptimal and classical
schemes can load more power as compared to the optimal
scheme with nulling, they have less degrees of freedom as
compared to the optimal scheme.
In Fig. 9, we plot the maximum transmission data rate of
CR user versus the interference introduced to the primary user
band with two proposed suboptimal schemes and the uni-
form power loading/water-filling scheme for various number
of nulling. From Fig. 9, we observe that both sub-optimal
schemes and uniform power loading/water-filling scheme per-
This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
x 10
−4
Interference introduced to the primary user band (in Watts)
P
o
w
e
r

o
f

t
h
e

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

W
a
t
t
s
)
One−nulling case
Uniform−loading/water−filling scheme
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal scheme
Fig. 7. Power of CR user vs Interference introduced to the primary user
band for one-nulling case.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
x 10
−4
Interference introduced to the primary user band (in Watts)
P
o
w
e
r

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

W
a
t
t
s
)
Two−nulling case
uniform−loading/water−filling case
Scheme A
Scheme B
Optimal scheme
Fig. 8. Power of CR user vs Interference introduced to the primary user
band for two-nulling case.
forms the best for one nulling case. It implies that after one
nulling the degradation due to decrease in degrees of freedom
dominates the gain achieved by loading more power in far
apart subcarriers.
VII. CONCLUSION
In this paper, we have developed an optimal power loading
algorithm which maximizes the downlink transmission data
rate of CR user while the interference produced to the primary
user remains within a given limit. We have also proposed two
suboptimal power loading algorithms that have less complexity
but can achieve a performance close to the optimal one.
0.4 0.6 0.8 1 1.2 1.4 1.6 1.8 2 2.2 2.4
x 10
−6
20
25
30
35
40
45
50
55
Interference introduced to the primary user band (in Watts)
M
a
x
i
u
m
u
m

t
r
a
n
s
m
i
t
t
e
d

d
a
t
a

r
a
t
e

o
f

C
R

u
s
e
r

(
i
n

b
i
t
s
/
s
e
c
.
)
Schemes under various nulling
Uniform loading−zero nulling
Uniform loading−one nulling
Uniform loading−two nulling
Scheme A−zero nulling
Scheme A−one nulling
Scheme A−two nulling
Scheme B−zero nulling
Scheme B−one nulling
Scheme B−two nulling
Fig. 9. Maximum transmitted data rate of CR user vs Interference introduced
to the primary user band for various nulling.
The performance of optimal and suboptimal schemes have
been compared with that of conventional water-filling and
uniform power loading schemes. Presented numerical results
have shown that the classical loading algorithms which are
used for conventional wireless networks perform the worst
for CR scenario. We have also studied the effect of nulling
mechanism on the performances of various schemes. Selected
numerical results have shown that optimal scheme performs
the best and one nulling case has achieved better data rate
performance than more number of nullings and zero nulling
cases.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
This research was supported by Natural Sciences and Engi-
neering Research Council of Canada under a Strategic Project
Grant.
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This full text paper was peer reviewed at the direction of IEEE Communications Society subject matter experts for publication in the ICC 2007 proceedings.