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Channel Estimation Aspects of Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces

Tid: Må 2024-05-06 kl 09.00

Plats: B3, Brinellvägen 23, Stockholm

Språk: Engelska

Ämnesområde: Elektro- och systemteknik

Licentiand: Doga Gürgünoglu , Reglerteknik

Granskare: Professor Jaap van de Beek, Luleå tekniska universitet

Huvudhandledare: Adjunct Professor Gabor Fodor, Reglerteknik; Professor Emil Björnson, Kommunikationssystem, CoS

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QC 20240416


In the sixth generation of wireless communication systems (6G), there exist multiple candidate enabling technologies that help the wireless network satisfy the ever-increasing demand for speed, coverage, reliability, and mobility. Among these technologies, reconfigurable intelligent surfaces (RISs) extend the coverage of a wireless network into dead zones, increase capacity, and facilitate integrated sensing and communications tasks by consuming very low power, thus contributing to energy efficiency as well.

RISs are meta-material-based devices whose electromagnetic reflection characteristics can be controlled externally to cater to the needs of the communication links. Most ubiquitously, this comes in the form of adding a desired phase shift to an incident wave before reflecting it, which can be used to phase-align multiple incident waves to increase the strength of the signal at the receiver and provide coverage to an area that otherwise would be a dead zone.

While this portrays an image of a dream technology that would boost the existing wireless networks significantly, RISs do not come without engineering problems. First of all, the individual elements do not exhibit ideal reflection characteristics, that is, they attenuate the incident signal in a fashion depending on the configured phase shift. This creates the phenomenon called "phase-dependent amplitude". Another problem caused by RISs is the channel estimation overhead. In a multiple-antenna communication system, the channel between two terminals is as complex as the product of the number of antennas at each end. However, when an RIS comes into the equation, the cascade of the transmitter-RIS and RIS-receiver channels has a complexity further multiplied by the number of RIS elements. Consequently, the channel estimation process to utilize the RIS effectively becomes more demanding, that is, more pilot signals are required to estimate the channel for coherent reception. This adversely affects the effective data rate within a communication system since more resources need to be spent for pilot transmission and fewer resources can be allocated for data transmission. While there exists some work on reducing the channel dimensions by exploiting the channel structure, this problem persists for unstructured channels. In addition, for the wireless networks using multiple RISs, a new kind of pilot contamination arises, which is the main topic of this thesis.

In the first part of this thesis, we study this new kind of pilot contamination in a multi-operator context, where two operators provide services to their respective served users and share a single site. Each operator has a single dedicated RIS and they use disjoint frequency bands, but each RIS inadvertently reflects the transmitted uplink signals of the user equipment devices in multiple bands. Consequently, the concurrent reflection of pilot signals during the channel estimation phase introduces a new inter-operator pilot contamination effect. We investigate the implications of this effect in systems with either deterministic or correlated Rayleigh fading channels, specifically focusing on its impact on channel estimation quality, signal equalization, and channel capacity. The numerical results demonstrate the substantial degradation in system performance caused by this phenomenon and highlight the pressing need to address inter-operator pilot contamination in multi-operator RIS deployments. To combat the negative effect of this new type of pilot contamination, we propose to use orthogonal RIS configurations during uplink pilot transmission, which can mitigate or eliminate the negative effect of inter-operator pilot contamination at the expense of some inter-operator information exchange and orchestration.

In the second part of this thesis, we consider a single-operator-two-RIS integrated sensing and communication (ISAC) system where the single user is both a communication terminal and a positioning target. Based on the uplink positioning pilots, the base station aims to estimate both the communication channel and the user's position within the indoor environment by estimating the angle of arrival (AoA) of the impinging signals on both RISs and then exploiting the system and array geometries to estimate the user position and user channels respectively. Although there is a single operator, due to the presence of multiple RISs, pilot contamination occurs through the same physical means as multi-operator pilot contamination unless the channel estimation process is parameterized. Since the communication links are considered to be pure line-of-sight (LOS), their structure allows the reduction of the number of unknown parameters. Consequently, the reduction of information caused by pilot contamination does not affect the channel estimation procedure, hence the pilot contamination is overcome. On the other hand, the position of the user is determined by intersecting the lines drawn along the AoA estimates. We adopt the Cramér-Rao Lower Bound (CRLB), the lower bound on the mean squared error (MSE) of any unbiased estimator, for both channel estimation and positioning. Our numerical results show that it is possible to utilize positioning pilots for parametric channel estimation when the wireless links are LOS.