An Introduction to MIMO Radio technology
In radio technology, multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO , is a method for multiplying the capacity of a radio link using multiple transmit and receive antennas to exploit multipath propagation.
Earlier usage of the term “MIMO” referred to the use of multiple antennas at both the transmitter and the receiver. In modern usage, “MIMO” specifically refers to a practical technique for sending and receiving more than one data signal on the same radio channel at the same time via multipath propagation. MIMO is fundamentally different from smart antenna techniques developed to enhance the performance of a single data signal, such as beamforming and diversity.
MIMO can be sub-divided into three main categories, precoding, spatial multiplexing or SM, and diversity coding.
Products using MIMO technology
Functions of MIMO technology
Precoding is multi-stream beamforming, in the narrowest definition. In more general terms, it is considered to be all spatial processing that occurs at the transmitter. In (single-stream) beamforming, the same signal is emitted from each of the transmit antennas with appropriate phase and gain weighting such that the signal power is maximized at the receiver input. The benefits of beamforming are to increase the received signal gain – by making signals emitted from different antennas add up constructively – and to reduce the multipath fading effect. In line-of-sight propagation, beamforming results in a well-defined directional pattern. However, conventional beams are not a good analogy in cellular networks, which are mainly characterized by multipath propagation. When the receiver has multiple antennas, the transmit beamforming cannot simultaneously maximize the signal level at all of the receive antennas, and precoding with multiple streams is often beneficial. Note that precoding requires knowledge of channel state information (CSI) at the transmitter and the receiver.
Spatial multiplexing requires MIMO antenna configuration. In spatial multiplexing, a high-rate signal is split into multiple lower-rate streams and each stream is transmitted from a different transmit antenna in the same frequency channel. If these signals arrive at the receiver antenna array with sufficiently different spatial signatures and the receiver has accurate CSI, it can separate these streams into (almost) parallel channels. Spatial multiplexing is a very powerful technique for increasing channel capacity at higher signal-to-noise ratios (SNR). The maximum number of spatial streams is limited by the lesser of the number of antennas at the transmitter or receiver. Spatial multiplexing can be used without CSI at the transmitter, but can be combined with precoding if CSI is available. Spatial multiplexing can also be used for simultaneous transmission to multiple receivers, known as space-division multiple access or multi-user MIMO, in which case CSI is required at the transmitter. The scheduling of receivers with different spatial signatures allows good separability.
Diversity Coding techniques are used when there is no channel knowledge at the transmitter. In diversity methods, a single stream (unlike multiple streams in spatial multiplexing) is transmitted, but the signal is coded using techniques called space-time coding. The signal is emitted from each of the transmit antennas with full or near orthogonal coding. Diversity coding exploits the independent fading in the multiple antenna links to enhance signal diversity. Because there is no channel knowledge, there is no beamforming or array gain from diversity coding. Diversity coding can be combined with spatial multiplexing when some channel knowledge is available at the transmitter.
Forms of MIMO
Multi-antenna MIMO (or Single user MIMO) technology has been developed and implemented in some standards, e.g., 802.11n products.
- SISO/SIMO/MISO are special cases of MIMO
- Multiple-input and single-output (MISO) is a special case when the receiver has a single antenna.
- Single-input and multiple-output (SIMO) is a special case when the transmitter has a single antenna.
- Single-input single-output (SISO) is a conventional radio system where neither the transmitter nor receiver has multiple antenna.
- Principal single-user MIMO techniques
- Bell Laboratories Layered Space-Time (BLAST), Gerard. J. Foschini (1996)
- Per Antenna Rate Control (PARC), Varanasi, Guess (1998), Chung, Huang, Lozano (2001)
- Selective Per Antenna Rate Control (SPARC), Ericsson (2004)
- Some limitations
- The physical antenna spacing is selected to be large; multiple wavelengths at the base station. The antenna separation at the receiver is heavily space-constrained in handsets, though advanced antenna design and algorithm techniques are under discussion.