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12, DECEMBER 2006 1

Efficient Detection Algorithm for

2Nx2N MIMO Systems using
Alamouti Code and QR Decomposition
Maher Arar, Student Member, IEEE, and Abbas Yongacoglu, Senior Member, IEEE

Abstract— We propose an efficient 2Nx2N MIMO detection MIMO channel capacity [4]. The effect of error propagation
algorithm where the transmit signals are grouped in pairs can be reduced by increasing the diversity of the first detected
and separately coded using the standard Alamouti space-time symbol. One way to achieve this is to use Mr > Mt . It is
code. At the receiver, one or more QR decompositions are
performed and the upper triangular property of the R matrices also important to mention that the cost of V-BLAST’s original
so obtained is exploited in order to successively decode the implementation, which was based on successively inverting
transmitted symbols starting with those interference-free symbols the channel matrix, was still relatively high, i.e. O(Mt4 ) per
corresponding to the last two rows and columns of R. Bit-error- decoded symbol vector [7].
rate simulation results, for a 4×4 MIMO system and a bandwidth To circumvent the effect of error propagation, most V-
efficiency of 8 bits/s/Hz, show that the proposed technique, while
less complex than ordered MMSE V-BLAST, outperforms the BLAST implementations used a greater number of RX an-
latter by 2-6 dB at a BER of 10−4 . tennas than TX antennas (see [4] for example). We argue
here that this is undesirable from a practical point of view.
Index Terms— Alamouti code, QR decomposition, V-BLAST,
successive interference cancellation. One can, for instance, think of a wireless downlink where
the physical size of the user terminal places a restriction
on the number of antennas used. To address the complexity
I. I NTRODUCTION issue, many authors [7],[8],[9] proposed reduced-complexity

I N rich scattering environments, the use of multiple an-

tennas at both ends of the wireless communications link,
referred to as MIMO systems in the literature, has been proven
modifications or extensions to V-BLAST. Unfortunately these
modifications or extensions also cause a loss in performance.
Borrowing the idea of SIC from V-BLAST, we present in
to provide spectral efficiencies far beyond those offered by this letter a MIMO detection algorithm suitable for systems
traditional wireless systems [1],[2]. In [3] capacity-achieving where the number of TX antennas Mt is even and equal to the
architecture, popularly known as Diagonal Bell Labs Layered number of RX antennas Mr , i.e. Mt = Mr = 2N . The pro-
Space-Time (D-BLAST), was proposed. D-BLAST’s main posed algorithm exploits the transmit diversity offered by the
drawback lied in its complexity for practical implementation Rate-1 Alamouti code [10] along with the reduced complexity
[4]. Albeit less performing, but also less complex than D- and numerical stability offered by the QR decomposition.
BLAST, Vertical-BLAST (V-BLAST) with Zero Forcing (ZF) While the proposed algorithm, hereafter referred to as AQRN-
spatial filtering was later proposed [3] and implemented [4]. V- SIC 1 , has only O(N Mt3 ) complexity (mostly dominated by
BLAST with ordered minimum mean-squared error (MMSE) the QR decompositions used), it is shown through computer
spatial filtering, hereafter called ordered MMSE V-BLAST, simulation that it outperforms ordered MMSE V-BLAST by
was shown to greatly outperform all flavors of ZF V-BLAST 2-6 dB.
In this letter we will compare the performance of the
proposed algorithm to that of ordered MMSE V-BLAST. It
is worth mentioning at this stage that, unlike ZF V-BLAST, A. Assumptions and System Model
MMSE V-BLAST assumes perfect knowledge of noise vari-
In reviewing the MIMO detection problem we will assume
ance present at the input to the receiver. It is also important to
mention that the first detected symbol using V-BLAST (with
ZF or MMSE filtering) enjoys a diversity of Mr − Mt + 1 [6], • The TX signals undergo independent block Rayleigh
where Mr and Mt represent the number of receive (RX) and frequency-flat fading.
transmit (TX) antennas, respectively. • The number of TX and RX antennas are even and equal,
Because of its successive interference cancellation (SIC) i.e. Mt = Mr = 2N .
nature, V-BLAST suffers from an error propagation problem • Only the receiver has perfect knowledge of Channel State
that prevents it from attaining a significant portion of the Information (CSI).
With these assumptions and dropping dependency on sam-
Manuscript received June 20, 2006. The associate editor coordinating the ple time, the baseband time-domain system equation can be
review of this letter and approving it for publication was Dr. Murat Uysal.
The authors are with the School of Information Technology and Engineer- written as
ing, University of Ottawa (e-mail: {
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/LCOMM.2006.060953. 1N denotes the number of QR decompositions used.
c 2006 IEEE

y = Hs + n (1)

where H is the 2N × 2N channel matrix whose entries

hi,j represent the complex Gaussian gains with zero-mean
and unity-variance between TX antenna j and RX antenna
i, s = [s1 s2 ....s2N ]T is the TX vector with each com-
ponent representing a symbol, generally complex, belonging
to a finite set of symbol alphabet a = [a1 a2 ....aK ] with
1 K 2 T
K k=1 |ak | = 1, and n = [n1 n2 ....n2N ] represents the Fig. 1. 4 × 4 MIMO model with R as the channel matrix.
noise vector at the input to the receiver with elements ni
that are assumed to be uncorrelated with sj and between antennas. This is also true for the general 2N × 2N case. This
themselves, i.e. E(nnH ) = I2N , where E(.) denotes the property will be exploited by the proposed algorithm.
expectation operator and n is the Hermitian conjugate of n.
1 C. Alamouti Space-Time Code
The normalization factor 2N ensures that the total transmit
energy is always constrained to 1 and ρ represents the average The Alamouti Space-Time Block Code (STBC) [10], is
signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) per RX branch. a Rate-1 space-time code. Not only it achieves Maximum-
Likelihood (ML) detection in space and time with high order
B. QR Decomposition of diversity [11], it also allows the use of linear processing
techniques at the receiver, hence greatly reducing the baseband
Any M × M matrix H can be decomposed as H = QR
processing requirements.
where Q is unitary, i.e. QH Q = IM , and
The Alamouti technique consists of transmitting the follow-
⎡ ⎤
r1,1 r1,2 . . . r1,M ing simple space-time code:
⎢ 0 r2,2 . . . r2,M ⎥

⎢ ⎥ s1 s2
R=⎢ . .. .. .. ⎥ (2) C2,2 = . (5)
⎣ .. . . . ⎦ −s∗2 s∗1
0 ... 0 rM,M The columns of this code represent space dimension while
is upper triangular. Using QR decomposition (1) can then be the rows represent time dimension. One can then express the
rewritten as received vector at RX antenna i as follows:

ρ y1,i ρ s1 s2 hi,1 n1,i
y= QRs + n. (3) = + (6)
2N y2,i 2 −s∗2 s∗1 hi,2 n2,i
By multiplying the RX vector y from the left by QH we get
the following transformed RX vector or written differently

y1,i ρ hi,1 hi,2 s1 n1,i
 ∗ = + (7)
ρ y2,i 2 h∗i,2 −h∗i,1 s2 ñ2,i
ỹ = Rs + ñ. (4)      
2N Hi s ñi

where (.) represents the complex conjugate operator. It is
Note that all ñi still have zero-mean and unity-variance, i.e. H
no noise amplification takes place. It is also easy to verify
 hard 2
to show
 the orthogonality of Hi , i.e. Hi Hi =
|hi,1 | + |hi,2 | I2 . It is indeed this property that allows the
that R has the same eigenvalue spread as H, and finding Q
use of linear processing at the receiver. To see this, multiply
and R is always possible even when H is ill-conditioned. i.e.
the received vector in (7) by HH i to get the following pre-
when its eigenvalue spread is extremely large. It is easy to
detection estimate:
verify that 2N ! different Q and R matrices can be obtained
 Mr Mr
by permuting the columns of H. The cost of computing one ρ 
QR decomposition is O(Mt3 ) [7]. ŝ = (|hi,1 |2 + |hi,2 |2 )s + ñi . (8)
2 i=1 i=1
One rather useful interpretation of the QR decomposition
is that it allows us to reformulate the MIMO detection Equation (8) clearly demonstrates that the Alamouti TX and
problem using a “virtual” channel matrix R rather than the RX processing automatically eliminates multistream interfer-
actual channel matrix H. This transformation has indeed some ence and adds the symbol energy coherently while adding the
useful properties. By inspecting Fig.1, which shows a 4 × 4 noise components incoherently. Note that this is done without
MIMO model using R as the channel matrix, we clearly resorting to matrix inversion, i.e. no noise amplification takes
see that the QR transformation has eliminated interference place. Also note that the diversity order achieved by the
originating from certain TX antennas. Of particular interest Alamouti space-time code is equal to 2 × Mr . In the next
is the interference seen by the last two RX antennas. These section we will use multiple instances of this code to increase
antennas now “see” contributions only from the last two TX the transmit diversity of a 4 × 4 MIMO system.

made at early decoding stages, the more d approaches 3N ,

MMSE−VBLAST with ordering
AQR2−SIC with 5 Turbo iterations
only reaching this bound when the probability of error of
the previously detected symbols is zero, which is theoretically



We present here BER simulation results for a 4 × 4 MIMO


system with a bandwidth efficiency of 8 bits/s/Hz. For a fair

comparison, AQRN-SIC (for N=1 and N=2) uses 16QAM
10 modulation in each subchannel while V-BLAST uses QPSK
in each subchannel. Fig.2 shows the BER curves obtained for
different flavors of AQRN-SIC and ordered MMSE V-BLAST.
We clearly see that all flavors of AQRN-SIC outperform
ordered MMSE V-BLAST. For example, AQR2-SIC and 5
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
SNR per bit per recieve antenna (dB)
16 18 20 turbo iterations offers a significant 6 dB coding gain at a BER
of 10−4 . This result is not surprising as each symbol decoded
Fig. 2. BER of AQRN-SIC versus ordered MMSE V-BLAST for a 4 × 4 using AQRN-SIC enjoys a higher level of diversity than the
MIMO system with the same bandwidth efficiency of 8 bits/s/Hz. one decoded using ordered MMSE V-BLAST. This becomes
very clear at high SNR levels where the slope of all AQRN-
III. P ROPOSED A RCHITECTURE SIC curves becomes sharper than the MMSE V-BLAST one.
We propose to apply the Alamouti space-time code to From Fig.2 we also see that the more complex AQR2-SIC
the transmitted symbols in pairs of two. At the receiver we outperforms AQR1-SIC by 2 dB at a BER of 10−4 . Five Turbo
compute the Q and R matrices which we use to compute iterations give us a marginal improvement of 0.6 dB at the
a transformed RX vector ỹ. We then start by decoding the same BER level.
symbols corresponding to the last two rows and columns of R. It should be emphasized that the better performance of-
After decoding these symbols, we subtract their contribution fered by AQRN-SIC is achieved with a lower complexity of
from ỹ. We then successively repeat these two steps until no O(N Mt3 ) compared to O(Mt4 ) complexity for ordered MMSE
more symbols are left for decoding. V-BLAST. Also, as opposed to MMSE V-BLAST, AQRN-SIC
To improve the performance of the algorithm one can does not require knowledge of noise variance, which may not
compute N − 1 additional QR decompositions by performing be possible to have or may require extra processing to obtain.
column-wise permutations, for a total cost of O(N Mt3 ). As
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