Optimizing the MIMO Cellular Downlink: Multiplexing, Diversity, or Interference Nulling?

by   Kianoush Hosseini, et al.

A base-station (BS) equipped with multiple antennas can use its spatial dimensions in three different ways: (1) to serve multiple users, thereby achieving a multiplexing gain, (2) to provide spatial diversity in order to improve user rates and (3) to null interference in neighboring cells. This paper answers the following question: What is the optimal balance between these three competing benefits? We answer this question in the context of the downlink of a cellular network, where multi-antenna BSs serve multiple single-antenna users using zero-forcing beamforming with equal power assignment, while nulling interference at a subset of out-of-cell users. Any remaining spatial dimensions provide transmit diversity for the scheduled users. Utilizing tools from stochastic geometry, we show that, surprisingly, to maximize the per-BS ergodic sum rate, with an optimal allocation of spatial resources, interference nulling does not provide a tangible benefit. The strategy of avoiding inter-cell interference nulling, reserving some fraction of spatial resources for multiplexing and using the rest to provide diversity, is already close-to-optimal in terms of the sum-rate. However, interference nulling does bring significant benefit to cell-edge users, particularly when adopting a range-adaptive nulling strategy where the size of the cooperating BS cluster is increased for cell-edge users.


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