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Towards Smart and Reconfigurable Environment: Intelligent Reflecting Surface Aided Wireless Network

by   Wu Qingqing, et al.

Although the fifth-generation (5G) technologies will significantly improve the spectrum and energy efficiency of today's wireless communication networks, their high complexity and hardware cost as well as increasingly more energy consumption are still crucial issues to be solved. Furthermore, despite that such technologies are generally capable of adapting to the space and time varying wireless environment, the signal propagation over it is essentially random and largely uncontrollable. Recently, intelligent reflecting surface (IRS) has been proposed as a revolutionizing solution to address this open issue, by smartly reconfiguring the wireless propagation environment with the use of massive low-cost, passive, reflective elements integrated on a planar surface. Specifically, different elements of an IRS can independently reflect the incident signal by controlling its amplitude and/or phase and thereby collaboratively achieve fine-grained three-dimensional (3D) passive beamforming for signal enhancement or cancellation. In this article, we provide an overview of the IRS technology, including its main applications in wireless communication, competitive advantages over existing technologies, hardware architecture as well as the corresponding new signal model. We focus on the key challenges in designing and implementing the new IRS-aided hybrid (with both active and passive components) wireless network, as compared to the traditional network comprising active components only. Furthermore, numerical results are provided to show the potential for significant performance enhancement with the use of IRS in typical wireless network scenarios.


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