Is the PHY Layer Dead?


Mischa Dohler, Robert W. Heath, Jr., Angel Lozano, Constantinos Papadias, and Reinaldo Valenzuela


IEEE Communications Magazine vol. 49, no. 4, pp. 159-165, 2011. .


This paper originates from a panel with the above title, held at IEEE VTC Spring 2009, in which the authors took part. The enthusiastic response it received prompted us to discuss for a wider audience whether research at the physical layer (PHY) is still relevant to the field of wireless communications. Using cellular systems as the axis of our exposition, we exemplify areas where PHY research has indeed hit a performance wall and where any improvements are expected to be marginal. We then discuss whether the research directions taken in the past have always been the right choice and how lessons learned could influence future policy decisions. Several of the raised issues are subsequently discussed in greater details, e.g., the growing divergence between academia and industry. With this argumentation at hand, we identify areas that are either underdeveloped or likely to be of impact in coming years hence corroborating the relevance and importance of PHY research.

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