The Capacity Optimality of Beam Steering in Large Millimeter Wave MIMO Systems

Omar El Ayach, Robert W. Heath, Jr., Shadi Abu-Surra, Sridhar Rajagopal, Zhouyue Pi


Proceedings of IEEE Int. Workshop on Signal Processing Advances in Wireless Communications (SPAWC), Cesme, Turkey, pp. 100-104, June 17-20, 2012


Millimeter wave (mmWave) systems must overcome the heavy attenuation at high frequency to support high-throughput wireless communication. The small wavelength in mmWave systems enables beamforming using \emph{large antenna arrays} to combat path loss with large array gain. Beamforming in traditional microwave systems is often done at baseband for maximum flexibility. Such baseband processing requires a dedicated transceiver chain per antenna element. The high cost of radio frequency (RF) chains in mmWave systems, however, makes supporting each antenna with a dedicated RF chain expensive. This mismatch between the number of antennas and transceiver chains makes baseband processing infeasible; thus mmWave systems typically rely on a traditional approach known as beam steering which can be done at RF using inexpensive phase shifters. Unlike baseband precoding, however, traditional beam steering is not explicitly designed to achieve the capacity of the mmWave channel. In this paper, we consider both beamforming and multi-stream precoding in single user systems with large mmWave antenna arrays at both transmitter and receiver. Using a realistic channel model, we show that the unconstrained capacity-achieving precoding solutions converge to simple beam steering solutions. Therefore, in large mmWave systems, no rate loss is incurred by adopting the traditional lower-complexity solution.