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A Concept for Efficient System-Level Simulations

of OFDMA Systems with Proportional Fair Fast


Scheduling
Jan Ellenbeck, Johannes Schmidt, Ulrike Korger, and Christian Hartmann
Institute for Communication Networks
Technische Universitat Munchen
Email: jan.ellenbeck@tum.de
AbstractSystem-level simulations of packet-based orthogonal
frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) cellular networks
require a proper consideration of the channel-dependent fast
fading/scheduling in order to produce meaningful results. However, generating the time and frequency selective fast fading
channels and performing detailed channel-adaptive scheduling
for each user in a multi-cellular system is computationally too
expensive in most system-level simulations. To this end, we
propose an efficient mapping technique that allows to accurately
characterize the performance of the fast-scheduling system using
two parameters: the average effective post-scheduling SINR gain
and the ratio of allocated resources, both conditioned on the SINR
and the velocity of a user in a scenario defined by the number
of co-scheduled users. To derive these parameters for different
numbers of users at different velocities and SINR levels, we
perform detailed link level simulations including fast scheduling
for the downlink of a Long Term Evolution (LTE) system.

I. I NTRODUCTION
Performance evaluation by means of computer simulation
has always been an important technique during the development and standardization of wireless systems. But as wireless
systems have become more and more complex from generation
to generation, the computational complexity of simulations has
increased tremendously as well. In order to limit the scope of
the simulation and the simulation time, typically only certain
aspects of a system that are in the focus of the investigation are
modeled in detail. Other aspects are then either not modeled
at all or only in a highly abstracted way.
One aspect of wireless systems that demands high computational complexity is the modeling of the fast fading behavior
of the wireless channel. While this computational effort is
mandatory to study the performance of, e.g., fast channelaware scheduling schemes, it becomes excessive1 for systemlevel simulations focused on longer-term aspects such as
the system behavior under varying traffic load or inter-cell
interference coordination. However, if fast fading would not be
modeled in a simulation, the performance gain from channelaware scheduling would be neglected. This gain on the one
hand results from the transmitters knowledge of the current
(estimated) channel conditions which allows link-adaptation.
1 In a scenario consisting of 57 cells each serving 20 mobiles and assuming
an LTE system with 5 MHz and SISO links, 57 20 (5 MHz/15 kHz)
14, 000 symbols/s 5 109 channel samples/s would have to be computed.

On the other hand, an additional multi-user scheduling gain is


achieved because different mobiles will have different channel
realizations so that for each resource the base station can select
the user with the best conditions on that resource (multi-user
diversity).
In this paper, we therefore propose an abstraction mechanism that yields the average performance of fast scheduling
without incurring the computational overhead of generating
the fast fading channel in every single simulation run. Most
often, system-level simulations are not designed to capture
the individual performance in one specific scenario but rather
average results from multiple random scenario realizations
are derived. Thus, our approach is to first characterize the
systems average fast scheduling performance by means of
extensive off-line simulations that focus on the fast scheduling
behavior in a single-cell. During these detailed simulations,
many random scenarios are generated and the channel is
modeled using a standard channel model to obtain time-variant
and frequency-selective fading. Using these results we are then
able to perform efficient system-level simulations that yield
valid performance results with low computational complexity.
The vastly reduced computational complexity of this abstract
model allows the user to extend the simulations scope to, e.g.,
bigger multi-cell scenarios or more complex protocol stacks.
As the paper does not specifically focus on the scheduling algorithm itself (e.g., with respect to fairness), we have
selected the popular proportional fair (PF) scheduling algorithm first introduced in [1]. Its fast scheduling performance
is characterized by the achieved effective per-user signalto-interference-and-noise-ratio (SINR) gain, compared to the
long-time mean SINR, and by the ratio of the resources
assigned to a single user vs. the total resources. Using these
two key parameters as inputs and a modified PF scheduling
metric, we perform system-level simulations with an abstract
model. We show that the throughputs achieved using the
abstract model with drastically reduced computational complexity match the ones achieved in detailed simulations with
small residual error.
Despite the PF schedulers popularity, there is only a limited amount of analytical studies published in the literature
and in the few existing papers like [2] and [3] simplifying
assumptions have to be made. These simplifications usually

Pathloss

Detailed PF Scheduler

Shadowing
Fast Fading

CQI
(SINRest )

MI(SINRest,k (t, r))


arg max
pastTPk (t)
user k

Per user TP

Interference
Model
Accuracy?
Pathloss
Shadowing

Abstract PF Scheduler

SINR

Interference

Ratio k,v,N (SINR)

arg max
user k

MI(SINRk + k,v,N ) k,v,N


pastTPk (t)

Per user TP

Gain k,v,N (SINR)

Fig. 1.

Overview of the Fast Scheduling Abstraction Model

limit the study to single channel systems, do not consider a


measurement feedback delay, or employ a PF metric based on
the SINR rather than on the realizable data rate. In order to
allow for a detailed modeling of the system that yields the
necessary effective SINR gains and ratios, we thus resort to
extensive simulations. There are a number of publications on
simulative performance evaluations of fast scheduling and the
achievable multi-user diversity gains in OFDMA systems [4],
showing that the achievable gains tend to be higher for low
channel quality and grow with the number of users. However,
none of them provides the effective gains and ratios as needed
for our abstraction concept and we are not aware of prior work
introducing an abstraction of the fast scheduling performance
for efficient system-level simulations as proposed in this paper.
The remainder of the paper is structured as follows. In Section II we introduce the proposed abstraction for the systemlevel simulation. In Section III we discuss our simulation
model. In Section IV the simulation results are presented
and in Section V the accuracy of the model is shown. The
conclusions in Section VI end the paper.
II. A BSTRACT S YSTEM L EVEL P ROPORTIONAL FAIR
S CHEDULING M ODEL
A. Fast Scheduling Preliminaries
To perform channel-adaptive fast scheduling in the downlink, the base station (BS) needs timely information about the
instantaneous channel conditions of all mobile stations (MSs)
across the whole system bandwidth. For this purpose, the MSs
transmit channel quality indicators (CQIs) to report the highest
bit rate modulation and coding scheme they could successfully
receive on a certain subband. The CQIs are based on the SINRs
and aggregate the signal attenuation by pathloss, shadowing,
and fast fading as well as noise and inter-cell interference, cf.
the upper part of Fig. 1.
There is always a delay between the CQI measurement
and the time instant the resource allocation based on the
CQI report takes effect. In the following, we will refer to
this as the scheduling delay that is needed for the channel
measurement and processing by the MS and the transmission
to the BS where the scheduling takes place. The accuracy
of the channel estimation decreases with longer scheduling

delays and shorter channel coherence times. The gain from


scheduling with link adaptation is highest for slowly varying
channels and diminishes as MSs reach higher speeds.
Different users in a cell will have different channel realizations. Using CQI feedback from multiple users the scheduler
can allocate a physical resource block (PRB) to a MS which
has reported good channel conditions on that part of the
spectrum. The resulting multi-user diversity gain grows with
the number of MSs to schedule. To summarize, we expect
the realizable scheduling gain to grow with either shorter
scheduling delays, slower MS movement and thus lower
channel variability, or higher number of users.
B. Detailed Proportional Fair Scheduling Model
For our simulations we use the popular proportional fair
scheduler. It aims at exploiting the multi-user diversity while
ensuring a certain degree of fairness among the users. According to these goals, it selects for each PRB r the user k to
schedule by employing the following metric (1):
MI(SINRest,k (t, r))
k = arg max
pastTPk (t)
user k
pastTPk (t) =

R
t1 


MI(SINRk (, r)) xk (, r)

(1)

(2)

=1 r=1

In every transmission time interval (TTI) t and for each


PRB r, the scheduler picks the user with the best ratio2 of
the expected data rate MI(SINRest,k (t, r)) over the amount
of already transmitted bits pastTPk (t) as defined by (2). We
use a binary variable xk (, r) = 1 to indicate that user k
is scheduled on PRB r at t = . Here, we derive the data
rate as the average mutual information (MI) transmitted within
one PRB during one TTI according to the channel estimate
SINRest,k (t, r) (provided by user k in the form of a CQI report)
or the actual received SINRk (t, r), respectively.
If the CQI reporting is fast enough for the time varying
channel, the effect of proportional fair scheduling is that fading
dips can be avoided and users realize an effective SINR gain
compared to, e.g., a round robin scheduler. Besides achieving
an effective post-scheduling SINR gain, PF scheduling also
gives more resources to users who suffered low past throughputs so that a different distribution of resource allocation
ratios results. These two characteristics of proportional fair
fast scheduling will be evaluated in the following. In Fig. 3(b)
we show that in our simulations the generic implementation
of the PF scheduler yields a distribution of user throughputs
that fulfills the 10-50 metric fairness criterion, cf. [5], [6].
C. Abstract Proportional Fair Scheduling Model
As motivated in the introduction, the fast fading behavior
of the wireless channel is computationally expensive to model
due to its short timescale variations and complex modeling.
Longer timescale effects like signal attenuation due to pathloss
2 Note that constant factors like the number of symbols per PRB are omitted
from the metric as they are identical for all users.

MI(SINRk + k,v,N (SINRk )) k,v,N


.
k = arg max
pastTPk (t)
user k

(4)

D. Applicability for system-level simulations


The results presented in this paper are applicable to systemlevel simulations of the LTE downlink. The approach itself
is also valid for arbitrary OFDMA systems with channel
dependent proportional fair scheduling.
Differentiating the scheduling gain with respect to the postscheduling effective SINReff = SINR + k,v,N (SINR) on the
one hand and the different scheduling ratios on the other hand,
allows a realistic system-level simulation with packet-based
scheduling. The knowledge of the effective post-scheduling

Shannon bound
used mapping

4.5
4

MI

Throughput [bit/s/Hz]

3.5
3
2.5
2
1.5

Gain k,v,N

1
0.5
SINR

0
15

10

5
10
SINR [dB]

15

SINR eff
20

25

30

Fig. 2. Link performance model mapping SINR to MI [8] and illustration


how the scheduling gain = SINReff SINR is computed.
1
0,8
0,6
0,4
0,2
0

10

0
10
SINR [dB]

20

30

P(MS throughput < abscissa)

The two parameters scheduling gain k,v,N (SINRk ) and


scheduling ratio k,v,N (SINRk ) are the key inputs for the
proposed abstract scheduling model. In Section III we discuss
how we derive them by means of extensive simulations. In
Section IV the simulation results are presented and we discuss
the dependence of k,v,N (SINRk ) and k,v,N (SINRk ) on the
speed of the user v and the total number of users N in the
cell.
For the abstract system-level scheduling algorithm we again
assume a proportional fair scheme. Instead of SINRest,k (t, r)
as in metric (1) we now use the long-term average SINRk and
apply the effective gain k,v,N (SINRk ) to characterize the
post-scheduling improvements. Now the numerator is constant
over time
T foraRuser k and the denominator (2) can be separated
into =1 r=1 xk (, r) times the constant throughput per
allocated resource. Hence, the metric would always select the
user with the least number of previously allocated resources
yielding a round robin behavior. In order to achieve the correct
scheduling ratios and thus the correct throughputs, we modify
the metric (1) by multiplying with the user specific scheduling
ratio k,v,N to obtain the following PF abstract scheduling
metric:

P(SINR < abscissa)

and shadowing, however, are easily covered by system-level


simulations. These two effects together with the thermal and
receiver noise and the inter-cell interference contribute to the
mean SINRk for a user k which can be seen as a long-enough
average of the instantaneous SINRk (t, r).
The proposed efficient system-level proportional fair
scheduling model as depicted in the lower part of Fig. 1
allows for an efficient simulation based on long-term averages
SINRk while still taking the benefits of channel-aware fast
scheduling into account. This is achieved by modifying the
scheduling metric (1) of a user k by two parameters that
are pre-computed off-line for different combinations of the
number of co-scheduled users N , the velocity v of the user
k and its perceived long-term SINRk . These parameters are
the effective post-scheduling gain k,v,N (SINRk ) and the
scheduling ratio k,v,N (SINRk ), which captures the slight
differences in the share of resources that the PF scheduler
assigns to different mobiles:
T R
N =1 r=1 xk (, r)
.
(3)
k,v,N =
T R

1
0,8
0,6
0,4
0,2
0

0
1
2
3
MS throughput normalized to average

(a) User geometry resulting from (b) Scheduling fairness criterion (10model and calibration offset
50 metric) [5], [6]
Fig. 3.

Calibration of simulations to meet standard evaluation references

SINReff allows using standard packet/block error modeling


techniques as discussed, e.g., in [7]. The knowledge of the
scheduling ratios allows determining a realistic number of
allocated resources for each user.
In order to obtain the appropriate gains and ratios, the
system-level simulation needs to employ the correct group size
N corresponding to the number of active MSs that currently
compete for the resources. With bursty traffic sources the
group size N will change over time.
III. S IMULATION SETUP
To evaluate the performance of proportional fair scheduling
in fast fading environments we conduct simulations using the
Spatial Channel Model Extended (SCME). The SCME [9],
[10] is a geometry-based stochastic spatial channel model.
We use the SCME to generate time-varying channel impulse
responses with drifting delays for each MS from which we
obtain the channel transfer function H(f, t) using the Fourier
transform. This gives us random realizations of a time- and
frequency-selective fast fading channel including the pathloss.
We assume that the cyclic prefix length is sufficient to eliminate any intra-cell interference. In our simulation, only the
channel-dependent fading, the pathloss of the link between the

BS and the served MS, and the thermal noise is modeled explicitly. All other effects (e.g., antenna gains, penetration loss,
noise figures, and inter-cell interference levels) contributing to
the received SINR are summarized in a fixed calibration offset
, which we tune to achieve a typical SINR distribution within
the cell, cf. Fig 3(a):
SINR = PTx + 20 log10 (|H(f, t)|) Nthermal

(5)

From these SINR values, which we compute for each


resource element (RE), we derive the mutual information that
can be transmitted per RE from the BS to the MS. The
employed mapping (6) is based on Shannons channel capacity
and assumes an implementation loss factor = 0.6. It takes
into account the modulation and coding schemes as well as
the HARQ mechanisms available in LTE [8]:

 0
 : SINR < 10 dB
log2 1 + 10SINRdB /10 : else

4.4
: SINR > 22 dB
(6)
As the motivation of our abstract scheduling model is to
accurately represent the achievable throughputs, we compute
a mutual information effective (post-scheduling) SINReff [11].
To derive SINReff we first compute the average amount of bits
per resource element MI a user has obtained over the course of
the simulation. Using this average mutual information value,
we perform a reverse mapping as shown in Fig. 2 to obtain
the SINReff value. Finally, we then compute the effective
scheduling gain k,v,N = SINReff SINR as the difference of
effective and mean SINR. The inverse mapping function (7)
is defined for minimum and maximum SINR values between
-10 dB and 22 dB, respectively:

SINReff (MI) = 10 log10 2MI/ 1 .


(7)
MI(SINR) =

TABLE I
R ADIO SIMULATION PARAMETERS
Parameter
Transmission direction
Antenna configuration
SCME scenario
Center frequency
Cell radius
Pathloss model
Shadowing
SCME options
System bandwidth
BS Tx power
Symbols per slot
Sub-carrier spacing
Noise assumption
Calibration offset
Scheduling delay
MS velocity distribution
MS distribution
Number of drops
Duration per drop

Value
Downlink
SISO
Urban Macro
2 GHz
500 m
SCME standard (COST231 based)
L = 34.5 + 35 log10 (d/[m]) [dB]
No shadowing
Drifting delays and angles enabled
5 MHz with R = 25 PRBs
PTx = 29 dBm per 180 kHz PRB
7 for normal CP length
15 kHz
Nthermal = 121.4 dBm per 180 kHz PRB
= 23.5 dB
4 ms from end of measurement to start of Tx
Channel Mix (60% at 3 km/h, 30% at 30
km/h, and 10% at 120 km/h) [7]
Uniformly distributed over cell area
10,000 randomly generated MS distributions
T = 50 TTIs with a duration of 1ms each

IV. S IMULATION R ESULTS


In figures 4, 5, and 6 we present the scheduling gains
and scheduling ratios that result for mobiles from the 3
km/h, 30 km/h, and 120 km/h velocity groups of the channel
mix, respectively. To evaluate the results, we aggregate the
individual effective SINR gains and ratios of all MSs from
all 10,000 scenario drops into m = 1 . . . M discrete bins
according to their mean SINR. For each bin we compute and
plot the average of all effective scheduling gains and ratios
falling into that bin. These averaged results serve as the input
parameters for the abstract PF scheduling model introduced in
Sec. II. The individual gains are distributed around the plotted
curves with standard deviations of, e.g., up to 1 dB in Fig. 4(a).
At 3 km/h, the scheduling delay of 4 ms is much shorter
than the channel coherence time so that the CQI feedback is
still accurate. Hence, for users from the slow velocity group
a substantial scheduling gain can be realized in most cases,
as shown in Fig. 4(a). As expected [4], the achievable gains
increase with the number of active users due to the growing
multi-user diversity. The marginal gains decrease until almost
no further gain is realized at about 20 MSs. At high mean
SINRs the gains diminish and become negative for mean
SINRs > 22 dB. The reason is that the effective SINR is
upper-bounded by this value, cf. Fig. 2.
At 30 km/h, Fig. 5(a) shows that due to higher timevariability of the fast fading, almost no scheduling gains can
be realized with the assumed scheduling delay of 4 ms. At
120 km/h, the situation is even worse as depicted in Fig. 6(a).
Note that with our assumed mobility mix, only 40% (30%
at 30 km/h and 10% at 120 km/h) of the MSs will have the
respective high velocities while the remaining 60% of the MSs
who are assumed to be at v = 3 km/h benefit from the gains
shown in Fig. 4(a).
Fig. 5 and 6 show mostly negative scheduling gains. These
losses are not primarily caused by the attempt to perform fast
scheduling but rather are an effect of the employed MI-based
effective SINR mapping3 .
In the figures 4(b), 5(b), and 6(b) the corresponding scheduling ratios are shown. We need these ratios to reflect the
slight differences in the number of resources the PF scheduler
allocates to a certain class of MSs. For the vast majority of
MSs the scheduling ratios are close to 1 meaning that the MSs
receive about the same number of resources. The higher ratios
shown for MSs with very low mean SINR in the left parts of
Fig. 5(b) and 6(b) represent very rare cases as the velocities
are underrepresented in the assumed mix in addition to the
low probability of the considered SINR levels, cf. Fig. 3(a).
3 To see this, consider the case of 1 MS. No fast scheduling is performed
in this case as the single MS gets all the resources. Still, for all velocities
Fig. 4 6 show a significant loss in terms of effective SINR as compared to the
mean SINR. The reason for this effect is that the instantaneous SINR levels
fluctuate around the mean SINR due to the fast fading. Low instantaneous
SINRs then lead to zero throughputs while the benefit of high instantaneous
SINRs is limited by the link performance model, cf. Fig. 2.

2
40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs
1 MS

1.5
scheduling ratio

effective SINR gain [dB]

40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs

1
0

1
1
2
3
5

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

0.5
5

25

(a) Effective SINR gains k,v,N (SINR)


Fig. 4.

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

25

(b) Scheduling ratios k,v,N (SINR)

Gains and scheduling ratios experienced by a mobile k with v = 3 km/h for different numbers of total users N
2
40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs
1 MS

1.5
scheduling ratio

effective SINR gain [dB]

40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs

1
0

1
1
2
3
5

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

25

(a) Effective SINR gains k,v,N (SINR)


Fig. 5.

0.5
5

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

25

(b) Scheduling ratios k,v,N (SINR)

Gains and scheduling ratios experienced by a mobile k with v = 30 km/h for different numbers of total users N

V. E VALUATION OF SYSTEM - LEVEL SCHEDULING MODEL


In the previous section we have presented the results for
our detailed simulation. Using the resulting average scheduling
gains and ratios, we have conducted simulations using our
abstract PF scheduling model as introduced in Section II-C. In
the abstract simulations we use the mean SINR computed from
the pathloss and offset values as in the detailed simulations
thus yielding the same SINR CDF as in Fig. 3(a). The PF
scheduling is performed according to metric (4).
As we are not interested in the performance of a particular
MS, we evaluate the average system performance of a typical
MS which is characterized by its mean SINR, velocity v, and
by the number N of co-scheduled MSs. Thus, we only rely on
the average effective gain and scheduling ratios even though
the gains of individual MSs vary in the detailed simulations.

For each combination of v and N we compute the mean


throughputs TPdet (m) and TPabs (m) in the detailed and abstract simulation, respectively. To compare the throughputs and
derive the modeling error, we again assign each MS to one
of m = 1 . . . M discrete SINR bins. In Table II we show the
weighted root mean square error (wRMSE) which we compute
using (8) with a SINR bin resolution of 1 dB. The weighting
factor P (m) represents the probability of the respective SINR
bin according to Fig. 3(a):


M 
 TP (m) TP (m) 2
det
abs

P (m). (8)
wRMSE =
TPdet (m)
m=1
We observe that the wRMSE is in general small which
underlines the applicability and accuracy of our proposed
abstract proportional fair scheduling model. Possible error

2
40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs
1 MS

1.5
scheduling ratio

effective SINR gain [dB]

40 MSs
20 MSs
10 MSs
5 MSs
2 MSs

1
0

1
1
2
3
5

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

25

(a) Effective SINR gains k,v,N (SINR)


Fig. 6.

10
mean SINR [dB]

15

20

25

(b) Scheduling ratios k,v,N (SINR)

Gains and scheduling ratios experienced by a mobile k with v = 120 km/h for different numbers of total users N

WEIGHTED

Number
of MSs N
1
2
5
10
20
40

0.5
5

TABLE II
RMSE OF MS THROUGHPUTS

v = 3 km/h

v = 30 km/h

v = 120 km/h

0.05%
2.37%
2.30%
1.69%
1.11%
0.93%

0.06%
1.96%
1.54%
0.23%
1.24%
2.07%

0.03%
2.42%
3.30%
2.48%
1.43%
0.55%

fast channel-dependent scheduling based on MS feedback. We


believe that our concept can be useful for many researchers
facing similar challenges when evaluating OFDMA-based networks on a system level.
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
The authors would like to thank the German Research
Foundation DFG for funding part of this work.
R EFERENCES

sources include the bin size of 1 dB and the imperfect


emulation of scheduling ratios due to finite simulation times.
The small wRMSE values for the 1 MS case underline the
accuracy of the employed mutual information-based SINReff
mapping. The close match between the values obtained from
the proposed abstract model and the detailed simulations is
especially remarkable as the abstract simulation only needs
a fraction of the simulation time. The CPU time in our
simulations was reduced from about 2 weeks to about 2 hours
because the time-consuming generation of the fast fading
channel using the SCME model accounts for about 99% of
the time in the detailed simulation.
VI. C ONCLUSION
We have proposed an efficient method to very accurately
include the effects of fast scheduling into system-level simulations of multicellular OFDMA networks without adding significant computational complexity. This is achieved by detailed
off-line single cell fast scheduling simulations from which
two parameters are derived that are sufficient to represent
the fast scheduling effects in system-level simulations. We
have provided and discussed an array of numerical results,
demonstrating the feasibility and the benefit of this approach.
Our simulations and results assume LTE system parameters
but the approach is applicable to any OFDMA system with

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