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List Sequential MIMO Detection:

Noise Bias Term and Partial Path Augmentation


Steffen Bittner, Ernesto Zimmermann, Wolfgang Rave and Gerhard Fettweis
Vodafone Chair Mobile Communications Systems
Technische Universität Dresden, D-01062 Dresden, Germany
Email: bittner@ifn.et.tu-dresden.de

Abstract— Near-capacity performance can be achieved in privileged in the extension process. The search tree thus grows
multiple-antenna systems by using a list sequential (LISS) de- very fast in width, resulting in high detection complexity.
tector for iterative equalization. Path augmentation is known to The problem of shortened paths can be resolved by using
increase the performance of this detector, while a so-called bias
term has been used to reduce its computational complexity, in soft bits to extend all incomplete stack entries to full length
applications other than MIMO detection. [1]. Very good performance can then be achieved even when
In this work, we extend the LISS MIMO detector [1] to the stack contains only a low number of full length paths
incorporate different implementations of the bias term. We show after the tree search. However, the complexity of this path
that following the traditional approach of using an auxiliary stack augmentation can still be significant. In this paper we therefore
for this purpose leads to a strong narrowing of the search tree, but
also to a significant performance degradation, due to a reduced
propose to extend only a small fraction of the shortened paths
quality of the detector soft output. We therefore propose to use a – the ones with the best path metrics – and show that similar
so-called noise bias term instead, which can be implemented with performance gains can be achieved. The issue of different
negligible effort, significantly reduces the size of the search tree, path lengths during the tree search has not been considered in
but allows for almost retaining detector performance. Finally, we previous work on LISS MIMO detection. A so-called bias term
demonstrate that the extension of only a small fraction of the
incomplete stack entries is sufficient to leverage the full gains of
can be used to tackle this problem. By penalizing short paths, it
path augmentation, thus enabling further substantial savings in prevents the tree from growing too fast in width, thus speeding
computational complexity. up the search. One possible solution is to use an additional
auxiliary stack for this purpose [3]. Although this variant leads
I. I NTRODUCTION to an almost perfect estimation of the bias term, the required
effort in terms of computational complexity and additional
Radio frequency spectrum is a scarce resource and thus has memory is prohibitively high. In this paper, we propose to
to be used as efficiently as possible to satisfy the demands of approximate the bias term by the average accumulated noise
modern data services. To achieve this high spectral efficiency, energy over the receive antennas. This easily implementable
multiple antennas can be used at transmitter and receiver noise term requires practically no implementation effort and
to spatially multiplex several parallel data streams into the provides an even better performance-complexity trade-off than
same time-frequency bin. A big challenge in this context the original bias term.
is the correct separation of the transmitted signals at the The remainder of this paper is organised as follows. In
receiver. Recently, the field of iterative MIMO equalization Section II we describe the system model and the principles of
based on the serial concatenation of an inner MIMO detector iterative equalization. Section III introduces the basics of list
and an outer channel decoder has received a lot of attention. sequential (LISS) detection investigated in detail in this paper.
Two representatives of this approach are list sphere [4] and We also present different possibilities for bias term calculation
list sequential (LISS) [1] detection. Both schemes are able and path augmentation. In Section IV we show results on the
to approach the capacity limit of the MIMO channel while performance and complexity of the different LISS detector
avoiding the prohibitive complexity of a full APP detector. implementations investigated in this paper. We conclude the
The LISS detector is a derivation of the basic stack algo- paper with a summary of our findings in Section V.
rithm. A sorted list is filled with paths of different lengths
II. S YSTEM M ODEL
resulting from a tree search over possibly transmitted vector
signals. The detection procedure is stopped as soon as a A. MIMO-Model
predefined number of full length paths (candidates) is found. We consider a MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) sys-
Adjusting the stack size allows to trade-off detector perfor- tem with T x transmit and Rx receive antennas as depicted
mance against implementation simplicity. There are two main in Figure 1. Let u be a vector of information bits which are
drawbacks of (conventional) LISS detection: firstly, the stack encoded by the outer encoder and interleaved. The resulting
usually contains a large number of incomplete paths which code bit stream is separated into blocks x containing T x·N in-
are not considered in the calculation of soft outputs and thus dependent binary digits. Here, N represents the number of bits
constitute a waste of resources. Secondly, shorter paths are per symbol and therefore allows to separate between M = 2N
different constellation points. Each block x = (x1 , · · · , xT x )T of appropriate size and structure), the joint probabilities can
consists of T x binary vectors xt = (xt1 , · · · , xtN ) of N be split into products. The L-value computation can now be
bits. As part of the transmission process, every single block rewritten as:
is mapped onto a T x × 1 complex vector of symbols P
x∈Xtn,+1 p(y|x) · P [x]/p(y)
s = (s1 , · · · , sT x )T whose components are taken from some L(xtn |y) = ln P (3)
complex constellation C (e.g. 16-quadrature amplitude mod- x∈Xtn,−1 p(y|x) · P [x]/p(y)

ulation (QAM)). These components are obtained using the where Xtn,±1 is the set of 2T x·N −1 bit blocks x with
mapping function st = map(xt ), t = 1, · · · , T x (e.g., Gray xtn = ±1. The MIMO channel introduces interference among
mapping). the transmitted signals at the receiver. The conditioned proba-
Binary Outer Constellation
bility density in (3) is therefore given by the complex Gaussian
u c x
Source Encoder Mapper
distribution
s
Rate R Interleaver ...  
H 1 1 2
... p(y|x) = exp − ky − Hsk . (4)
Hard Decision
AWGN n (πN0 )Rx N0
y

Binary
Sink
SISO
Decoder
LA,Dec
-1
LE,Det
MIMO
Detector
For the L-value computation only the exponential term is
relevant – the constant scaling factor 1/(πN0 )Rx cancels out
LE,Dec LA,Det and can be omitted. The second term in (3) represents the a-
priori knowledge fed into the detector from the outer decoder,
Fig. 1. Transmission model with outer PCC encoder, MIMO channel and whereas the third (bias) term p(y) takes the influence of the
iterative receiver (soft SIC MIMO detector and SISO decoder). different path lengths during the tree search into account. Note
that this bias term effectively cancels itself out in the L-value
The average transmission energy is equal to E[ksk2 ] = Es , computation, as only full length paths are considered there. Its
with each component obeying the energy constraint of Es /T x. only purpose is to speed up the tree search as will be explained
Let y be a vector of received symbols according to later in Section III.
y = Hs + n (1) To evaluate the numerator and denominator in (3) it is often
convenient to apply the so called ”max-Log” approximation
where H is a dimension Rx × T x MIMO channel matrix in order to speed up computation at the expense of some
perfectly known at the receiver. Each entry of the channel performance degradation [6]. The computation of the detector
matrix is an independent realisation of a complex Gaussian L-value can hence be approximated as a difference of two
random process with zero mean and variance 1/2 per real di- max-operations:
mension. The noise vector n consists of mutually independent
zero-mean circularly symmetric complex Gaussian random  
1
y−Hs 2 +ln Y Y P [x ]−ln p(y)
Tx N
variables, each with variance N0 /2 per real dimension. L(xtn |y) ≈ max − tn
x∈Xtn ,+1 N0 t=1 n=1
B. Iterative MIMO Equalization  
1
y −Hs 2 +ln Y Y P [x ]−ln p(y) .
Tx N
As receiver architecture we consider the serial concatenation − max − tn
x∈Xtn ,−1 N0
of an inner MIMO detector and an outer channel decoder. t=1 n=1
(5)
Both detector and decoder are able to accept and generate soft
information, which can be exchanged in an iterative fashion. As outlined in the introduction, equation (5) can be imple-
The detector uses the received signal, the channel state infor- mented by a number of different MIMO detection strategies.
mation and the a-priori information provided by the decoder to In our work, we concentrated on the list sequential approach,
generate new (extrinsic) information. The decoder exploits the whose specifics are discussed in the following section.
correlation among different bits of the codeword (code bits),
which are introduced by the channel code, to generate extrinsic III. S EQUENTIAL D ETECTION
information about the information bits as well as about the A. Tree Search
code bits. The latter information is interleaved and fed back
to the detector. The MIMO detector can hence employ the Evaluating the two max-operations in equation (5) by a
provided a-priori information to further improve its soft output. brute-force approach is an intractable task which grows ex-
For the soft information representation we use the conven- ponentially with the number of transmit antennas and the
tion of the so called log-likelihood values (L-values), see [2] modulation size. However, only a few hypotheses x ∈ Xtn , ±1
for details. The L-value of a certain bit xtn conditioned on the actually maximise each of the respective terms. We call these
received signal y is defined as: hypotheses candidates and restrict our search to a subset list
L ⊂ X. This list should on the one hand include only a
P [xtn = +1|y] fraction of elements from X but on the other hand be large
L(xtn |y) := ln . (2)
P [xtn = −1|y] enough to allow approaching the true detector L-value as
Using Bayes’ theorem under the assumption of mutually inde- closely as possible, such that any performance degradation of
pendent bits xtn (which is justified by the use of an interleaver the receiver can be avoided. One effective scheme enabling
the construction of such a subset list is the stack algorithm, B. Bias Term Calculation
of which the List-Sequential (LISS) Detector introduced in During the tree search, the stack of the LISS detector
[1] is a derivative. The LISS detector performs a tree search, contains paths of different lengths. Longer paths usually
maintaining a list of paths of different lengths which are sorted have worse metrics, due to the higher accumulated Euclidean
according to their metrics. distances, and hence tend to be sorted to the bottom of the
For systems with an equal number of transmit and receive stack. As a result, the width of the search tree grows very
antennas, the computation of the squared Euclidian distance fast, resulting in high detection complexity. The so-called bias
in (5) can be written as: term ln p(y) in (7) enables to efficiently tackle this problem
by appropriate adjustment of the path metrics. For a path of
ky − Hsk2 = kH(s − ŝZF )k2 (6)
length t (i.e., spanning antennas 1 through t), it is defined as:
where ŝZF = (HH H)−1 HH y is the unconstrained ML X
ln p(y1t ) = ln p(y|xi ) · P [xi ]
estimate of s (also known as the Zero-Forcing solution), which
xi ∈It
acts as the starting point of our search. During the tree search X
we always extend the path with the best metric which has not = ln eln p(y|xi )+ln P [xi ] . (9)
yet reached full length, by its M successors. The search ends xi ∈It

after we obtained a predefined number of fully extended paths. where It indicates the set of all possible signal combinations
(cf. Figure 2 for an illustration of such a BPSK search tree, for the considered path depth t. The calculation of the correct
where ”×” indicates the received symbol per antenna and ”•” bias term is thus as complex as the whole soft output detection
represents the BPSK constellation points as well as the soft problem itself. In [3] it is therefore suggested to calculate an
modulated constellation points in case of augmented paths.) approximate bias term by using an additional auxiliary stack
which contains only an appropriate subset of I. However, the
LA (x11 ) = −5 LA (x21 ) = +2.2 LA (x31 ) = −1.1 increase in complexity and the additional memory require-
x11 = +1 x̄21 = +0.8 x̄31 = −0.5 ments eat up a substantial part of the savings obtained by
introducing this version of the bias term.
PSfrag replacements We therefore take a different approach that directly ad-
dresses the main problem: the larger accumulated Euclidean
x31 = +1
distance in the metric of long paths. We propose to approxi-
x21 = +1 mate the bias term by the average accumulated noise energy
x31 = −1 over the receive antennas. Assuming perfect detection of the
x11 = −1
transmitted signal, ŝ = s, the squared Euclidian distance d2M L
is equal to the squared norm of the noise vector n:
x21 = −1 x̄31 = −0.5
d2M L = ky − Hŝk2 = kH(s − ŝ) + nk2 = knk2
N0
Fig. 2. Search tree for a 3 × 3 MIMO system using BPSK transmission. ∼ · χ22Rx . (10)
Dashed lines indicate augmented paths. 2
which is proportional to a weighted N20 chi-square ran-
As a prerequisite for evaluating (5) by a tree search algo- dom variable with 2Rx degrees of freedom. Thus,
rithm, we have to decompose the channel matrix H to obtain E{d2M L } = Rx · N0 and in view of the definition of the path
a matrix of upper triangular structure. Since it is obviously metric increment (7) it becomes evident that, even in the case
also advantageous to detect reliably received signals first, we of perfect detection, the path metric is decremented by 1
use the sorted QR decomposition (ZF-SQRD) introduced in per detected antenna, on average. We therefore propose to
[7] for this purpose. compensate this effect by incrementing the path metric by
The upper triangular structure of R allows for defining a 1 per detected antenna. The introduction of this noise term
set of per-antenna metric increments, where each increment can be expected to yield a narrower search tree and hence a
depends only on the current and previously detected symbols: complexity reduction at practically zero implementation effort.
Tx 2 N C. Path Augmentation
1 X X
Λt = − rt,j (sj − ŝZFj ) + ln P [xtn ] − ln p(yt ) The information lying in the incomplete entries of the stack
N0 j=t
n=1
(7) can be used to further improve the L-values. By extending
where the term ln p(yt ) represents the bias increment at the shortened paths to full length, each list vector (horizontal
antenna t. Using these metric increments, the overall path stack entry) can be written as:
metric can now be calculated as: x̃l = (x̃1 , x̃2 , · · · , x̃N ·Hl , x̃N ·Hl +1 , · · · , x̃N ·T x )T
 X 1   X 1  := (x1 , x2 , · · · , xN ·Hl , x̄N ·Hl +1 , · · · , x̄N ·T x )T .(11)
L(xtn |y) ≈ max Λt − max Λt .
x∈Xtn ,+1
t=T x
x∈Xtn ,−1
t=T x
where Hl indicates the number of perfectly known (in terms
(8) of distance computations) and hard decided bit values of the
lth list vector. Early proposals for such a path augmentation IV. S IMULATION R ESULTS
[5] suggested the use of a random tail. However, better The performance of the LISS detector using different ap-
performance can be achieved by extending the shortened paths proaches for noise term calculation and path augmentation was
using soft bits generated from available a-priori knowledge [1], tested by simulating a 4 × 4 MIMO system, with parameters
that is:   selected equivalent to the setup in [4]. We assumed the
LA (xtn )
x̄tn = tanh . (12) receiver to know the channel perfectly and the channel gains
2
to remain constant over the transmission of one vector but
An example for such a path augmentation is given in change statistically independent from one vector to another.
Figure 2. The expected metric increment Λ̄t for t = H + As channel code we used a rate R = 1/2 parallel concate-
1, · · · , T x can be derived as the average
PM over all possible nated G = [7R , 5] turbo code, where 7 indicates the memory
metric increments Λ̄t = E[Λt ] = ln m=1 exp(Λtm ). Again, two feedback polynomial G(D) = 1 + D + D2 and 5 the
the max-log approximation is employed to simplify the calcu- memory two feedforward polynomial G(D) = 1 + D2 . The
lation: decoder performed 8 internal turbo decoding iterations. The
 interleaver size was set to 9216 bits. Moreover, we performed
1 r (s − ŝ ) + X r (s̃ − ŝ
2
Tx

Λ̄t ≈ max − t,t tm ZFt t,j j ZFj )
4 detector-decoder iterations.
∀ m N0 j=t+1

X
N  0
10
··· + ln P [xnm ] − ln p(yt )
n=1 8 candidates

(13) −1
10

where the (hard/soft) symbols s̃l are obtained by (hard/soft)


mapping of x̃l . The bit probabilities are equal to No path augm.
−2
10 No bias
1 + xtn · x̃tn BER →
P [xtn = ±1] = . (14)
2 Path augm. No path augm.
Aux. stack bias Noise bias
For the first iteration, however, no a-priori information is −3
10

available. We therefore base the path augmentation on the ZF Full search


Path augm. 1/3 path augm.
solution ŝZF [1]. The corresponding metric increment can be −4
No bias Noise bias
10
written as:
Tx 2
1 X
Λt = − r (s
t,j j − ŝZFj − ln p(yt )
) (15)
N0 2 2.5 3 3.5
Eb/N0 [dB] →
4 4.5 5
j=H
After the augmentation we have a complete working stack
and compute the L-value by soft weighting of the stack entries Fig. 3. Performance results of a QPSK LISS receiver after 4 Detector-
Λ(l) as proposed in [3]: Decoder-Iterations with and without path augmentation and different types of

   
bias approximations.
1 + x̃tn 1 − x̃tn
L(xtn |y) ≈ max Λ(l)+ln −max Λ(l)+ln . Figure 3 shows the result for QPSK transmission. As refer-
∀l 2 ∀l 2
ence and upper performance bound, we plotted results for full
This approach makes it possible to evaluate each max- APP detection (running the LISS with 28 = 256 candidates).
operation over all entries in the working stack, since the ln(·) The waterfall region for this brute-force approach is around
part suppresses all contributions from negative bits in the first 2.5dB. For all further investigations with QPSK transmission,
and all contribution from positive bits in the second term, by we stopped the LISS algorithm after finding 8 full length
adding −∞. candidates, to assess the performance of a detector having
From the outline of the path augmentation procedure it acceptable complexity. If we base our L-value computation
becomes evident that the expected increase in performance solely on these 8 full length candidates, we cannot guarantee
may come at a substantial cost in terms of implementation the stack to contain a hypothesis (bit is +1) and counter-
effort, since a very high number of additional metric in- hypothesis (bit is −1) for each possible bit position. To
crements have to be calculated and far more stack entries avoid infinite L-values, it is therefore necessary to clip the
have to be considered in the L-value computation (remember corresponding soft outputs (we chose a clipping level of ±4).
that the stack size is usually far larger than the number of A performance degradation of roughly 2dB is incurred in this
full length candidates). One key question is hence whether setup of the LISS detector. Applying path augmentation of
it is really necessary to augment all incomplete paths in the the incomplete stack entries improves performance by almost
stack. Motivated by the typical max-Log approximation, an 1.5dB – the waterfall region is now around 3.2dB. As stated
alternative way is to sort the shortened paths according to their before, the main problem of this strategy is that we have a
metric and use only a small fraction for path augmentation. rather high number of paths that need to be extended and
The remaining incomplete paths are deleted from the stack. therefore a high computational complexity.
0
10
To reduce the stack size we therefore have to include the 1/3 augmented
1/10 augmented
bias term during the tree search. For the bias term based 1/20 augmented
1 Path augmented
on the auxiliary stack, we used a stack size of 256 and −1
10

always extended all nodes as proposed in [3]. The simulation


results in Figure 3 show that this very accurate estimation of −2
10
ln p(y) leads to a significant performance degradation. The

BER →
explanation for this result is that the search tree is narrowed
−3
“too much” (cf. the results in Figure 4). Even extending 10

all incomplete paths does not yield sufficient information to


calculate accurate soft outputs for certain bit values. The −4
10
second option for bias term calculation is the proposed noise
term. Combined with a partial path augmentation of only 1/3
of all incomplete paths, this approach leads only to a slight 6 6.2 6.4 6.6 6.8 7 7.2 7.4 7.6 7.8
E /N [dB] →
b 0
performance degradation of around 0.2 dB. It is obviously a
far more attractive approach. Without path augmentation, using Fig. 5. Bit error rate for a 16-QAM system with 96 full length candidates
the bias term even results in a small performance improvement and different numbers of path augmentations.
which appears to be a beneficial side-effect of the more
directed search.
setup is presented in Figure 6. The single path augmentation
13
8 Cand./path−augm. curve is also plotted for reference. This curve approaches
8 Cand./Aux+path−augm.
12 8 Cand./Noise+path−augm. T x − 1 = 3 augmentations with increasing SNR. However,
11
using the 1/20 partial path augmentation we could reduce the
augmentation complexity from 300 augmented nodes to 15
10
– a dramatic reduction in complexity without any significant
No. of Nodes →

9 loss in performance. We thus consider a combination of


8
the noise term and partial path augmentation as the most
promising approach in LISS MIMO detection, in terms of the
7
performance-complexity trade-off.
6
140
1/3 augmented
5 1/10 augmented
1/20 augmented
120
1 Path augmented
4
2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5 5
No. of Path augmentations →

Eb/N0 [dB] →
100

Fig. 4. Number of extended nodes during the tree search, corresponding to 80


Figure 3.
60
The influence of the different bias terms on the tree search,
in terms of the number of extended nodes, is depicted in 40

Figure 4. Interestingly, for the auxiliary stack version this


20
figure is almost independent of the SNR, which would be
advantageous for a real-time implementation of the LISS 0
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
algorithm. However, the observed performance degradation Eb/N0 [dB] →
is not justifiable. Using the noise term, we could achieve a
complexity reduction of more than 12%. Fig. 6. Number of augmented paths, corresponding to Figure 5
To assess the potential complexity reduction by using only
partial path augmentation, we chose a scenario of 16-QAM A parameter not considered yet is the number of full length
transmission using 96 full length candidates. Figure 5 shows candidates. A performance comparison for a 16-QAM system
the performance of the LISS detector using path augmentation is shown in Figure 7. Here one can see the slight performance
of different fractions of the incomplete stack entries. It is loss between a full complexity setup, where we did not use
easily seen that it is sufficient to extend only 1/20 of all any bias approximation and augmented all incomplete paths,
incomplete paths to retain the original performance. Extending and a reduced complexity setup including the noise term and
only a single path results in a performance loss of roughly 0.5 a partial augmentation of 1/3. With the help of the noise term
dB. Again, we cannot completely forbear from doing the path we succeeded in speeding up the tree search by more than
augmentation, since we need the soft entries in the stack to 20% (compared to 12% for the QPSK case). But we still have
always ensure a reliable counter hypothesis. a quite large number of path augmentations, which can be
The total number of path augmentations for the 16-QAM reduced as show in Figure 5.
0
10
ACKNOWLEDGMENT
This work was supported by the German ministry of
−1
10
research and education within the project Wireless Giga-
bit with advanced multimedia support (WIGWAM) under
−2
10 grant 01 BU 370.
BER →

R EFERENCES
−3
10 [1] S. Bäro, J. Hagenauer and M. Witzke, Iterative Detection of MIMO
Transmission Using a List-Sequential (LISS) Detector, Proceedings of
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10 pp. 2653-2657, May 2003.
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V. C ONCLUSIONS [6] P. Robertson, E. Villebrun and P. Hoeher, A comparison of optimal
In this paper, we presented an iterative equalization system and suboptimal MAP decoding algorithms operating in the log domain,
Proceedings of the IEEE International Conference on Communications
for multiple antenna systems. For the detection we used a List- (ICC’95), pp. 1009-1013, Jun. 1995.
Sequential-Detector (LISS) employing path augmentation to [7] D. Wübben, J. Rinas and R. Böhnke and V. Kühn and K. D. Kammeyer,
improve the accuracy of its soft output. In order to reduce Efficient Algorithm for Detecting Layered Space-Time Codes, 4th Inter-
national ITG Conference on Source and Channel Coding, Jan. 2002.
the computational complexity, we extended the LISS by a
bias term based either on an auxiliary stack or on the con-
sideration of the receiver noise. Our performance evaluations
showed that the second option, the noise term, is a far more
attractive option, speeding up the tree search by more than
20% (for 16-QAM transmission in a 4 × 4 MIMO system) at
a negligible performance loss and implementation complexity.
Furthermore, we showed that extending only a few incomplete
paths with the best metric to full length and removing all
other shortened paths from the stack reduces the complexity
of path augmentation drastically without any significant loss in
performance. A combination of the proposed noise term and
partial path augmentation hence offers a very attractive trade-
off between performance and implementation complexity for
list sequential iterative MIMO detection.