Antenna packing in low-power systems: Communication limits and array design

Tarik Muharemovic, Ashutosh Sabharwal, Behnaam Aazhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


In this correspondence, we study design of transceiver antenna arrays and its impact on spectral efficiency of low-power systems. Our primary motivation is construction of practical and portable multi-antenna configurations with a very small and a-priori fixed volume for placing antennas. Using spectral efficiency as a target metric for array optimization, we show that any array configuration, transmit or receive, can be characterized via a parameter that we interpret as "effective degrees of freedom." For any array configuration, effective degrees of freedom describes an equivalent uncorrelated array, which results in the same low-power behavior of spectral efficiency. Joint optimization of transmit and receive antenna configurations decouples into maximizing effective degrees of freedom for transmitter and receiver separately. To achieve this goal, we introduce and study a theoretical benchmark of "limiting degrees of freedom," which is the least upper bound on effective degrees of freedom, evaluated over all configurations with finite number of antennas. Limiting degrees of freedom therefore describes the best possible performance for any transceiver array which confines its elements inside a given space. We compute a closed-form expression for limiting degrees of freedom of a circular geometry. Finally, we present numerical procedure and examples for designing linear and square arrays with nonuniform spacing, which typically exhibit significant spectral efficiency gains over uniform arrays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Antenna arrays
  • Multi-antenna communications
  • Multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Information Systems
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Library and Information Sciences


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