Energy and Latency of Beamforming Architectures for Initial Access in mmWave Wireless Networks

C. Nicolas Barati, Sourjya Dutta, Sundeep Rangan, Ashutosh Sabharwal

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Future millimeter-wave systems, 5G cellular or WiFi, must rely on highly directional links to overcome severe pathloss in these frequency bands. Establishing such links requires the mutual discovery of the transmitter and the receiver, potentially leading to a large latency and high energy consumption. In this work, we show that both the discovery latency and energy consumption can be significantly reduced using fully digital front-ends. In fact, we establish that by reducing the resolution of the fully digital front-ends we can achieve lower energy consumption compared to both analog and high-resolution digital beamforming. Since beamforming through analog front-ends allows sampling in only one direction at a time, the mobile device is “on” for a longer time compared to a digital beamformer, which can get spatial samples from all directions in one shot. We show that the energy consumed by the analog front-end can be four to six times more than that of the digital front-ends, depending on the size of the employed antenna arrays. We recognize, however, that using fully digital beamforming post beam discovery, i.e., for data transmission, is not viable from a power consumption standpoint. To address this issue, we propose the use of digital beamformers with low-resolution analog to digital converters (4 bits). This reduction in resolution brings the power consumption to the same level as analog beamforming for data transmissions while benefiting from the spatial multiplexing capabilities of fully digital beamforming, thus reducing initial discovery latency and improving energy efficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)281-302
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of the Indian Institute of Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 1 2020


  • Beam discovery
  • Beamforming
  • Energy consumption
  • Initial access
  • Millimeter wave

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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