Sunday, December 27, 2009

What OFDM Means to WiMAX

To the telecommunications industry, an WiMAX OFDM-based system can squeeze a 72 Mbps uncoded data rate (~100 Mbps coded) out of 20 MHz of channel spectrum. This translates into a spectrum efficiency of 3.6 bps per Hz. If five of these 20 MHz channels are contained within the 5.725 to 5.825 GHz band, giving a total band capacity of 360 Mbps (all channels added together with 1 ×frequency reuse). With channel reuse and through sectorization, the total capacity from one BS site could potentially exceed 1 Gbps.

OFDM has manifold advantages in WiMAX, but among the more notable advantages is greater spectral efficiency. This is especially important in licensed spectrum use, where bandwidth and spectrum can be expensive. Here, OFDM delivers more data per spectrum dollar. In unlicensed spectrum applications, OFDM mitigates interference from other broadcasters due to its tighter beam width (less than 28 Mhz) and guardbands, as well as its dispersal of the data across different frequencies so that if one flow is "stepped on" by an interfering signal, the rest of the data is delivered on other frequencies.

QoS: Error Correction and Interleaving

Error correcting coding builds redundancy into the transmitted data stream. This redundancy allows bits that are in error or even missing to be corrected. The simplest example would be to simply repeat the information bits. This is known as a repetition code. Although the repetition code is simple in structure, more sophisticated forms of redundancy are typically used because they can achieve a higher level of error correction. For OFDM, error correction coding means that a portion of each information bit is carried on a number of subcarriers; thus, if any of these subcarriers has been weakened, the information bit can still arrive intact.

Interleaving is the other mechanism used in OFDM systems to combat the increased error rate on the weakened subcarriers. Interleaving is a deterministic process that changes the order of transmitted bits. For OFDM systems, this means that bits that were adjacent in time are transmitted on subcarriers that are spaced out in frequency. Thus errors generated on weakened subcarriers are spread out in time; that is, a few long bursts of errors are converted into many short bursts. Error correcting codes then correct the resulting short bursts of errors.

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