Beam Tracking Strategies for 5G New Radio Networks Operating in the Millimetre Wave Bands
Carlos Herranz Claveras
The arrival of the next generation of mobile communication standards, the so-called Fifth Generation (5G), is already a reality. The first commercial networks have begun to be deployed, and they focus on providing higher data rates. However, the 5G standard goes much further from that and aims at providing support to new services which will revolutionise the society. These new services impose a high level of requirements not only in terms of the data traffic speed, but also in terms of very low latency or incredibly large number of simultaneous connections. This wide variety of requirements cannot be technologically supported by the current Fourth Generation (4G) networks, so it became necessary to move forward with a new paradigm for wireless networks. With the promise of large amounts of bandwidth, in the order of GHz, the 5G standard contemplates the use of frequencies in the commonly known Millimetre Wave (mmWave) band. The mmWave band experiences large propagation losses, which are accentuated in blockage events. Regulatory activities worldwide in the mmWave bands attracted the interest of both the industry and the academia. In the last few years, a tremendous number of contributions on mmWave propagation studies and networks have appeared, most of them based on Multiple-Input Multiple-Output (MIMO) solutions. MIMO architectures allow to beamform, which focuses the radiated energy on certain directions of interest called beams. The additional beam gain compensates the high propagation losses, ensuring the viability of the communications in the mmWave band. There is an evident lack of viability studies of mmWave MIMO systems in mobile and highly-dynamic environments, where obstacles may block beams and forcing frequent re-configurations. This Thesis work aims to fill this gap from a practical approach. This Thesis proposes beam management mechanisms utilising the mechanisms and resources offered by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 5G radio access standard: 5G New Radio (NR). The practical solutions are based on the efficient use of measurement reports of standardised downlink Reference Signals (RS). In first place, this Thesis provides a thorough state-of-the-art analysis and corroborates the need of adopting beam tracking solutions for mmWave networks. Then, a complete overview of the 5G standard mechanisms that enable beam tracking is given. The NR standard does not define a standardised mechanism for beam tracking, leaving the door open to proposals to carry out such monitoring. Once the technologies have been identified, the Thesis continues with assessing the impact of the beam tracking strategies on the network and link-level performance. The study is focused on individual point-to-point mmWave links in a realistic urban environment. Based on end-to-end network simulations, the Thesis is interested in assessing the beam tracking success ratio and how beam misalignment affects the perceived Signal to Noise plus Interference Ratio (SINR) and user throughput at pedestrian and vehicular speeds. The beam tracking solutions proposed in this Thesis fall into two categories. The first category monitors beams based on measuring and reporting beamformed RS. Regardless of the speed, this beam tracking category provides up to 91 % tracking performance, with little throughput reduction if the beams of interest are measured with a periodicity below 20 ms. Beam tracking in the second category relies on external information sources. Within this category, this Thesis proposes a fingerprinting database relating beams to the user position and a machine learning (ML) model. Fingerprinting beam tracking is technologically viable and provides similar performance levels. However, this solution is very sensitive to errors and requires considering all possible situations. The ML beam tracking, which makes predictions with a 16 % of estimation error for the reference data set.