A Decentralized Pilot Assignment Algorithm for Scalable O-RAN Cell-Free Massive MIMO

Myeung Suk Oh, Anindya Bijoy Das, Seyyedali Hosseinalipour, Taejoon Kim, David J. Love, Christopher G. Brinton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Radio access networks (RANs) in monolithic architectures have limited adaptability to supporting different network scenarios. Recently, open-RAN (O-RAN) techniques have begun adding enormous flexibility to RAN implementations. O-RAN is a natural architectural fit for cell-free massive multiple-input multiple-output (CFmMIMO) systems, where many geographically-distributed access points (APs) are employed to achieve ubiquitous coverage and enhanced user performance. In this paper, we address the decentralized pilot assignment (PA) problem for scalable O-RAN-based CFmMIMO systems. We propose a low-complexity PA scheme using a multi-agent deep reinforcement learning (MA-DRL) framework in which multiple learning agents perform distributed learning over the O-RAN communication architecture to suppress pilot contamination. Our approach does not require prior channel knowledge but instead relies on real-time interactions made with the environment during the learning procedure. In addition, we design a codebook search (CS) scheme that exploits the decentralization of our O-RAN CFmMIMO architecture, where different codebook sets can be utilized to further improve PA performance without any significant additional complexities. Numerical evaluations verify that our proposed scheme provides substantial computational scalability advantages and improvements in channel estimation performance compared to the state-of-the-art.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)373-388
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2024
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Computer Networks and Communications


  • Open-RAN (O-RAN)
  • cell-free massive MIMO
  • deep reinforcement learning
  • pilot assignment


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