Capacity Scaling of Massive MIMO in Strong Spatial Correlation Regimes

Junyoung Nam, Giuseppe Caire, Merouane Debbah, H. Vincent Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


This paper investigates the capacity scaling of multicell massive MIMO systems in the presence of spatially correlated fading. In particular, we focus on the strong spatial correlation regimes where the covariance matrix of each user channel vector has a rank that scales sublinearly with the number of base station antennas, as the latter grows to infinity. We also consider the case where the covariance eigenvectors corresponding to the non-zero eigenvalues span randomly selected subspaces. For this channel model, referred to as the 'random sparse angular support' model, we characterize the asymptotic capacity scaling law in the limit of large number of antennas. To achieve the asymptotic capacity results, statistical spatial despreading based on the second-order channel statistics plays a pivotal role in terms of pilot decontamination and interference suppression. A remarkable result is that even when the number of users scales linearly with base station antennas, a linear growth of the capacity with respect to the number of antennas is achievable under the sparse angular support model. We also note that the achievable rate lower bound based on massive MIMO 'channel hardening', widely used in the massive MIMO literature, yields rather loose results in the strong spatial correlation regimes and may significantly underestimate the achievable rate of massive MIMO. This work therefore considers an alternative bounding technique which is better suited to the strong correlation regimes. In fading channels with sparse angular support, it is further shown that spatial despreading (spreading) in uplink (downlink) has a more prominent impact on the performance of massive MIMO than channel hardening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8937832
Pages (from-to)3040-3064
Number of pages25
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Theory
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

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


  • Large-scale MIMO
  • asymptotic capacity scaling
  • correlated fading channels
  • multiplexing gain
  • random matrix theory


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