Performance Optimization for Semantic Communications: An Attention-Based Reinforcement Learning Approach

Yining Wang, Mingzhe Chen, Tao Luo, Walid Saad, Dusit Niyato, H. Vincent Poor, Shuguang Cui

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


In this paper, a semantic communication framework is proposed for textual data transmission. In the studied model, a base station (BS) extracts the semantic information from textual data, and transmits it to each user. The semantic information is modeled by a knowledge graph (KG) that consists of a set of semantic triples. After receiving the semantic information, each user recovers the original text using a graph-to-text generation model. To measure the performance of the considered semantic communication framework, a metric of semantic similarity (MSS) that jointly captures the semantic accuracy and completeness of the recovered text is proposed. Due to wireless resource limitations, the BS may not be able to transmit the entire semantic information to each user and satisfy the transmission delay constraint. Hence, the BS must select an appropriate resource block for each user as well as determine and transmit part of the semantic information to the users. As such, we formulate an optimization problem whose goal is to maximize the total MSS by jointly optimizing the resource allocation policy and determining the partial semantic information to be transmitted. To solve this problem, a proximal-policy-optimization-based reinforcement learning (RL) algorithm integrated with an attention network is proposed. The proposed algorithm can evaluate the importance of each triple in the semantic information using an attention network and then, build a relationship between the importance distribution of the triples in the semantic information and the total MSS. Compared to traditional RL algorithms, the proposed algorithm can dynamically adjust its learning rate thus ensuring convergence to a locally optimal solution. Simulation results show that the proposed framework can reduce by 41.3% data that the BS needs to transmit and improve by two-fold the total MSS compared to a standard communication network without using semantic communication techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2598-2613
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


  • Semantic communications
  • attention networks
  • policy gradient
  • reinforcement learning (RL)
  • resource allocation
  • semantic similarity


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