How to Deploy Intelligent Reflecting Surfaces in Wireless Network: BS-side, User-side, or Both Sides?

Changsheng You, Beixiong Zheng, Rui Zhang

The performance of wireless communication systems is fundamentally constrained by the random and uncontrollable wireless channel. By leveraging the recent advance in digitally-controlled metasurface, intelligent reflecting surface (IRS) has emerged as a promising solution to enhance the wireless network performance by smartly reconfiguring the radio propagation environment. Despite the substantial research on IRS-aided communications, this article addresses the important issue of how to deploy IRSs in a wireless network to achieve its optimum performance. We first compare the two conventional strategies of deploying IRS at the side of base station or distributed users in terms of various communication performance metrics, and then propose a new hybrid IRS deployment strategy by combining their complementary advantages. Moreover, the main challenges in optimizing IRS deployment as well as their promising solutions are discussed. A case study is also presented to compare the performance of different IRS deployment strategies and draw useful insights for practical design.

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