MU-MIMO MAC Protocols for Wireless Local Area Networks: A Survey

Ruizhi Liao, Boris Bellalta, Miquel Oliver, Zhisheng Niu

As wireless devices boom, and bandwidth-hungry applications (e.g., video and cloud uploading) get popular, today's Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) become not only crowded but also stressed at throughput. Multi-user Multiple-Input and Multiple-Output (MU-MIMO), an advanced form of MIMO, has gained attention due to its huge potential in improving the performance of WLANs. This paper surveys random access based MAC protocols for MU-MIMO enabled WLANs. It first provides background information about the evolution and the fundamental MAC schemes of IEEE 802.11 Standards and Amendments, and then identifies the key requirements of designing MU-MIMO MAC protocols for WLANs. After that, the most representative MU-MIMO MAC proposals in the literature are overviewed by benchmarking their MAC procedures and examining the key components, such as the channel state information acquisition, de/pre-coding and scheduling schemes. Classifications and discussions on important findings of the surveyed MAC protocols are provided, based on which, the research challenges for designing effective MU-MIMO MAC protocols, as well as the envisaged MAC's role in the future heterogeneous networks, are highlighted.

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