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The sphere decoding algorithm is able to approach Maximum Likelihood (ML) detection with significantly reduced computational complexity for Multi-Input Multi-Output (MIMO) communications. The computational reduction makes it attractive for hardware implementation. This paper presents a unified sphere decoder architecture that deploys diversity-multiplexing tradeoff in MIMO channels by taking advantage of the flexibility in the number of antennas and modulation schemes. Several signal processing and circuit techniques are constructively combined to reduce the hardware complexity: a 20 times area reduction is achieved even without interleaving of sub-carriers compared to the direct-mapped architecture.
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