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The authors analyze multiuser detection under the assumption that the number of users accessing the channel is unknown by the receiver. In this environment, users' activity must be estimated along with any other parameters such as data, power, and location. The main goal is to determine the performance loss caused by the need for estimating the identities of active users, which are not known a priori. To prevent a loss of optimality, they assume that identities and data are estimated jointly, rather than in two separate steps. They examine the performance of multiuser detectors when the number of potential users is large. Statistical-physics methodologies are used to determine the macroscopic performance of the detector in terms of its multiuser efficiency.
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