What Is the Value of Joint Processing of Pilots and Data in Block-Fading Channels?

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Executive Summary

The spectral efficiency achievable with joint processing of pilot and data symbol observations is compared with that achievable through the conventional (separate) approach of first estimating the channel on the basis of the pilot symbols alone, and subsequently detecting the data symbols. Studied on the basis of a mutual information lower bound, joint processing is found to provide a non-negligible advantage relative to separate processing, particularly for fast fading. It is shown that, regardless of the fading rate, only a very small number of pilot symbols (at most one per transmit antenna and per channel coherence interval) should be transmitted if joint processing is allowed.

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