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Cell-free (CF) massive multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) has emerged as an alternative deployment for conventional cellular massive MIMO networks. As revealed by its name, this topology considers no cells, while a large number of multi-antenna access points (APs) serves simultaneously a smaller number of users over the same time/frequency resources through time-division duplex (TDD) operation. Prior works relied on the strong assumption (quite idealized) that the APs are uniformly distributed, and actually, this randomness was considered during the simulation and not in the analysis. However, in practice, ongoing and future networks become denser and increasingly irregular. Having this in mind, we consider that the AP locations are modeled by means of a Poisson point process (PPP) which is a more realistic model for the spatial randomness than a grid or uniform deployment. In particular, by virtue of stochastic geometry tools, we derive both the downlink coverage probability and achievable rate. Notably, this is the only work providing the coverage probability and shedding light on this aspect of CF massive MIMO systems. Focusing on the extraction of interesting insights, we consider small-cells (SCs) as a benchmark for comparison. Among the findings, CF massive MIMO systems achieve both higher coverage and rate with comparison to SCs due to the properties of favorable propagation, channel hardening, and interference suppression. Especially, we showed for both architectures that increasing the AP density results in a higher coverage which saturates after a certain value and increasing the number of users decreases the achievable rate but CF massive MIMO systems take advantage of the aforementioned properties, and thus, outperform SCs. In general, the performance gap between CF massive MIMO systems and SCs is enhanced by increasing the AP density. Another interesting observation concerns that a higher path-loss exponent decreases the rate while the users closer to the APs affect more the performance in terms of the rate.
Original languageEnglish
Article number8972478
Pages (from-to)3523-3537
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Vehicular Technology
Issue number4
Early online date28 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • Cell-free massive MIMO systems
  • achievable rate
  • coverage probability
  • heterogeneous networks
  • stochastic geometry


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