Antenna diversity, also known as space diversity, is any one of several wireless diversity schemes that uses two or more antennas to improve the quality and reliability of a wireless link. Often, especially in urban and indoor environments, there is no clear line-of-sight (LOS) between transmitter and receiver. Instead the signal is reflected along multiple paths before finally being received. Each of these bounces can introduce phase shifts, time delays, attenuations, and distortions that can destructively interfere with one another at the aperture of the receiving antenna.

Antenna diversity is especially effective at mitigating these multipath situations. This is because multiple antennas offer a receiver several observations of the same signal. Each antenna will experience a different interference environment. Thus, if one antenna is experiencing a deep fade, it is likely that another has a sufficient signal. Collectively such a system can provide a robust link. While this is primarily seen in receiving systems (diversity reception), the analog has also proven valuable for transmitting systems (transmit diversity) as well.

Inherently an antenna diversity scheme requires additional hardware and integration versus a single antenna system but due to the commonality of the signal paths a fair amount of circuitry can be shared. Also with the multiple signals there is a greater processing demand placed on the receiver, which can lead to tighter design requirements. Typically, however, signal reliability is paramount and using multiple antennas is an effective way to decrease the number of drop-outs and lost connections.

The following classes of diversity schemes can be identified:

  • Time diversity: Multiple versions of the same signal are transmitted at different time instants. Alternatively, a redundant forward error correction code is added and the message is spread in time by means of bit-interleaving before it is transmitted. Thus, error bursts are avoided, which simplifies the error correction.
  • Frequency diversity:
    The signal is transmitted using several frequency channels or spread
    over a wide spectrum that is affected by frequency-selective fading. Middle-late 20th century microwave radio relay lines often used several regular wideband radio channels, and one protection channel for automatic use by any faded channel. Later examples include:

    • OFDM modulation in combination with subcarrier interleaving and forward error correction
    • Spread spectrum, for example frequency hopping or DS-CDMA.
  • Space diversity:
    The signal is transmitted over several different propagation paths. In
    the case of wired transmission, this can be achieved by transmitting via
    multiple wires. In the case of wireless transmission, it can be
    achieved by antenna diversity using multiple transmitter antennas (transmit diversity) and/or multiple receiving antennas (reception diversity). In the latter case, a diversity combining
    technique is applied before further signal processing takes place. If
    the antennas are far apart, for example at different cellular base
    station sites or WLAN access points, this is called macrodiversity or site diversity. If the antennas are at a distance in the order of one wavelength, this is called microdiversity. A special case is phased antenna arrays, which also can be used for beamforming, MIMO channels and Space–time coding (STC).
  • Polarization diversity: Multiple versions of a signal are transmitted and received via antennas with different polarization. A diversity combining technique is applied on the receiver side.
  • Multiuser diversity:
    Multiuser diversity is obtained by opportunistic user scheduling at
    either the transmitter or the receiver. Opportunistic user scheduling is
    as follows: the transmit selects the best user among candidate
    receivers according to the qualities of each channel between the
    transmitter and each receiver. In FDD systems, a receiver must feed back the channel quality information to the transmitter with the limited level of resolution.
  • Cooperative diversity: Achieves antenna diversity gain by using the cooperation of distributed antennas belonging to each node.

Antenna diversity can be realized in several ways. Depending on the
environment and the expected interference, designers can employ one or
more of these methods to improve signal quality. In fact multiple
methods are frequently used to further increase reliability.

Spatial Diversity

Spatial diversity employs multiple antennas, usually with the same
characteristics, that are physically separated from one another.
Depending upon the expected incidence of the incoming signal, sometimes a
space on the order of a wavelength is sufficient. Other times much
larger distances are needed. Cellularization or sectorization, for example, is a spatial diversity scheme that can have antennas or base stations miles apart. This is especially beneficial for the mobile communication industry since it allows multiple users to share a limited communication spectrum and avoid co-channel interference.

Pattern Diversity

Pattern diversity consists of two or more co-located antennas with different radiation patterns.
This type of diversity makes use of directive antennas that are usually
physically separated by some (often short) distance. Collectively they
are capable of discriminating a large portion of angle space and can
provide a higher gain versus a single omnidirectional radiator.

Polarization Diversity

diversity combines pairs of antennas with orthogonal polarizations
(i.e. horizontal/vertical, ± slant 45°, Left-hand/Right-hand CP etc.).
Reflected signals can undergo polarization changes depending on the
medium through which they are travelling. A polarisation difference of
90° will result in an attenuation factor of up to 34dB in signal
strength. By pairing two complementary polarizations, this scheme can
immunize a system from polarization mismatches that would otherwise
cause signal fade. Additionally, such diversity has proven valuable at
radio and mobile communication base stations since it is less
susceptible to the near random orientations of transmitting antennas.

Transmit/Receive Diversity

Transmit/Receive diversity uses two separate, collocated antennas for
transmit and receive functions. Such a configuration eliminates the
need for a duplexer and can protect sensitive receiver components from
the high power used in transmit.

Adaptive Arrays

Adaptive antenna arrays
can be a single antenna with active elements or an array of similar
antennas with ability to change their combined radiation pattern as
different conditions persist. Active electronically scanned arrays (AESAs)
manipulate phase shifters and attenuators at the face of each radiating
site to provide a near instantaneous scan ability as well as pattern
and polarization control. This is especially beneficial for radar
applications since it affords a signal antenna the ability to switch
among several different modes such as searching, tracking, mapping and

In radio, multiple-input and multiple-output, or MIMO
(commonly pronounced my-moh or me-moh), is the use of multiple antennas
at both the transmitter and receiver to improve communication
performance. It is one of several forms of smart antenna technology. Note that the terms input and output refer to the radio channel carrying the signal, not to the devices having antennas.
MIMO technology has attracted attention in wireless
communications, because it offers significant increases in data
throughput and link range without additional bandwidth or transmit
power. It achieves this by higher spectral efficiency (more bits per
second per hertz of bandwidth) and link reliability or diversity
(reduced fading). Because of these properties, MIMO is an important part of modern wireless communication standards such as IEEE 802.11n (Wifi), 4G, 3GPP Long Term Evolution, WiMAX and HSPA+.


Amateur radio operator from Malaysia

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