Channel Estimation for RIS-Empowered Multi-User MISO Wireless Communications

Reconfigurable Intelligent Surfaces (RISs) have been recently considered as an energy-efficient solution for future wireless networks due to their fast and low-power configuration, which has increased potential in enabling massive connectivity and low-latency communications. Accurate and low-overhead channel estimation in RIS-based systems is one of the most critical challenges due to the usually large number of RIS unit elements and their distinctive hardware constraints. In this paper, we focus on the uplink of a RIS-empowered multi-user Multiple Input Single Output (MISO) uplink communication systems and propose a channel estimation framework based on the parallel factor decomposition to unfold the resulting cascaded channel model. We present two iterative estimation algorithms for the channels between the base station and RIS, as well as the channels between RIS and users. One is based on alternating least squares (ALS), while the other uses vector approximate message passing to iteratively reconstruct two unknown channels from the estimated vectors. To theoretically assess the performance of the ALS-based algorithm, we derived its estimation Cram\'er-Rao Bound (CRB). We also discuss the downlink achievable sum rate computation with estimated channels and different precoding schemes for the base station. Our extensive simulation results show that our algorithms outperform benchmark schemes and that the ALS technique achieves the CRB. It is also demonstrated that the sum rate using the estimated channels always reach that of perfect channels under various settings, thus, verifying the effectiveness and robustness of the proposed estimation algorithms.

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