Beamforming is a signal processing technique with numerous benefits in wireless communication. Unlike traditional omnidirectional communication, it focuses the energy of the transmitted and/or the received signal in a particular direction. Although beamforming has been extensively studied on conventional systems such as WiFi, little is known about its practical impact on performance in orthogonal frequency-domain multiple access (OFDMA) small-cell deployments. Since OFDMA schedules multiple clients (users) in the same frame in contrast to WiFi, designing intelligent scheduling mechanisms and at the same time leveraging beamforming is a challenging task.
Unlike downlink, we show that the integration of beamforming with uplink scheduling projects an interesting tradeoff between beamforming gain on the one hand, and the power-pooling gain resulting from joint multiuser scheduling on the other hand. This, in turn, makes the uplink scheduling problem even hard to approximate. To address this, we propose algorithms that are simple to implement, yet provably efficient with a worst-case guarantee of 1/2. We implement our algorithms on a real WiMAX small-cell platform integrated with an eight-element phased-array beamforming antenna. Evaluations from both prototype implementation and trace-driven simulations show that the algorithms deliver throughput gains of over 40% compared to an omnidirectional scheme.