Noncoherent backscatter communications over ambient OFDM signals

Mohamed A. ElMossallamy*, Miao Pan, Riku Jantti, Karim G. Seddik, Geoffrey Ye Li, Zhu Han

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


In recent years, ambient backscatter communications have gained a lot of interests as a promising enabling technology for the Internet-of-Things and green communications. In ambient backscatter communication systems, ultra-low power devices are able to transmit information by backscattering ambient radio-frequency signals generated by legacy communication systems such as Wi-Fi and cellular networks. This paper is concerned with ambient backscatter communications over legacy orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) signals. We propose a backscatter modulation scheme that allows backscattering devices to take advantage of the spectrum structure of ambient OFDM symbols to transmit information. The proposed modulation scheme allows both binary and higher-order modulation using noncoherent energy detection. We investigate the detector design and analyze the error performance of the proposed scheme. We provide an exact expression for the error probability for the binary case, whereas accurate approximate expressions for the error probability are derived for the M-Ary case. We corroborate our analysis using Monte-Carlo simulation and investigate the effects of varying the OFDM symbol size, maximum channel delay spread, and the number of receive antennas on the error performance. Our numerical results show that the proposed technique outperforms other techniques available in this paper for backscatter communication over ambient OFDM signals in different scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8642363
Pages (from-to)3597-3611
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Communications
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Ambient backscatter
  • green communications
  • Internet of Things
  • RF-powered
  • wireless-powered


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