SIGNiPHY: Reconciling Random Access with Directional Reception for Efficient mmWave WLANs
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Millimeter-Wave (mmWave) WiFi can provide very low latency and multi-Gbps throughput, but real-world deployments usually do not achieve the theoretically feasible performance. One main source of inefficiency is the contention-based random channel access, as it requires omni-directional reception which limits performance. Additionally, carrier sensing at mmWave frequencies is highly unreliable, leading to reduced channel usage. In this paper, we present SIGNalling in the PHY Preamble (SIGNiPHY) for efficient directional communications, a solution that allows to embed user identity in the preamble of data packets. It allows for true early user identification and then immediately steering the beam towards the transmitter while receiving the physical layer preamble. SIGNiPHY enables directional reception in random access mmWave networks, and additionally helps to quickly filter unwanted packets. It does not affect any preamble functions and is backward-compatible with legacy stations. We implement SIGNiPHY on an FPGA-based mmWave testbed and show that it achieves 99.6% decoding accuracy even under very low SINR conditions. We also implement SIGNiPHY in ns-3 to evaluate large networks and show that it achieves throughput gains between 13% and 230% compared to different baseline schemes, due to the lower packet loss rate and improved spatial sharing.