Wireless Communications

Course summary

  • Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, Parks Road, Oxford, OX1 3PJ
  • This unit can only be taken as part of the MSc in Microelectronics, Optoelectronics and Communications.
  • Course code O18C004H6Y
  • moac@eng.ox.ac.uk
  • +44 (0)1865 283263
  • Applications not yet being accepted

Wireless Communications


This is the third unit of the part-time MSc in Microelectronics, Optoelectronics and Communications, and includes the following topics:

Programme details

Wireless Channels

Topics include:

  • Signal propagation
  • Dispersive channels and multipath
  • Path loss
  • Shadowing
  • Link budget analysis
  • Small-scale fading
  • Statistical fading models
  • Slow fading, fast fading and Doppler
  • Level crossing rate and fade duration, narrowband channels

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Understand the salient properties of wireless channels and be able to perform basic link budget calculations for practical examples.
  2. Know what is meant by channel fading and how different statistical fading models apply in different contexts.
  3. Be able to calculate important parameters of interest, including the level crossing rate and the fade duration, for simple statistical fading models.

Channel Equalisation and Impairments

Topics include:

  • Maximum likelihood sequence estimation
  • Nyquist’s condition for zero intersymbol interference
  • Linear equalisation (zero forcing and minimum mean-square error)
  • Nonlinear equalisation (decision-feedback equalisation)
  • Orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing
  • Single-carrier transmission with frequency-domain equalisation
  • Carrier phase estimation
  • Timing recovery
  • Channel estimation

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Understand how a receiver can recover a transmitted message using optimal and suboptimal techniques in nondispersive and dispersive channels.
  2. Be able to formulate the system model for dispersive and nondispersive wireless channels and calculate linear equalisers for narrowband and wideband systems.
  3. Be able to describe the key features of multicarrier and single-carrier block modulation schemes and how such schemes can be employed to yield state-of-the-art wireless communication systems.
  4. Have an understanding of practical impairments of communication systems and how they are dealt with.

Diversity and Multiplexing

Topics include:

  • Macrodiversity
  • Microdiversity
  • SNR outage probability
  • Diversity gain
  • Coding gain
  • Time diversity
  • Spatial diversity
  • Frequency diversity
  • Diversity reception
  • Equal-gain combining
  • Selection combining
  • Maximum ratio combining
  • Diversity transmission
  • Space-time coding
  • Alamouti code
  • Generalised complex orthogonal designs
  • Multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO)
  • Spatial multiplexing
  • Beamforming
  • Multi-antenna receiver techniques
  • Massive MIMO

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Have a clear understanding of the concept of diversity and how it can be exploited in practice.
  2. Have a firm grasp of the mathematical definition and physical meaning of the SNR outage probability and diversity.
  3. Be able to calculate the outage probability for basic diversity channels and use this to determine the diversity and coding gains of a system.
  4. Understand the motivation for exploiting transmit diversity rather than receive diversity and vice versa.
  5. Be comfortable proposing transmission and reception architectures that would yield a prescribed diversity gain.
  6. Have an understanding of multiple-input multiple-output channels and where and how these channels are encountered in practice, and be able to describe advantages and disadvantages of linear and nonlinear methods of detection.

Capacity and System Performance

  • Topics include:

  • Ergodic capacity
  • Parallel channels
  • Diversity channels
  • Effects of channel state information at the transmitter and/or the receiver
  • MIMO channels
  • Adaptive modulation
  • Information outage probability, error probability

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Be able to quantitatively analyse the capacity of key wireless channels encountered in practical systems.
  2. Have an understanding of how channel capacity results have influenced the design of standardised systems.
  3. Be able to analyse the error probability for basic wireless communication systems.

Interference and Multiple Access

Topics include:

  • Uplink and downlink
  • Cellular network models
  • Signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio
  • Wireless LAN
  • Wireless PAN, TDMA, (O)FDMA, CDMA
  • Frequency hopping
  • Successive interference cancellation
  • Superposition coding
  • Random access
  • Capacity

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Be able to describe basic cellular network models.
  2. Understand the main sources of interference in wireless networks and how interference is modelled for the purposes of system analysis and design.
  3. Be able to describe how key multiple access techniques operate to enable multi-user communication in wireless networks.
  4. Have knowledge of the multiple access schemes that are specified in the main wireless communication standards.

System Modelling and Simulation

Topics include:

  • Monte Carlo simulation with MATLAB
  • Link level simulation
  • System level simulation (coverage)

Learning outcomes. Students will:

  1. Be able to construct a simple link level simulator in MATLAB to analyse system performance.
  2. Be able to construct a simple system level simulator in MATLAB to analyse the coverage in a cellular network.


Recommended reading

You will be issued with a reading list before your residential week via the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).



Accommodation is not included in the course fee but may be available at your college and at Rewley House.

Bed and breakfast accommodation at other University colleges can also be booked on the Oxford Rooms website.



Radcliffe Science library

The Radcliffe Science Library (RSL) www.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/science is the main science research library at the university. The library holds copies of all of your reading list items, and most of your engineering library research will be done using this library’s resources. The library is located less than 5 minutes away from the Engineering Science department, at the corner of Parks Road and South Parks Road.

The subject librarian responsible for Engineering Science is Alessandra Vetrugno (alessandra.vetrugno@bodleian.ox.ac.uk), based at the RSL

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The Department for Continuing Education

The Department for Continuing Education is based at Rewley House in Wellington Square, only five minutes walk from the Department of Engineering Science (Thom Building).

In addition to supporting the various aspects of the course that involve online learning, the Department has facilities available to students during their attendance in Oxford. In particular, the Department has a Graduate Room - a study space dedicated to graduate students with lockers, printing facilities and refreshments. The Graduate Room is accessible from 8.00am to 10.00pm (24hrs for students using the Department’s overnight accommodation). The Continuing Education Library, also located at Rewley House, has quiet study space and a ‘Reading Room’.


IT requirements

In order to participate in the pre-course material, you will need access to the internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification which can be found at onlinesupport.conted.ox.ac.uk/TechnicalSupport/YourComputer.php



This unit can only be taken as part of the MSc in Microelectronics, Optoelectronics and Communications.

Teaching methods

Each of the six taught units will typically follow the structure below:

  1. Online material and exercises using the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). We would expect you to take 12 weeks to work through this material.  We will expect you to read specific material online and be familiar with the necessary pre-requisites of the course before each residential week in Oxford.
  2. A residential week in Oxford during which you will attend classes, complete tutorial exercises, participate in tutorial classes, meet your personal tutor and, where necessary, complete practical assignments.
  3. Assignments, which are available online and which must be completed and submitted by the deadlines (see Key Dates).

This course is taught by members of the Engineering Science Faculty, who you will as lecturers, as tutors for classes, or as your dissertation supervisor. One member of faculty will be assigned to you as a ‘personal tutor’ at the start of the course. He or she will provide advice and guidance, and discuss your academic progress. Your personal tutor will meet with you at each of the residential weeks, and you can contact him or her by email.

Your course supervisor will write a formal report on your progress three times a year on the online Graduate Supervision System (http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/gss/). You will be able to view that report and will be asked to reflect on your progress as well. 

Virtual Learning Environment

This course uses a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), which is a web-based application using WebLearn.

Access to the course VLE is via an internet browser using your University Single Sign-On account. When the course has started and you have activated your Single Sign-On under “My Active Sites” you will have access to the student forum, information about student support, course documents and examiner reports.  If you are unable to access WebLearn, please email the Registry with details of your Single Sign-On (moac@eng.ox.ac.uk).

You will be given access to an 'Induction' VLE which houses supporting materials for the MSc on Microelectronics, Optoelectronics and Communication at the start of the academic year, and to separate sites for each unit as and when you are due to take them.

During the course you will also be required to submit work through our online Moodle Assignment Submission System. A link to the online Submission System can be found here.


Assessment methods

One example sheet will be provided via remote learning and should be submitted online during Week 7. This assignment will not contribute to your overall degree outcome and you will receive written feedback from your tutor via the VLE.  A second example sheet  will be provided during Week 7 via remote learning for submission online during Week 11. Again, this will not contribute to your overall degree outcome, written feedback will be provided online and will be discussed during the residential week.

Finally, there will be one examinable paper covering all six topics. This paper will be provided towards the end of the 12 week course and will be formally assessed with the outcome providing the mark for the completed unit. The paper will be distributed online and must be submitted for assessment online.

Additional worked examples and problems may also be provided during the course via the VLE.



This unit can only be taken as part of the MSc in Microelectronics, Optoelectronics and Communications.