Capacity Scaling of Cellular Networks: Impact of Bandwidth, Infrastructure Density and Number of Antennas

Felipe Gomez-Cuba, Elza Erkip, Sundeep Rangan, Francisco Javier Gonzalez-Castano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The availability of very wide spectrum in millimeter wave bands combined with large antenna arrays and ultra-dense networks raises two basic questions: What is the true value of overly abundant degrees of freedom and how can networks be designed to fully exploit them? This paper determines the capacity scaling of large cellular networks as a function of bandwidth, area, number of antennas, and base station density. It is found that the network capacity has a fundamental bandwidth scaling limit, beyond which the network becomes power-limited. An infrastructure multi-hop protocol achieves the optimal network capacity scaling for all network parameters. In contrast, current protocols that use only single-hop direct transmissions cannot achieve the capacity scaling in wideband regimes except in the special case when the density of base stations is taken to impractical extremes. This finding suggests that multi-hop communication will be important to fully realize the potential of next-generation cellular networks. Dedicated relays, if sufficiently dense, can also perform this task, relieving user nodes from the battery drain of cooperation. On the other hand, more sophisticated strategies such as hierarchical cooperation, that are essential for achieving capacity scaling in ad hoc networks, are unnecessary in the cellular context.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8100649
Pages (from-to)652-666
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • Wideband regime
  • capacity scaling laws
  • cellular networks

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering
  • Applied Mathematics


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