Flexible and Reliable UAV-Assisted Backhaul Operation in 5G mmWave Cellular Networks
To satisfy the stringent capacity and scalability requirements in the fifth generation (5G) mobile networks, both wireless access and backhaul links are envisioned to exploit millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum. Here, similar to the design of access links, mmWave backhaul connections must also address many challenges such as multipath propagation and dynamic link blockage, which calls for advanced solutions to improve their reliability. To address these challenges, 3GPP New Radio technology is considering a flexible and reconfigurable backhaul architecture, which includes dynamic link rerouting to alternative paths. In this paper, we investigate the use of aerial relay nodes carried by e.g., unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to allow for such dynamic routing, while mitigating the impact of occlusions on the terrestrial links. This novel concept requires an understanding of mmWave backhaul dynamics that accounts for: 1) realistic 3-D multipath mmWave propagation; 2) dynamic blockage of mmWave backhaul links; and 3) heterogeneous mobility of blockers and UAV-based assisting relays. We contribute the required mathematical framework that captures these phenomena to analyze the mmWave backhaul operation in characteristic urban environments. We also utilize this framework for a new assessment of mmWave backhaul performance by studying its spatial and temporal characteristics. We finally quantify the benefits of utilizing UAV assistance for more reliable mmWave backhaul. The numerical results are confirmed with 3GPP-calibrated simulations, while the framework itself can aid in the design of robust UAV-assisted backhaul infrastructures in future 5G mmWave cellular.