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MIMO has been widely adopted into wireless standards and commercial deployments from 4G LTE (long term evolution) to 5G NR (new radio), as well as IEEE 802.11n/ac/ax (also known as Wi-Fi 4/5/6), etc. In the past few years, 6G research and development activities have been initiated and are heating up worldwide. The extreme requirements of 6G set a challenging target for the wireless community towards the next decade, which call for great efforts in research, standardization, development, and trial activities to realize 6G commercialization in 2030. Among the many candidate key technologies, MIMO still plays an important role to boost the system performance, especially with higher frequency band and larger antenna array size. After several decades of research, standardization, and implementation, one important question to answer now is how MIMO can continue to evolve.

The radiation field of antenna array can be divided into far-field and near-field. In the far-field, the wave front is approximately planar, while in the near-field, the spherical wave front shall be considered. The near-field boundary is proportional to the aperture size and the carrier frequency. For 5G and previous systems, far-field assumption is widely adopted and reasonable, considering that low frequency and small array aperture yields negligible near-field, i.e., less than 1 meter. However, due to the increasing carrier frequency and array size, the near-field range can be up to tens or hundreds of meters, which should be considered for 6G system design. NF-MIMO technologies have the potential to open up a new era of MIMO evolution, not only to increase the communications capacity, but also to closely interact with other emerging technologies, including reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS), integrated communications and sensing (ISAC), and wireless AI/ML, etc. With collaborative efforts from both academy and industry, NF-MIMO may reshape the MIMO technologies in the future.

Some recent studies reveal that near-field MIMO technologies are promising to significantly improve the system performance towards 5G-Advanced and 6G. However, in addition to the opportunities, many challenges remain to be solved for near-field MIMO technologies. Considering the 6G standardization may start in the end of 2025, now it is a good timing to call for more research efforts worldwide to accelerate the research progress of near-field MIMO technologies.

This Feature Topic (FT) will provide a comprehensive overview about the emerging research interests and efforts related to near-field MIMO technologies, potentially shedding some light on the future evolutions of MIMO towards 5G-Advanced, 6G and beyond. Original technical contributions are solicited in the relevant areas including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Channel modeling for near-field MIMO
  • Performance bound analysis of near-field MIMO, such as capacity, degree of freedom, etc.
  • Antenna designs to enable large array size in different bands, e.g., sub-6GHz, mmW, sub-THz, etc.
  • Near-field beamforming schemes
  • Near-field multi-layer transmission schemes for SU-MIMO, under both LOS and NLOS channel conditions
  • Near-field multi-user multiplexing schemes for MU-MIMO
  • Channel state information (CSI) acquisition, including channel sounding, channel estimation, CSI compression and feedback, etc.
  • Reconfigurable intelligent surface (RIS) aided near-field MIMO schemes
  • Wireless sensing and imaging with near-field MIMO technologies
  • AI/ML-driven near-field MIMO algorithms design
  • Experiments and trials related to near-field MIMO technologies
  • Standards related activities (e.g., IEEE, 3GPP, or reginal SDOs, etc.)

Submission Guidelines

Manuscripts should conform to the standard format as indicated in the Manuscript Submission Guidelines in the IEEE Communications Magazine website. Please, check these guidelines carefully before submitting since submissions not complying with them will be administratively rejected without review.

All manuscripts to be considered for publication must be submitted by the deadline through Author Portal. Select the “FT – 2308 / Near-field MIMO technologies towards 6G” topic from the drop-down menu of topics and indicating "NF-MIMO" in Keywords. Please observe the dates specified here below noting that there will be no extension of the submission deadline.

Important Dates

Manuscript Submission Deadline: 30 December 2023
Decision Notification: 30 March 2024
Final Manuscript Due: 30 May 2024
Tentative Publication Date: 30 November 2024

Lead Guest Editor

Xiaolin Hou
DOCOMO Beijing Labs, China

Guest Editors

Emil Björnson
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden

Namyoon Lee
Korea University, South Korea

Robert W. Heath
NC State University, USA