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Zero padding (ZP) of multicarrier transmissions has been proposed as an appealing alternative to the traditional cyclic prefix (CP) orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) to ensure symbol recovery regardless of the channel zero locations. In this paper, both systems are studied to delineate their relative merits in wireless systems where channel knowledge is not available at the transmitter. Two novel equalizers are developed for ZP-OFDM to tradeoff performance with implementation complexity. Both CP-OFDM and ZP-OFDM are then compared in terms of transmitter nonlinearities and required power backoff. Next, both systems are tested in terms of channel estimation and tracking capabilities. Simulations tailored to the realistic context of the standard for wireless local area network HIPERLAN/2 illustrate the pertinent tradeoffs.