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In this paper, we investigate the performance of two linear receivers for code-division multiple-access (CDMA) downlink transmissions over frequency-selective channels, the users having possibly different powers. The optimum minimum mean-square error (MMSE) receiver is first considered. Because this receiver requires the knowledge of the code vectors attributed to all the users within the cell when these vectors are time varying, its use may be unrealistic in the forward link. A classical suboptimum receiver, consisting in a chip rate equalizer followed by a despreading with the code of the user of interest, is therefore studied and compared to the optimum MMSE receiver. Performance of both receivers is assessed through the signal-to-interference-plus-noise ratio (SINR) at their outputs. The analytical expressions of these SINRs depend in a rather nonexplicit way on the codes allocated to the users of the cell, and are therefore not informative. This difficulty is dealt with by modeling the users code matrix by a random matrix. Because the code matrices used in the forward link are usually isometric, the code matrix is assumed to be extracted from a Haar-distributed random unitary matrix. The behavior of the SINRs is studied when the spreading factor and the number of users converge to ∞ at the same rate. Using certain results of the free probability theory, we establish the fact that the SINRs converge almost surely toward quantities that depend only on the complex amplitudes of propagation channel paths. We then use the expressions of these SINR limits to discuss the influence of the various parameters on the performance of the receivers.