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In this paper we are interested in designing a robust timing synchronization algorithm for OFDM systems that utilize pilot-aided channel estimation. We first characterize the impact of timing errors on the performance of a pilot-aided OFDM system. We derive analytical expressions for average channel estimation error variance in the presence of timing errors in high delay spread fading environments. The derived expressions show that pilot-aided channel estimators are considerably sensitive to timing synchronization errors due to the impact of rotations in different bases. We then show how to utilize this sensitivity to design a robust timing synchronization algorithm, without training overhead. The proposed algorithm is a cross-block design that uses channel estimation information to improve timing synchronization. We confirm our analytical results by simulating the proposed algorithm in high delay spread fading environments. In this paper, i.e. part I, we focus on timing synchronization for low-mobility cases. The analysis and results are then extended to high-mobility applications in part II.
Date of Publication: December 2007