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Timing and carrier synchronization is a fundamental requirement for any wireless communication system to work properly. Timing synchronization is the process by which a receiver node determines the correct instants of time at which to sample the incoming signal. Carrier synchronization is the process by which a receiver adapts the frequency and phase of its local carrier oscillator with those of the received signal. In this paper, we survey the literature over the last 5 years (2010–2014) and present a comprehensive literature review and classification of the recent research progress in achieving timing and carrier synchronization in single-input single-output (SISO), multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO), cooperative relaying, and multiuser/multicell interference networks. Considering both single-carrier and multi-carrier communication systems, we survey and categorize the timing and carrier synchronization techniques proposed for the different communication systems focusing on the system model assumptions for synchronization, the synchronization challenges, and the state-of-the-art synchronization solutions and their limitations. Finally, we envision some future research directions.

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This document was originally published in EURASIP Journal on Wireless Communications and Networking by Wiley. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: doi: 10.1186/s13638-016-0670-9