In an RF-powered backscatter cognitive radio network, multiple secondary users communicate with a secondary gateway by backscattering or harvesting energy and actively transmitting their data depending on the primary channel state. To coordinate the transmission of multiple secondary transmitters, the secondary gateway needs to schedule the backscattering time, energy harvesting time, and transmission time among them. However, under the dynamics of the primary channel and the uncertainty of the energy state of the secondary transmitters, it is challenging for the gateway to find a time scheduling mechanism which maximizes the total throughput. In this paper, we propose to use the deep reinforcement learning algorithm to derive an optimal time scheduling policy for the gateway. Specifically, to deal with the problem with large state and action spaces, we adopt a Double Deep-Q Network (DDQN) that enables the gateway to learn the optimal policy. The simulation results clearly show that the proposed deep reinforcement learning algorithm outperforms non-learning schemes in terms of network throughput.

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This paper presents a comprehensive literature review on applications of deep reinforcement learning in communications and networking. Modern networks, e.g., Internet of Things (IoT) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) networks, become more decentralized and autonomous. In such networks, network entities need to make decisions locally to maximize the network performance under uncertainty of network environment. Reinforcement learning has been efficiently used to enable the network entities to obtain the optimal policy including, e.g., decisions or actions, given their states when the state and action spaces are small. However, in complex and large-scale networks, the state and action spaces are usually large, and the reinforcement learning may not be able to find the optimal policy in reasonable time. Therefore, deep reinforcement learning, a combination of reinforcement learning with deep learning, has been developed to overcome the shortcomings. In this survey, we first give a tutorial of deep reinforcement learning from fundamental concepts to advanced models. Then, we review deep reinforcement learning approaches proposed to address emerging issues in communications and networking. The issues include dynamic network access, data rate control, wireless caching, data offloading, network security, and connectivity preservation which are all important to next generation networks such as 5G and beyond. Furthermore, we present applications of deep reinforcement learning for traffic routing, resource sharing, and data collection. Finally, we highlight important challenges, open issues, and future research directions of applying deep reinforcement learning.

* 37 pages, 13 figures, 6 tables, 174 reference papers
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