Cell discovery is the procedure in which a user equipment (UE) finds a suitable base station (BS) to establish a communication link. When beamforming with antenna arrays is done at both transmitter and receiver, cell discovery in mm wave systems also involves finding the correct angle of arrival–angle of departure alignment between the UE and the detected BS. First, we consider the single BS scenario and present the mathematical model for the cell discovery problem. We present the details of the beam sweeping based techniques and explain the beam combining scheme to reduce the training overhead. We analytically characterize the performance of energy detector at the UE for both beam sweeping and beam combining methods under some channel assumptions. Further, we consider the multiple BS case where BSs transmit synchronization signals along with directional beamforming. We analyze the performance of the energy detector in this case as well. We finally present simulation studies with channels generated using generic mm wave channel emulators and draw inferences on the role of various parameters on the cell discovery performance. © 2023 IETE.