Wednesday 5 December 2007

UTRAN Network Sharing

This is a new feature that the network operators are getting more interested in. The problem is that the Network side is more prepared than the handset side which still has some way to go.

The possibility of sharing part or all of the network by two or more separated commercial entities was not considered in the initial specification work of 3GPP. However, as e.g. a result of partnerships, the need for two or more operators to share common network infrastructure has become an economically desirable goal. Meanwhile, changes to public network operating licence conditions make such sharing possible from a regulatory point of view.

Some work has already been carried out in this area with the definition of the equivalent PLMN concept and partly with the introduction of Iu-Flex, but there is still the need to consolidate these activities under a coherent work plan.

Network sharing is in a way similar to what is done by MVNO's who use the host network to offer services. In network sharing case the other operator would not generally be a MVNO and probably the equipment would belong to both of the operators along with the cost and revenue earned. This is easily possible if the network is not overloaded (as in case of 3 UK) but if its a long time existing operator (like Vodafone) than they may not have enough spare capacity to allow someone else to share their infrastructure.

3GPP Specs for further reference:
3GPP TS 23.251 - Network Sharing; Architecture and functional description
3GPP TR 22.951 - Service aspects and requirements for network sharing


iasonasn said...

Interesting article, network sharing appears to be the flavour of the month with cases from England and India lately.

However I can not see your point, when you say: "The problem is that the Network side is more prepared that the handset side which still has some way to go"...

The technology breakthrough was that now vendors offer RNC & BSC that can host multiple operators. Which means that the Base Station can transmit two different Mobile Network Codes (MNC) in order to facilitate network sharing.

MNC is the 'identity' of each operator. It is also part of the IMSI number, which all handsets recognize and is used to authenticate a user on the home network.

So it seems to me that handsets should not be an issue!
What do you think?

Zahid Ghadialy said...

Apologies. There was a type in the statement:

The problem is that the Network side is more prepared than the handset side which still has some way to go

What i meant was the Network Software is ready to support Network Sharing but the handset software is not yet ready.

Only when the handset software is ready and tested and all the bugs in the Network software is fixed (should be in very good condition by Q3 08) will we start seeing this in reality.

Anonymous said...

HI Jason,

Only rel 6 and newer mobiles can read multiple cell info information as far i understand. In the my network I can say that number of rel 6 phones is steel poor but with positive growing trend thank to smart phones.

I'm trying to find little bit more document about shared features , i.e. how vendors have implemented admission control, resource allocation, packet scheduling, fault management, configuration management...In fact if competitors are sharing RAN owner can anytime have view in performances/radio configuration of the host operator. what are the mechanisms vendors offer to prevent this ( if any)...Or it is the thing cannot be avoided anyway, we have to live with.