Sunday 14 August 2011

Saturday 13 August 2011

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Self-Evolving Networks (SEN): Next step of SON

In a post last year, I listed the 3GPP features planned for the Self-Organising networks. Self-optimisation has been a part of the SON. It is becoming more of a common practice to refer to SON as Self-Optimising networks. A recent 4G Americas whitepaper was titled "Benefits of self-optimizing networks in LTE".

The next phase in the evolution of the Self-Configuring, Self-organizing and Self-optimizing network are the Self-Evolving Networks (aka. SEN) that will combine the Organizing and Optimizing features with the Self-testing and Self-Healing features. Self-testing and Self-healing have been recommended as subtasks of SON in the NGMN white paper. Self-testing and self-healing means that a system detects itself problems and mitigates or solves them avoiding user impact and significantly reducing maintenance costs.

We may still be a long way away from achieving this SEN as there are quite a few items being still standardised in 3GPP. Some of the standardised items have not yet been fully implemented and tested as well. Some of this new features that will help are listed as follows:

Automatic Radio Network Configuration Data Preparation (Rel-9)

When radio Network Elements (e.g. cells and/or eNBs) are inserted into an operational radio network, some network configuration parameters cannot be set before-hand because they have interdependencies with the configuration of operational NEs. "Dynamic Radio Network Configuration Data Preparation" comprises the generation and distribution of such interdependent parameters to the newly inserted network element and optionally already operational NEs.

This functionality allows fully automatic establishment of an eNB into a network. Otherwise an operator needs to set these configurations manually. Without this functionality self-configuration cannot be considered not fully as "self".

SON Self-healing management (Rel-10)

The target of Self-Healing (SH) is to recover from or mitigate errors in the network with a minimum of manual intervention from the operator.

Self-healing functionality will monitor and analyse relevant data like fault management data, alarms, notifications, and self-test results etc. and will automatically trigger or perform corrective actions on the affected network element(s) when necessary. This will significantly reduce manual interventions and replace them with automatically triggered re-s, re-configurations, or software reloads/upgrades thereby helping to reduce operating expense.

LTE Self Optimizing Networks (SON) enhancements (Rel-10)

This WI continues work started in Rel-9. Some cases that were considered in the initial phases of SON development are listed in the TR 36.902. From this list, almost all use cases are already specified. Capacity and Coverage Optimization (CCO) was already nominally part of the Rel-9 WI, but could not be completed due to amount of work related to other use cases. Energy Savings are a very important topic, especially for operators, as solutions derived for this use case can significantly limit their expenses. According to TR 36.902 this solution should concern switching off cells or whole base stations. This may require additional standardised methods, once there is need identified for.

Basic functionality of Mobility Load Balancing (MLB) and Mobility Robustness Optimization (MRO), also listed in TR 36.902, were defined in Rel-9. However, successful roll-out of the LTE network requires analysing possible enhancements to the Rel-9 solutions for MLB and MRO. In particular, enhancements that address inter-RAT scenarios and inter-RAT information exchange must be considered. These enhancements should be addressed in Rel-10. There may also be other use cases for LTE for which SON functionality would bring optimizations. The upcoming LTE-A brings about also new challenges that can be addressed by SON. However, since not all features are clearly defined yet, it is difficult to work on SON algorithms for them. It is therefore proposed to assign lower priority to the features specific for LTE-A.

UTRAN Self-Organizing Networks (SON) management (Rel-11)

For LTE, SON (Self-Organizing Networks) concept and many features have been discussed and standardised.

The SON target is to maintain network quality and performance with minimum manual intervention from the operator. Introducing SON functions into the UTRAN legacy is also very important for operators to minimize OPEX.

Automatic Neighbour Relation (ANR) function, specified in the LTE context, automates the discovery of neighbour relations. ANR can help the operators to avoid the burden of manual neighbour cell relations management.

Self-optimization functionalities will monitor and analyze performance measurements, notifications, and self-test results and will automatically trigger re-configuration actions on the affected network node(s) when necessary.

This will significantly reduce manual interventions and replace them with automatically triggered re-optimizations or re-configurations thereby helping to reduce operating expenses.

Minimization of Drive Tests (MDT) for E-UTRAN and UTRAN is an important topic in 3GPP Rel-10.

With the help of standardized UTRAN MDT solutions, Capacity and Coverage Optimization (CCO) for UTRAN should also be considered in UTRAN SON activities.

Study on IMS Evolution (Rel-11)

IMS network service availability largely relies on the reliability of network entity. If some critical network elements (e.g. S-CSCF, HSS) go out of service, service availability will be severely impacted. Moreover network elements are not fully utilized because network load is not usually well distributed, e.g. some nodes are often overloaded due to sudden traffic explosion, while others are under loaded to some extent. Though there’re some element level approaches to solve these problems, such as the ongoing work in CT4, the system level solution should be studied, for example, the method to distribute load between network elements in different regions especially when some disaster happens, such as earthquake.

The network expansion requires a great deal of manual configurations, and the network maintenance and upgrade are usually time-consuming and also costly for operators. Introducing self-organization features will improve the network intelligence and reduce the efforts of manual configuration. For example, upon discovering the entry point of the network, new nodes can join the network and auto-configure themselves without manual intervention. And if any node fails, other nodes will take over the traffic through the failed node timely and automatically.

The above mentioned features are just few ways in which we will achieve a truly zero-operational 4G network.

Monday 8 August 2011

Radio-over-Fiber (RoF): The existing alternative to Femtocells

Recently while going through NTT Docomo Technical Journal, I came across an article on Radio over Fibre. This is the first time I have come across RoF but apparently this is a common way to provide indoor coverage before Femtocells.
My intention here is not to compare this with Femtocells as I can think of advantages and disadvantages of both of them.

I found the following extract in the book Femtocells: Technologies and Deployment:

Active Fibre DAS (Radio over Fibre)

Active fibre DAS is the most efficient in term of performance. Optical fibres are used to make the link between the MU and the RU. They can cover very long distances (up to 6 km) and support multiple radio services. With such a system the RU directly converts the optical signal into radio signal and vice versa. The other advantage is that optical fibre is very cheap and easy to install. Radio over fibre is now the most common technique used for indoor radio coverage. As detailed in [16], radio over fibre is today the optimal solution to extending indoor coverage, because it provides scalability, flexibility, easy expandability, and also because the signal degradation is very low compared with DAS using standard connections.

The following is from Wikipedia:

Radio over Fiber (RoF) refers to a technology whereby light is modulated by a radio signal and transmitted over an optical fiber link to facilitate wireless access. Although radio transmission over fiber is used for multiple purposes, such as in cable television (CATV) networks and in satellite base stations, the term RoF is usually applied when this is done for wireless access.

In RoF systems, wireless signals are transported in optical form between a central station and a set of base stations before being radiated through the air. Each base station is adapted to communicate over a radio link with at least one user's mobile station located within the radio range of said base station.

RoF transmission systems are usually classified into two main categories (RF-over-Fiber ; IF-over-Fiber) depending on the frequency range of the radio signal to be transported.

a) In RF-over-Fiber architecture, a data-carrying RF (Radio Frequency) signal with a high frequency (usually greater than 10 GHz) is imposed on a lightwave signal before being transported over the optical link. Therefore, wireless signals are optically distributed to base stations directly at high frequencies and converted to from optical to electrical domain at the base stations before being amplified and radiated by an antenna. As a result, no frequency up/down conversion is required at the various base station, thereby resulting in simple and rather cost-effective implementation is enabled at the base stations.

b) In IF-over-Fiber architecture, an IF (Intermediate Frequency) radio signal with a lower frequency (less than 10 GHz) is used for modulating light before being transported over the optical link. Therefore, wireless signals are transported at intermediate frequency over the optical.

Access to dead zones

An important application of RoF is its use to provide wireless coverage in the area where wireless backhaul link is not possible. These zones can be areas inside a structure such as a tunnel, areas behind buildings, Mountainous places or secluded areas such a jungle.

FTTA (Fiber to the Antenna)

By using an optical connection directly to the antenna, the equipment vendor can gain several advantages like low line losses, immunity to lightening strikes/electric discharges and reduced complexity of base station by attaching light weight Optical-to-Electrical (O/E) converter directly to antenna.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Friday 5 August 2011

TED talk: Wireless data from every light bulb

What if every light bulb in the world could also transmit data? At TEDGlobal, Harald Haas demonstrates, for the first time, a device that could do exactly that. By flickering the light from a single LED, a change too quick for the human eye to detect, he can transmit far more data than a cellular tower -- and do it in a way that's more efficient, secure and widespread.

See also :

Thursday 4 August 2011

Detailed presentation on Femtocell Security from Black Hat 2011

Femtocells: a Poisonous Needle in the Operator's Hay Stack
View more presentations from Zahid Ghadialy
Presentation available to download from here.
Detailed write-up on: Exploiting the Ubiquisys/SFR femtocell webserver here.
My earlier blogpost 'Femto Hacking in UMTS and LTE' here.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

A look at "Idle state Signalling Reduction" (ISR)

The following is from 3GPP TS 23.401, Annex J:

General description of the ISR concept

Idle state Signalling Reduction (or ISR) aims at reducing the frequency of Tracking Area Updates (TAU, in EUtran) and Routing Area Updates (RAU, in UTRAN/GERAN) procedures caused by UEs reselecting between E-UTRAN and GERAN/UTRAN which are operated together. Especially the update signalling between UE and network is reduced. But also network internal signalling is reduced. To some extent the reduction of network internal signalling is also available when ISR is not used or not activated by the network.

UMTS described already RAs containing GERAN and UTRAN cells, which also reduces update signalling between UE and network. The combination of GERAN and UTRAN into the same RAs implies however common scaling, dimensioning and configuration for GERAN and UTRAN (e.g. same RA coverage, same SGSN service area, no GERAN or UTRAN only access control, same physical node for GERAN and UTRAN). As an advantage it does not require special network interface functionality for the purpose of update signalling reduction.

ISR enables signalling reduction with separate SGSN and MME and also with independent TAs and RAs. Thereby the interdependency is drastically minimized compared with the GERAN/UTRAN RAs. This comes however with ISR specific node and interface functionality. SGSN and MME may be implemented together, which reduces some interface functions but results also in some dependencies.

ISR support is mandatory for E-UTRAN UEs that support GERAN and/or UTRAN and optional for the network. ISR requires special functionality in both the UE and the network (i.e. in the SGSN, MME and Serving GW) to activate ISR for a UE. For this activation, the MME/SGSN detects whether S-GW supports ISR based on the configuration and activates ISR only if the S-GW supports the ISR. The network can decide for ISR activation individually for each UE. Gn/Gp SGSNs do not support ISR functionality. No specific HSS functionality is required to support ISR.

NOTE. A Release 7 HSS needs additional functionality to support the 'dual registration' of MME and SGSN. Without such an upgrade, at least PS domain MT Location Services and MT Short Messages are liable to fail.

It is inherent functionality of the MM procedures to enable ISR activation only when the UE is able to register via E-UTRAN and via GERAN/UTRAN. For example, when there is no E-UTRAN coverage there will be also no ISR activation. Once ISR is activated it remains active until one of the criteria for deactivation in the UE occurs, or until SGSN or MME indicate during an update procedure no more the activated ISR, i.e. the ISR status of the UE has to be refreshed with every update.

When ISR is activated this means the UE is registered with both MME and SGSN. Both the SGSN and the MME have a control connection with the Serving GW. MME and SGSN are both registered at HSS. The UE stores MM parameters from SGSN (e.g. P-TMSI and RA) and from MME (e.g. GUTI and TA(s)) and the UE stores session management (bearer) contexts that are common for E-UTRAN and GERAN/UTRAN accesses. In idle state the UE can reselect between E-UTRAN and GERAN/UTRAN (within the registered RA and TAs) without any need to perform TAU or RAU procedures with the network. SGSN and MME store each other's address when ISR is activated.

When ISR is activated and downlink data arrive, the Serving GW initiates paging processes on both SGSN and MME. In response to paging or for uplink data transfer the UE performs normal Service Request procedures on the currently camped-on RAT without any preceding update signalling (there are however existing scenarios that may require to perform a RAU procedure prior to the Service Request even with ISR is activated when GERAN/UTRAN RAs are used together, as specified in clause of TS 23.060 [7]).

The UE and the network run independent periodic update timers for GERAN/UTRAN and for E-UTRAN. When the MME or SGSN do not receive periodic updates MME and SGSN may decide independently for implicit detach, which removes session management (bearer) contexts from the CN node performing the implicit detach and it removes also the related control connection from the Serving GW. Implicit detach by one CN node (either SGSN or MME) deactivates ISR in the network. It is deactivated in the UE when the UE cannot perform periodic updates in time. When ISR is activated and a periodic updating timer expires the UE starts a Deactivate ISR timer. When this timer expires and the UE was not able to perform the required update procedure the UE deactivates ISR.

Part of the ISR functionality is also available when ISR is not activated because the MM contexts are stored in UE, MME and SGSN also when ISR is not active. This results in some reduced network signalling, which is not available for Gn/Gp SGSNs. These SGSNs cannot handle MM and session management contexts separately. Therefore all contexts on Gn/Gp SGSNs are deleted when the UE changes to an MME. The MME can keep their MME contexts in all scenarios.

Gn = IP Based interface between SGSN and other SGSNs and (internal) GGSNs. DNS also shares this interface. Uses the GTP Protocol.
Gp = IP based interface between internal SGSN and external GGSNs. Between the SGSN and the external GGSN, there is the border gateway (which is essentially a firewall). Also uses the GTP Protocol.

"Temporary Identity used in Next update" (TIN)

The UE may have valid MM parameters both from MME and from SGSN. The "Temporary Identity used in Next update" (TIN) is a parameter of the UE's MM context, which identifies the UE identity to be indicated in the next RAU Request or TAU Request message. The TIN also identifies the status of ISR activation in the UE.

The TIN can take one of the three values, "P-TMSI", "GUTI" or "RAT-related TMSI". The UE sets the TIN when receiving an Attach Accept, a TAU Accept or RAU Accept message as specified in table

"ISR Activated" indicated by the RAU/TAU Accept message but the UE not setting the TIN to "RAT-related TMSI" is a special situation. By maintaining the old TIN value the UE remembers to use the RAT TMSI indicated by the TIN when updating with the CN node of the other RAT.

Only if the TIN is set to "RAT-related TMSI" ISR behaviour is enabled for the UE, i.e. the UE can change between all registered areas and RATs without any update signalling and it listens for paging on the RAT it is camped on. If the TIN is set to "RAT-related TMSI", the UE's P-TMSI and RAI as well as its GUTI and TAI(s) remain registered with the network and valid in the UE.

When ISR is not active the TIN is always set to the temporary ID belonging to the currently used RAT. This guarantees that always the most recent context data are used, which means during inter-RAT changes there is always context transfer from the CN node serving the last used RAT. The UE identities, old GUTI IE and additional GUTI IE, indicated in the next TAU Request message, and old P-TMSI IE and additional P-TMSI/RAI IE, indicated in the next RAU Request message depend on the setting of TIN.

The UE indicates also information elements "additional GUTI" or "additional P-TMSI" in the Attach Request, TAU or RAU Request. These information elements permit the MME/SGSN to find the already existing UE contexts in the new MME or SGSN, when the "old GUTI" or "old P-TMSI" indicate values that are mapped from other identities.

ISR activation

The information flow in Figure below shows an example of ISR activation. For explanatory purposes the figure is simplified to show the MM parts only.

The process starts with an ordinary Attach procedure not requiring any special functionality for support of ISR. The Attach however deletes any existing old ISR state information stored in the UE. With the Attach request message, the UE sets its TIN to "GUTI". After attach with MME, the UE may perform any interactions via E-UTRAN without changing the ISR state. ISR remains deactivated. One or more bearer contexts are activated on MME, Serving GW and PDN GW, which is not shown in the figure.

The first time the UE reselects GERAN or UTRAN it initiates a Routing Area Update. This represents an occasion to activate ISR. The TIN indicates "GUTI" so the UE indicates a P-TMSI mapped from a GUTI in the RAU Request. The SGSN gets contexts from MME. When the MME sends the context to the SGSN, the MME includes the ISR supported indication only if the involved S-GW supports the ISR. After the ISR activated, both CN nodes keep these contexts because ISR is being activated. The SGSN establishes a control relation with the Serving GW, which is active in parallel to the control connection between MME and Serving GW (not shown in figure). The RAU Accept indicates ISR activation to the UE. The UE keeps GUTI and P-TMSI as registered, which the UE memorises by setting the TIN to "RAT-related TMSI". The MME and the SGSN are registered in parallel with the HSS.

After ISR activation, the UE may reselect between E-UTRAN and UTRAN/GERAN without any need for updating the network as long as the UE does not move out of the RA/TA(s) registered with the network.

The network is not required to activate ISR during a RAU or TAU. The network may activate ISR at any RAU or TAU that involves the context transfer between an SGSN and an MME. The RAU procedure for this is shown in Figure above. ISR activation for a UE, which is already attached to GERAN/UTRAN, with a TAU procedure from E-UTRAN works in a very similar way.

Reference: 3GPP TS 23.401: General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) enhancements for Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network (E-UTRAN) access

Tuesday 2 August 2011

Cellphone radiation and Cancer

There is an interesting graph in Scientific American (Via Bill Gross on Google+) showing the radiation spectrum of Cell phones and other devices. Click on the image to view full size.

Thing to note: As the graphic above shows, the radiation emitted in this region is nonionizing: it may heat molecules in the body but does not ionize them (that is, set electrons free). Ionizing radiation, which can tear molecules apart and therefore potentially damage DNA—is the greater worry.

In the comments of the discussion, someone pointed out this hand drawn Electromagnetic Spectrum which is very handy.

Click to enlarge

Finally, it is worthwhile checking out the total radiation that we can encounter in different events and their relative values.

Click to enlarge.