Tuesday, 4 March 2014

LTE Radar - LTE proximity services

Last year, DT gave an interesting presentation on what they termed as 'LTE Radar'. Here is the video to explain the motivation:


The picture below summarises how this will work:


It is interesting to note that these problems are already being solved using Apps and other technologies. Once the 3GPP standard is finalised, it would be a challenge to get this to mass adoption. An example would be Bluetooth based Beacons that I blogged about earlier here. Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see how compelling the use cases would be once this is standardised. The complete DT presentation is embedded below:



Saturday, 1 March 2014

Mobile, Context and Discovery - Ben Evans


An Interesting presentation and Video from Benedict Evans, both embedded below:



There is an interesting Q&A at the end of the talk in the video. You can directly jump to 27:30 marker for the Q&A. One of the interesting points highlighted by him, that I always knew but was not able to convey it across is there is no real point comparing Google and Apple. I am too lazy to type down so please jump to 45:10. One of the comment on the Youtube summarises it well:

"Google is a vast machine learning engine... and it spent 10-15 years building that learning engine and feeding it data"

So true. It is not Apple vs Google; it is not about the present. It is about the future (see Google's recent acquisitions for context). As Benedict says, if Google creates beautiful, meaningful and unique experiences for users, why would they do it only for Android, they would also have it on Apple devices. 

In the end, comparing Apple and Google is like comparing Apple(s) and Oranges :)



Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Beacons, Bluetooth, NFC and WiFi


Not sure if you have heard about some kind of Beacons that will be used to guide us everywhere. There are Bluetooth Beeacons, iBeacon, Paypal Beacon, probably more. So here is an attempt to understand some of these things.

The first is this introductory presentation which seems to be extremely popular on Slideshare:



Once we understand the concept of Beacons, there is another presentation that helps us understand iBeacons and Paypal Beacons as follows:



Bluetooth Beacons vs Wifi vs NFC is an interesting article comparing the Beacons with WiFi & NFC. Read it here


Why Beacons may be NFC killer, GigaOm has a good answer here:
iBeacon could be a NFC killer because of its range. NFC tags are pretty cheap compared to NFC chips, but NFC tags are required on each product because NFC works only in very close proximity. In theory, NFC range is up to 20cm (7.87 inches), but the actual optimal range is less than 4cm (1.57 inches). Also, mobile devices need to contain a NFC chip that can handle any NFC communications. On the other hand, iBeacons are a little expensive compared to NFC chips, but iBeacons range is up to 50 meters. Not all phones have NFC chips, but almost all have Bluetooth capability.
Many years back there was a proximity marketing craze using Bluetooth. Then the craze died down and everyone started focussing on other approaches for LBS. I also suggested a Small Cells based approach here. Its good to see that we are going to use a new Bluetooth based approach for similar functions.

By the end of the year we will hopefully know if this is a new hype or a successful technology. Issues with battery drains, security, interoperability, etc. will need to be sorted asap for its success.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Rise and Rise or '4G' - Update on Release-11 & Release-12 features

A recent GSMA report suggests that China will be a significant player in the field of 4G with upto 900 million 4G users by 2020. This is not surprising as the largest operator, China Mobile wants to desperately move its user base to 4G. For 3G it was stuck with TD-SCDMA or the TDD LCR option. This 3G technology is not as good as its FDD variant, commonly known as UMTS.

This trend of migrating to 4G is not unique to China. A recent report (embedded below) by 4G Americas predicts that by the end of 2018, HSPA/HSPA+ would be the most popular technology whereas LTE would be making an impact with 1.3 Billion connected devices. The main reason for HSPA being so dominant is due to the fact that HSPA devices are mature and are available now. LTE devices, even though available are still slightly expensive. At the same time, operators are taking time having a seamless 4G coverage throughout the region. My guess would be that the number of devices that are 4G ready would be much higher than 1.3 Billion.

It is interesting to see that the number of 'Non-Smartphones' remain constant but at the same time, their share is going down. It would be useful to breakdown the number of Smartphones into 'Phablets' and 'non-Phablets' category.

Anyway, the 4G Americas report from which the information above is extracted contains lots of interesting details about Release-11 and Release-12 HSPA+ and LTE. The only problem I found is that its too long for most people to go through completely.

The whitepaper contains the following information:

3GPP Rel-11 standards for HSPA+ and LTE-Advanced were frozen in December 2012 with the core network protocols stable in December 2012 and Radio Access Network (RAN) protocols stable in March 2013. Key features detailed in the paper for Rel-11 include:
HSPA+:
  • 8-carrier downlink operation (HSDPA)
  • Downlink (DL) 4-branch Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO) antennas
  • DL Multi-Flow Transmission
  • Uplink (UL) dual antenna beamforming (both closed and open loop transmit diversity)
  • UL MIMO with 64 Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (64-QAM)
  • Several CELL_FACH (Forward Access Channel) state enhancements (for smartphone type traffic) and non-contiguous HSDPA Carrier Aggregation (CA)
LTE-Advanced:
  • Carrier Aggregation (CA)
  • Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Services (MBMS) and Self Organizing Networks (SON)
  • Introduction to the Coordinated Multi-Point (CoMP) feature for enabling coordinated scheduling and/or beamforming
  • Enhanced Physical Control Channel (EPDCCH)
  • Further enhanced Inter-Cell Interference Coordination (FeICIC) for devices with interference cancellation
Finally, Rel-11 introduces several network and service related enhancements (most of which apply to both HSPA and LTE):
  • Machine Type Communications (MTC)
  • IP Multimedia Systems (IMS)
  • Wi-Fi integration
  • Home NodeB (HNB) and Home e-NodeB (HeNB)
3GPP started work on Rel-12 in December 2012 and an 18-month timeframe for completion was planned. The work continues into 2014 and areas that are still incomplete are carefully noted in the report.  Work will be ratified by June 2014 with the exception of RAN protocols which will be finalized by September 2014. Key features detailed in the paper for Rel-12 include:
HSPA+:
  • Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS) Heterogeneous Networks (HetNet)
  • Scalable UMTS Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) bandwidth
  • Enhanced Uplink (EUL) enhancements
  • Emergency warning for Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network (UTRAN)
  • HNB mobility
  • HNB positioning for Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (UTRA)
  • Machine Type Communications (MTC)
  • Dedicated Channel (DCH) enhancements
LTE-Advanced:
  • Active Antenna Systems (AAS)
  • Downlink enhancements for MIMO antenna systems
  • Small cell and femtocell enhancements
  • Machine Type Communication (MTC)
  • Proximity Service (ProSe)
  • User Equipment (UE)
  • Self-Optimizing Networks (SON)
  • Heterogeneous Network (HetNet) mobility
  • Multimedia Broadcast/Multicast Services (MBMS)
  • Local Internet Protocol Access/Selected Internet Protocol Traffic Offload (LIPA/SIPTO)
  • Enhanced International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (eIMTA) and Frequency Division Duplex-Time Division Duplex Carrier Aggregation (FDD-TDD CA)
Work in Rel-12 also included features for network and services enhancements for MTC, public safety and Wi-Fi integration, system capacity and stability, Web Real-Time Communication (WebRTC), further network energy savings, multimedia and Policy and Charging Control (PCC) framework.


Thursday, 13 February 2014

VoLTE Roaming with RAVEL (Roaming Architecture for Voice over IMS with Local Breakout)


Voice over LTE or VoLTE has many problems to solve. One of the issues that did not have a clear solution initially was Roaming. iBasis has a whitepaper on this topic here, from which the above picture is taken. The following is what is said above:

The routing of international calls has always been a problem for mobile operators. All too often the answer—particularly in the case of ‘tromboning’ calls all the way back to the home network—has been inelegant and costly. LTE data sessions can be broken out locally, negating the need for convoluted routing solutions. But in a VoIMS environment all of the intelligence that decides how to route the call resides in the home network, meaning that the call still has to be routed back.

The industry’s solution to this issue is Roaming Architecture for Voice over LTE with Local Breakout (RAVEL). Currently in the midst of standardisation at 3GPP, RAVEL is intended to enable the home network to decide, where appropriate, for the VoIMS call to be broken out locally. 

Three quarters of respondents to the survey said they support an industry-wide move to RAVEL for VoLTE roaming. This is emphatic in its enthusiasm but 25 per cent remains a significant share of respondents still to be convinced. Just over half of respondents said they plan to support VoIMS for LTE roaming using the RAVEL architecture, while 12.3 per cent said they would support it, but not using RAVEL.

Until RAVEL is available, 27.4 per cent of respondents said they plan to use home-routing for all VoLTE traffic, while just under one fifth said they would use a non-standard VoLTE roaming solution.

Well, the solution was standardised in 3GPP Release-11. NTT Docomo has an excellent whitepaper (embedded below) explaining the issue and the proposed solution.

In 3GPP Release 11, the VoLTE roaming and interconnection architecture was standardized in cooperation with the GSMA Association. The new architecture is able to implement voice call charging in the same way as circuit-switched voice roaming and interconnection models by routing both C-Plane messages and voice data on the same path. This was not possible with the earlier VoLTE roaming and interconnection architecture.

Anyway, here is the complete whitepaper




Saturday, 8 February 2014

100 years of Wireless History

Recently attended the Cambridge Wireless Inaugural Wireless Heritage SIG event, “100 years of radio”. Some very interesting presentations and discussions on the wireless history. I have collected all the presentations and merged them into one and embedded them below. All presentations can be downloaded individually from CW website here. A combined one is available from Slideshare.

Presentations are:

  • Colin Smithers, Chairman, Plextek - 1914 to 1934: The wireless wave
  • Geoff Varrall, Director, RTT Online - 1934 to 1945: The wireless war
  • Steve Haseldine, Chairman, Deaf Alerter - 1945 to 1974: The cold war - radio goes underground
  • Prof Nigel Linge, Professor of Telecommunications, University of Salford - 1974 to 1994
  • Andy Sutton, Principal Network Architect, EE and Visiting Professor, University of Salford - 1994 to 2014: Mass consumer cellular and the mobile broadband revolution - Broadband radio, digital radio, smart phone and smart networks



Monday, 3 February 2014

5G and the ‘Millimeter-Wave' Radios


There were quite a few interesting talks in the Cambridge Wireless Radio Technology SIG event last week. The ones that caught my attention and I want to highlight here are as follows.

The mobile operator EE and 5GIC centre explained the challenges faced during the Practical deployments. Of particular interest was the considerations during deployments. The outdoor environments can change in no time with things like foliage, signage or even during certain festivals. This can impact the radio path and may knock out certain small cells or backhaul. The presentation is available to view and download here.


Another interesting presentation was from Bluwireless on the 60GHz for backhaul. The slide that was really shocking was the impact of regulation in the US and the EU. This regulation difference means that a backhaul link could be expensive and impractical in certain scenarios in the EU while similar deployments in the US would be considerably cheaper. This presentation is available here.


Finally, the presentation from Samsung highlighted their vision and showed the test results of their mmWave prototype. The presentation is embedded below and is available here.



Finally, our 5G presentation summarising our opinion and what 5G may contain is available here. Dont forget to see the interesting discussion in the comments area.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Multi-SIM: The Jargon


I had been having some discussions regarding Multi-SIM phones and there is a bit of misunderstanding so here is my clarification about them. Anyway, a lot of information is just an understanding so feel free to correct any mistakes you think I may have made.

This post is about multiple SIM cards, physical UICC cards rather than single UICC with multiple SIM applications. We will look at Dual IMSI later on in the post. In case you do not know about the multiple SIM applications in a UICC, see this old post here. In this post, I will refer to UICC cards as SIM cards to avoid confusion.

Back in the old days, the Dual-SIM phones allowed only one SIM on standby at any time. The other SIM was switched off. If someone would call the number that was switched off, a message saying that the number is switched off would come or it would go in the voicemail. To make this SIM in standby, you would have to select it from the Menu. The first SIM is now switched off. The way around it was to have one SIM card calls forwarded the other when switched off. This wasn't convenient and efficient, money wise. The reason people use multiple SIM phones is to have cheaper calls using different SIMs. So in this case forwarding calls from one SIM to another wont be cost effective. These type of phones were known as Dual SIM Single Standby or DSSS. These devices had a single transceiver.

So as the technology got cheaper and more power efficient, the new multi-SIM devices could incorporate two receivers but only one transmitter was used. The main reason being that using two transmitters would consume much more power. As a result, these devices can now have both the SIM's on standby at the same time. These kind of devices were known as Dual SIM Dual Standby or DSDS. Wikipedia also calls then Dual SIM Standby or DSS. This concept could be extended further to Triple SIM Triple Standby or TSTS in case of the device with three SIM cards and Quad SIM Quad Standby or QSQS in case of four SIM cards. One thing to remember is that when a call is received and a SIM becomes active, the other SIM cards become inactive for the duration of the call. A workaround for that situation is to forward the call to the other SIM card in case if its unavailable. Though this will work for DSDS, it may not be that straightforward in case of TSTS and QSQS due to more than two SIM cards being present.

Another category of devices that are now available are the Dual SIM Dual Active or DSDA. In this case there are two transceivers in the device. Both the SIM cards are active at the same time so each SIM card can handle the call independently of each other. It would even be possible to conference both these calls.

With the prices of calls falling, there is no longer a real need for multiple SIM cards. One SIM card is generally sufficient. It may be useful though to have multiple IMSI on the SIM card. The different IMSI would have different country and network code. For example, a person in in UK can have one IMSI with the home network code and one with say a US operator IMSI. This IMSI could only be programmed by the home operator. When the person is in UK he could receive calls on his UK number or on the US number which would be routed to his UK number. For a person in US calling the US number, this is a national call rather than an international one. When the person is roaming in the US, his US IMSI would behave like non-roaming case while the calls to the UK number would be forwarded to the US number.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Security and other development on the Embedded SIM


Its no surprise that GSMA has started working on Embedded SIM specifications. With M2M getting more popular every day, it would make sense to have the SIM (or UICC) embedded in them during the manufacturing process. The GSMA website states:

The GSMA’s Embedded SIM delivers a technical specification to enable the remote provisioning and management of Embedded SIMs to allow the “over the air” provisioning of an initial operator subscription and the subsequent change of subscription from one operator to another.
The Embedded SIM is a vital enabler for Machine to Machine (M2M) connections including the simple and seamless mobile connection of all types of connected vehicles. In the M2M market the SIM may not easily be changed via physical access to the device or may be used in an environment that requires a soldered connection, thus there is a need for ‘over the air’ provisioning of the SIM with the same level of security as achieved today with traditional “pluggable” SIM. It is not the intention for the Embedded SIM to replace the removable SIM currently used as the removable SIM still offers many benefits to users and operators in a number of different ways – for example, the familiarity of the form factor, easy of portability, an established ecosystem and proven security model.
















The last time I talked about embedded SIM was couple of years back, after the ETSI security workshop here. Well, there was another of these workshops recently and an update to these information.


The ETSI presentation is not embedded here but is available on Slideshare here. As the slide says:

An embedded UICC is a “UICC which is not easily accessible or replaceable, is not intended to be removed or replaced in the terminal, and enables the secure changing of subscriptions” (ETSI TS 103 383)


Finally, Embedded SIM should not be confused with Soft-SIM. My last post on Soft-SIM, some couple of years back here, has over 15K views which shows how much interest is there in the soft SIM. As the slide says:

Soft or Virtual SIM is a completely different concept that does not use existing SIM hardware form factors and it raises a number of strong security issues:

  • Soft SIM would store the Operator secret credentials in software within the Mobile device operating system - the same system that is often attacked to modify the handset IMEI, perform SIM-Lock hacking and ‘jail-break’ mobile OS’s
  • Operators are very concerned about the reduction in security of their credentials through the use of Soft SIM. Any SIM approach not based on a certified hardware secure element will be subject to continual attack by the hacking community and if compromised result in a serious loss of customer confidence in the security of Operator systems
  • Multiple Soft SIM platforms carrying credentials in differing physical platforms, all requiring security certification and accreditation would become an unmanageable overhead – both in terms of resource, and proving their security in a non-standardised virtual environment

The complete GSMA presentation is as follows:



You may also like my old paper:

Monday, 20 January 2014

Different flavours of SRVCC (Single Radio Voice Call Continuity)



Single Radio Voice Call Continuity (SRVCC) has been quietly evolving with the different 3GPP releases. Here is a quick summary of these different flavors

In its simplest form, SRVCC comes into picture when an IMS based VoLTE call is handed over to the existing 2G/3G network as a normal CS call. SRVCC is particularly important when LTE is rolled out in small islands and the operator decided to provide VoLTE based call when in LTE. An alternative (used widely in practice) is to use CS Fallback (CSFB) as the voice option until LTE is rolled out in a wider area. The main problem with CSFB is that the data rates would drop to the 2G/3G rates when the UE falls back to the 2G/3G network during the voice call.



The book "LTE-Advanced: A Practical Systems Approach to Understanding 3GPP LTE Releases 10 and 11 Radio Access Technologies" by Sassan Ahmadi has some detailed information on SRVCC, the following is an edited version from the book:

SRVCC is built on the IMS centralized services (ICS) framework for delivering voice and messaging services to the users regardless of the type of network to which they are attached, and for maintaining service continuity for moving terminals.

To support GSM and UMTS, some modifications in the MSC server are required. When the E-UTRAN selects a target cell for SRVCC handover, it needs to indicate to the MME that this handover procedure requires SRVCC. Upon receiving the handover request, the MME triggers the SRVCC procedure with the MSC server. The MSC then initiates the session transfer procedure to IMS and coordinates it with the circuit-switched handover procedure to the target cell.

Handling of any non-voice packet-switched bearer is by the packet-switched bearer splitting function in the MME. The handover of non-voice packet-switched bearers, if performed, is according to a regular inter-RAT packet-switched handover procedure.

When SRVCC is enacted, the downlink flow of voice packets is switched toward the target circuit-switched network. The call is moved from the packet-switched to the circuit-switched domain, and the UE switches from VoIP to circuit-switched voice.

3GPP Rel-10 architecture has been recommended by GSMA for SRVCC because it reduces both voice interruption time during handover and the dropped call rate compared to earlier configurations. The network controls and moves the UE from E-UTRAN to UTRAN/GERAN as the user moves out of the LTE network coverage area. The SRVCC handover mechanism is entirely network-controlled and calls remain under the control of the IMS core network, which maintains access to subscribed services implemented in the IMS service engine throughout the handover process. 3GPP Rel-10 configuration includes all components needed to manage the time-critical signaling between the user’s device and the network, and between network elements within the serving network, including visited networks during roaming. As a result, signaling follows the shortest possible path and is as robust as possible, minimizing voice interruption time caused by switching from the packet-switched core network to the circuit-switched core network, whether the UE is in its home network or roaming. With the industry aligned around the 3GPP standard and GSMA recommendations, SRVCC-enabled user devices and networks will be interoperable, ensuring that solutions work in many scenarios of interest.

Along with the introduction of the LTE radio access network, 3GPP also standardized SRVCC in Rel-8 specifications to provide seamless service continuity when a UE performs a handover from the E-UTRAN to UTRAN/GERAN. With SRVCC, calls are anchored in the IMS network while the UE is capable of transmitting/ receiving on only one of those access networks at a given time, where a call anchored in the IMS core can continue in UMTS/GSM networks and outside of the LTE coverage area. Since its introduction in Rel-8, the SRVCC has evolved with each new release, a brief summary of SRVCC capability and enhancements are noted below

3GPP Rel-8: Introduces SRVCC for voice calls that are anchored in the IMS core network from E-UTRAN to CDMA2000 and from E-UTRAN/UTRAN (HSPA) to UTRAN/GERAN circuit-switched. To support this functionality, 3GPP introduced new protocol interface and procedures between MME and MSC for SRVCC from E-UTRAN to UTRAN/GERAN, between SGSN and MSC for SRVCC from UTRAN (HSPA) to UTRAN/GERAN, and between the MME and a 3GPP2-defined interworking function for SRVCC from E-UTRAN to CDMA 2000.

3GPP Rel-9: Introduces the SRVCC support for emergency calls that are anchored in the IMS core network. IMS emergency calls, placed via LTE access, need to continue when SRVCC handover occurs from the LTE network to GSM/UMTS/CDMA2000 networks. This evolution resolves a key regulatory exception. This enhancement supports IMS emergency call continuity from E-UTRAN to CDMA2000 and from E-UTRAN/UTRAN (HSPA) to UTRAN/ GERAN circuit-switched network. Functional and interface evolution of EPS entities were needed to support IMS emergency calls with SRVCC.

3GPP Rel-10: Introduces procedures of enhanced SRVCC including support of mid-call feature during SRVCC handover (eSRVCC); support of SRVCC packet-switched to circuit-switched transfer of a call in alerting phase (aSRVCC); MSC server-assisted mid-call feature enables packet-switched/ circuit-switched access transfer for the UEs not using IMS centralized service capabilities, while preserving the provision of mid-call services (inactive sessions or sessions using the conference service). The SRVCC in alerting phase feature adds the ability to perform access transfer of media of an instant message session in packet-switched to circuit-switched direction in alerting phase for access transfers.

3GPP Rel-11: Introduces two new capabilities: single radio video call continuity for 3G-circuit-switched network (vSRVCC); and SRVCC from UTRAN/GERAN to E-UTRAN/HSPA (rSRVCC). The vSRVCC feature provides support of video call handover from E-UTRAN to UTRAN-circuitswitched network for service continuity when the video call is anchored in IMS and the UE is capable of transmitting/receiving on only one of those access networks at a given time. Service continuity from UTRAN/GERAN circuitswitched access to E-UTRAN/HSPA was not specified in 3GPP Rel-8/9/10. To overcome this drawback, 3GPP Rel-11 provided support of voice call continuity from UTRAN/GERAN to E-UTRAN/HSPA. To enable video call transfer from E-UTRAN to UTRAN-circuit-switched network, IMS/EPC is evolved to pass relevant information to the EPC side and S5/S11/Sv/Gx/Gxx interfaces are enhanced for video bearer-related information transfer. To support SRVCC from GERAN to E-UTRAN/HSPA, GERAN specifications are evolved to enable a mobile station and base station sub-system to support seamless service continuity when a mobile station hands over from GERAN circuit-switched access to EUTRAN/ HSPA for a voice call. To support SRVCC from UTRAN to EUTRAN/ HSPA, UTRAN specifications are evolved to enable the RNC to perform rSRVCC handover and to provide relative UE capability information to the RNC.

NTT Docomo has a presentation on SRVCC and eSRVCC which is embedded below: