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Introduction to GSM

Introduction to GSM



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Published by: wphile2270 on Jul 21, 2009
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Introduction to GSM
What is GSM?
Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) is a set of ETSIstandards specifying the infrastructure for a digitalcellular service. The standard is used in approx. 85 countries in the world including such locations as Europe, Japanand Australia
Home Location Register (HLR)
A Home Location Register (HLR) is a database that contains semi-permanent mobile subscriber information for awireless carriers' entire subscriber base. HLR subscriber information includes the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), service subscription information, location information (the identity of the currently serving Visitor Location Register (VLR) to enable the routing of mobile-terminated calls), service restrictions and supplementaryservices information.The HLR handles SS7 transactions with both Mobile Switching Centers (MSCs) and VLR nodes, which either requestinformation from the HLR or update the information contained within the HLR. The HLR also initiates transactionswith VLRs to complete incoming calls and to update subscriber data.Traditional wireless network design is based on the utilization of a single Home Location Register (HLR) for eachwireless network, but growth considerations are prompting carriers to consider multiple HLR topologies.
Visitor Location Register (VLR)
A Visitor Location Register (VLR) is a database which contains temporary information concerning the mobilesubscribers that are currently located in a given MSC serving area, but whose Home Location Register (HLR) iselsewhere.When a mobile subscriber roams away from his home location and into a remote location, SS7 messages are used toobtain information about the subscriber from the HLR, and to create a temporary record for the subscriber in the VLR.There is usually one VLR per MSC.
International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) Number 
The IMSI is a unique non-dialable number allocated to each mobile subscriber in the GSM system that identifies thesubscriber and his or her subscription within the GSM network. The IMSI resides in the Subscriber Identity Module(SIM), which is transportable across Mobile Station Equipment (MSE). The IMSI is made up of three parts (1) themobile country code (MCC) consisting of three digits, (2) the Mobile Network Code (MNC) consisting of two digits,and (3) the Mobile Subscriber Identity Number (MSIN) with up to 10 digits.
Mobile Subscriber ISDN (MSISDN) Number 
The MSISDN is the dialable number that callers use to reach a mobile subscriber. Some phones can support multipleMSISDNs - for example, a U.S.-based MSISDN and a Canadian-based MSISDN. Callers dialing either number willreach the subscriber.
Mobile Station Equipment (MSE) Subscription Services
GSM carriers typically order Mobile Station Equipment (MSE) (or GSM phones) from their suppliers (Nokia, Motorola,Sony, etc.) in large quantities (e.g. 1000 Units). After receiving an order, the equipment supplier will program theordered MSE SIMs with a range of IMSI numbers.
: ABC Communications Inc. orders 1000 MSE Units with the following range of IMSIs.
Unit #1000
310684451999Once the range of IMSI numbers has been determined, the HLR can be populated with the new IMSI records thatwill be configured and activated at a future date by authorized sales or service subscription representatives. The factthat the HLR can be populated with ranges or blocks of IMSI numbers creates efficiencies in the storage and retrievalof routing information.The wireless carrier distributes the Mobile Station Equipment to Sales Outlets that sell GSM subscription services.When a new subscriber orders a GSM phone at one of the outlets, the service representative will create a ServiceOrder (SO) to enter the new subscriber's service subscription information, including the MSISDN number. The key tothe Service Order is the IMSI that is programmed in the SIM. The SO is sent to the HLR, where the IMSI record iscreated. It can either be set to an active state immediately, allowing the new subscriber to send and receivetelephone calls or it can be activated at a future date.Note that the MSISDN numbers are assigned one at a time as each new customer subscribes. The MSISDNnumbers are therefore provisioned individually, rather than in blocks, which complicates the MSISDN based routing of messages. The ramifications of MSISDN provisioning are discussed further in theexamplefound at the end of thisdocument.
GSM Call RoutingMobile Subscriber Roaming
When a mobile subscriber roams into a new location area (new VLR), the VLR automatically determines that it mustupdate the HLR with the new location information, which it does using an SS7 Location Update Request Message.The Location Update Message is routed to the HLR through the SS7 network, based on the global title translation of 
the IMSI that is stored within the SCCP Called Party Address portion of the message. The HLR responds with amessage that informs the VLR whether the subscriber should be provided service in the new location.
Mobile Subscriber ISDN Number (MSISDN) Call Routing
When a user dials a GSM mobile subscriber's MSISDN, the PSTN routes the call to the Home MSC based on thedialed telephone number. The MSC must then query the HLR based on the MSISDN, to attain routing informationrequired to route the call to the subscribers' current location.The MSC stores global title translation tables that are used to determine the HLR associated with the MSISDN. Whenonly one HLR exists, the translation tables are trivial. When more than one HLR is used however, the translationsbecome extremely challenging, with one translation record per subscriber (see the example below). Havingdetermined the appropriate HLR address, the MSC sends a Routing Information Request to it.When the HLR receives the Routing Information Request, it maps the MSISDN to the IMSI, and ascertains thesubscribers' profile including the current VLR at which the subscriber is registered. The HLR then queries the VLR for a Mobile Station Roaming Number (MSRN). The MSRN is essentially an ISDN telephone number at which the mobilesubscriber can currently be reached. The MSRN is a temporary number that is valid only for the duration of a singlecall.The HLR generates a response message, which includes the MSRN, and sends it back across the SS7 network tothe MSC. Finally, the MSC attempts to complete the call using the MSRN provided.
Adding a Second HLR to the GSM Network
As a GSM wireless carrier's subscriber base grows, it will eventually become necessary to add a second HLR to their network. This requirement might be prompted by a service subscription record storage capacity issue, or perhaps anSS7 message processing performance issue. It might possibly be prompted by a need to increase the overall networkreliability.The new HLR can be populated with service subscription records as new subscribers are brought into service or existing service subscription records can be ported from the old HLR to the new HLR to more evenly distribute theSS7 traffic load.Typically, when new subscribers are brought into service, the second HLR will be populated with blocks of IMSInumbers that are allocated when new MSE equipment is ordered. As the following example shows, this grouping of IMSI numbers within a single HLR simplifies the routing translations that are required within the SS7 network for VLRto HLR Location Update Request transactions. Global Title Translation (GTT) tables will contain single translationrecords that translate an entire range of IMSIs numbers into an HLR address. Even if some individual records aremoved between the HLRs, as shown in the example, the treatment of IMSIs as blocks results in a significantsimplification of the Global Translation tables.Much more complicated SS7 message routing Global Title Translations are required for Routing Information Requesttransactions between the MSCs distributed over the entire wireless carrier serving area and the two or more HLRs.

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