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The Mobile Application Part (MAP) of GSM

The Mobile Application Part (MAP) of GSM

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Published by inm7ripe
MAP protocol history
MAP protocol history

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Published by: inm7ripe on Oct 29, 2009
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Telektronikk 3.2004
Interconnecting operators:The three sausage model
This is the story of how the Mobile Application Part(MAP) was created and the problems and conflictsthat this development caused between the communi-ties of enthusiastic mobile communications expertsand the conservative and preservative telephoneswitching engineers.The idea to design an international land mobile com-munications system came up in CCITT
StudyGroup XI (Switching) in late 1980, more than twoyears before GSM was established. The first docu-ment describing how mobility was achieved in theNMT system was presented to the Plenary Assemblyof CCITT in 1981. The document was appended toaproposal for a new study question on land mobilesystems. The authors were Bjørn Løken and myself.The Study Group found the proposal so interestingthat they appointed Bjørn Løken as Interim Rappor-teur so that work on land mobile systems could com-mence immediately without awaiting the approval of the Plenary Assembly.From mid 1981 the work on land mobile systems inCCITT took off at a violent speed and importantresults were obtained early. The three most importantresults obtained during the early years were a simplenetwork model nicknamed the “tree sausage” model,a method for non-interrupt handover of calls betweendifferent switching centres, and the outline of a proto-col supporting mobility within and between PublicLand Mobile Networks (PLMN). The latter was laterchristened the Mobile Application Part (MAP). Theseachievements were all adopted and developed furtherby the GSM group.Figure 1 shows the “three sausage” model of a landmobile system. The sausages are the two PLMNs andthe fixed network. The significance of this model isthat it is entirely abstract; that is, independent of theparticular physical design of the network. The modelcan be used to describe all major activities takingplace in the system and it is general enough to applyto every practical configuration of a mobile system.This allowed MAP to be developed independentlyofa particular network architecture: MAP is thus notspecific for GSM.The PLMN represents an entity of network owner-ship. The interaction between PLMNs is thus a co-operation of different mobile network operatorsallowing mobile subscribers to roam between net-works independently of ownership and subscription.The model shows two PLMNs together with the fixednetwork. MAP supports mobility between the PLMNs,that is, MAP offers to mobile terminals the capabilityto move from one PLMN to another PLMN retainingthe capability to receive and make calls. Interconnec-tivity between a mobile terminal and a fixed terminalor between two mobile terminals takes place acrossthe fixed network. The signalling protocol connectingthe PLMN to the fixed network is Signalling SystemNumber 7 (SS No 7). The plan was to implement SSNo 7 in the telephone network during the 1980s sowhen an international mobile system was ready foroperation around 1990, this would be the naturalchoice of interconnection method. When GSM wasput in operation in 1991/92, SS No 7 was in place andmobile communications could commence immediately.
The Mobile Application Part (MAP) of GSM
Jan A. Audestad is Senior Adviser in Telenor 
This is the story of how the Mobile Application Part was developed. MAP is the neural system inter-connecting the distributed computer infrastructure of GSM (VLRs, MSCs, HLRs and other entities). Thework on MAP started as a study of the general architecture of mobile systems in ITU two years beforethe GSM group was established. In 1985 the work was taken over and later completed by the GSMgroup. MAP was the first protocol of its kind in telecommunications systems. After long and difficultnegotiations with the community of switching and signalling experts, MAP got its final structure in1988. This included the use of Signalling System No. 7 as carrier and the support of services such asroaming, call handling, non-interruptive handover, remote switching management and managementof security functions. MAP is one of the real technological triumphs of GSM.
The Consultative Committee on International Telephony and Telegraphy of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Telektronikk 3.2004
PLMN architecture:The heritage of NMT
Another development that took place prior to GSMwas the specification of an internal architecture of land mobile systems as shown in Figure 2. The archi-tecture is based on the principles first developed forNMT and were adjusted for use in more flexible con-figurations by the CCITT.The architecture is simple. In addition to the radioinfrastructure (base stations and cells) and the tele-phone exchanges switching the calls between the basestations and the fixed network (MSC), there are twotypes of databases: VLR (Visitor Location Register)and HLR (Home Location Register)
. The VLRs arein charge of a location area. Within this area themobile stations can roam without updating theirlocation
. Location updating takes place when themobile station roams from one location area toanother. The VLR contains all information aboutthemobile terminals currently in its location arearequired for establishing calls to and from these ter-minals. The VLR also controls the switching processin the MSC. In this respect, the VLR is an intelligentnetwork (IN) node similar to the concept developedindependently by Bellcore during the 1980s for serv-ing telephone calls requiring centralised control (rout-ing and payment management of free-phone and pre-mium rate calls, and management of distributedqueues and helpdesk functions). In mobile networks,identity management, location updating, routingadministration and handling of supplementary ser-vices require the support of similar procedures asintelligent networks. Therefore, it is not surprisingthat the two groups came up with rather similar solu-tions to the problem of remote control of switchingprocesses independently of each other.The HLR is a database containing subscription infor-mation (services and capabilities) and the currentlocation of the mobile terminal. There is usually oneHLR for each GSM operator
.In addition, there are also other databases and entitiesnot important for the basic architecture (equipmentregisters, authentication key escrows, voicemail sys-tems and short message centres). These databases arealso connected to the other network elements by MAP.There are permanent MAP connections between theVLR and the MSCs it is controlling. There are spo-radic MAP connections between the VLR and theHLR for location updating, between two or threeMSCs for handover, and between two VLRs formanagement of identities during location updating.Sporadic means that a relationship is established onlywhen two such entities must exchange informationand controls.
Figure 2 Architecture of GSM 
These names were inspired by NMT: HMX for home mobile exchange and VMX for visiting mobile exchange offering similar functions as the HLR and the VLR, respectively.
 A VLR may control a number of location areas. Roaming between such location areas only require updating of the VLR and not the HLR.
 If there are many mobile subscribers, two or more HLR databases may be required. Such configurations are regarded as a single,distributed HLR.
Fixed networkPLMNPLMNMobilityMAPConnectivitySS No 7
Figure 1 The three sausage model 
MSCFixed networkSubscriptionCurrentlocation areaPreviouslocation areaSporadic MAPconnectionPermanent MAPconnectionCall controlHLRVLRVLRMSC
Telektronikk 3.2004
Many of the operations and procedures supported byMAP were outlined in CCITT before the GSM groupwas established. The work had in fact progressed farbefore GSM took over the specification in 1985.
Cooperation between SPS/SIGandGSM
Until 1985, not many of us believed that Europewould ever be able to specify a common land mobilesystem. CEPT
had this far never succeeded in itsstandardisation efforts so there was no reason tobelieve that it would succeed this time either. At theGSM meeting in Berlin in October that year, this atti-tude changed. The core team of the GSM group hadnow become tightly consolidated and it was decidedunanimously that every effort should be made to makeGSM a success. An outline of 110 recommendationsthat should comprise the complete GSM specificationwas drafted at the meeting so that work could com-mence on solving concrete problems. Amongst theserecommendations was the MAP specification.This was the kick-off the GSM group needed.CEPT already had a working group dealing withsignalling, SPS/SIG. This group was asked to takecharge of the MAP specification. Christian Vernhes,who had worked on MAP right from the beginninginCCITT, became chairman of the team in charge of the specification. In addition, the team consisted of Bruno Chatras (ASN.1 specification) and myself (procedures). Alfred Karner joined the team in theautumn of 1988 cleaning up the formal aspects of thespecification.The request from the GSM group was to deliver acomplete specification by January 1989. SPS/SIGmet this requirement. Both the syntax and the seman-tics of the protocol had then been methodically testedand verified by Siemens. This included testing theASN.1 syntax of the protocol and all procedures thatwere written in SDL.
Protocol structure
The final structure of the protocol is shown in Figure3. GSM is a distributed system where most of theprocedures are divided into components located indifferent computers, for example, in the mobile termi-nal, in one or two VLRs and in the HLR for locationupdating. A handover between cells connected to dif-ferent MSCs involves simultaneous execution of soft-ware components in the mobile terminal, in two basestation tranceivers, two base station controllers, twoor more MSCs and one VLR. The components in theMSCs and the VLR are interconnected by MAP. Theother components are interconnected by other proto-cols.MAP is the core element in the network architectureof GSM, tying together MSCs, VLRs, HLRs andother specialised databases and equipment. Theconfiguration of the protocol is shown in Figure 3.The MAP semantics corresponds to the exchange of procedure calls between the components of the dis-tributed application procedure as shown in the figure.The syntax and the semantics of these procedure callsare mapped onto the protocol via a set of finite statemachines in order to transport the commands acrossthe network. The machines not only map the syntaxand the semantics but also take care of software syn-chronisation, ensure that the right software compo-nents are bound to each other during the whole trans-action, and detect and respond to exception condi-tions. The state machines ensure that the abstractsyntax of MAP can be interfaced to any applicationlayer protocol. MAP can in fact be interfaced withany application layer protocol supporting procedurecalls, for example RPC (Remote Procedure Call) of the Internet.
Conférence Européenne des Postes et des Télécommunications. The part of CEPT in charge of telecommunications standardisationlater became ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute).
Componentof applicationprocedureProcedure call(MAP semantics)Finite statemachinesTCAPSCCPMTPSignalling System No 7MAP syntaxRO syntax/TCAP syntaxComponentof applicationprocedureFinite statemachines
Figure 3 MAP protocol 

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