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