IEEE Communications Magazine • February 2001
Evolution TowardReconfigurable User Equipment
0163-6804/01/$10.00 © 2001 IEEE
To date, research into reconfigurable mobilecommunications has predominantly focused onthe software radio concept, and specifically onthe hardware technologies required to movephysical layer processing into a programmableenvironment [1–3]. Although an interesting andnecessary challenge, this only represents a frac-tion of the overall support and technologyrequired to realize the potential of the concept.Other necessary developments include net- work/terminal cooperation for seamless inter-standard handoff, QoS management, a securesoftware download mechanism, terminal soft- ware architecture supporting reconfiguration,configuration management, capability negotia-tion, and so on. Summarizing results from earlyproject deliverables from a European Researchproject, IST-TRUST (Transparently Reconfig-urable Ubiquitous Terminal) , this articledescribes the likely overall system environmentand the key technical challenges to beresearched for realizing a reconfigurable termi-nal to meet the needs of users within that envi-ronment.
As we look beyond the third generation (3G) of mobile communications, we can initially perceivethe convergence toward an IP-based core networkand ubiquitous, seamless access between 2G, 3G,broadband, and broadcast wireless accessschemes, augmented by self-organizing networkschemes and short-range connectivity betweenintelligent communicating appliances (Fig. 1) .In this “composite radio environment” where sev-eral highly standardized legacy radio transportschemes exist, the medium-term goal would be todevelop reconfigurable network and terminaltechniques to enable interworking, and so deliverdiverse and exciting applications using the mostappropriate radio access scheme(s). Appropriatein this sense refers to the dynamic choice of access scheme(s) to achieve seamless, uninter-rupted delivery to the user, customized to userneeds in terms of content, quality of service(QoS), and cost. In such an environment, verti-cal handover may take place between differentaccess systems (from the cellular down to thepersonal network layer, e.g., Bluetooth), com-bined with real-time service and resource negoti-ations to seamlessly achieve the desired QoS.Interworking, mobility management, and roam-ing would be handled via the medium access sys-tems and IP-based core network.IST Transparently Reconfigurable UbiquitousTerminal (TRUST),a collaborative research pro- ject partly funded by the Council of EuropeanCommunities, is examining the feasibility of sus-taining such a vision in a composite radio envi-ronment. However, achieving interoperabilitybetween many very different radio access stan-dards is extremely challenging in terms of bothtechnology and overhead. A longer-term vision considered by TRUSTfocuses more on optimizing spectrum access,spectrum being the fundamental limiting resource.Enabled by progressive spectrum deregulation,terminals may negotiate dynamically for spectrumappropriate to the service(s) to be delivered, withspectrum allocation appropriately optimized toachieve maximum local system capacity. Otherenablers for such a vision might be the emergenceof self-organizing networks (dispensing with fixedfrequency planning) and reconfigurable terminalsoperating flexible, scalable radio access schemesin any part of the cellular/broadcast spectrum.Some network concepts supporting such a schemeare alluded to in .
Reconfigurable radio technology is acknowl-edged by the FCC, the U.S. regulatory authority,as an important mechanism to allow the mod-ernization of spectrum engineering practices toimprove spectrum efficiency .
Nigel J. Drew, Motorola Ltd Markus M. Dillinger, Siemens AG