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GPRS and GSM Throughput Performance

GPRS and GSM Throughput Performance

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Capacity Planning of GSM Data Service

Timo Virtanen Department of Computer Science, University of Helsinki February 26, 1999

Abstract
New mobile data services are being introduced to GSM system. High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) are the first steps towards higher data speeds over GSM. Standardisation of HSCSD began during 1994, and first networks supporting HSCSD were commercially available at the end of 1998. HSCSD enables circuit switched data transfer over GSM system. The standardisation work on the GPRS Phase1 was officially finalised in the first quarter of 1998 at ETSI and the standardisation work on the GPRS Phase2 is still going. GPRS enables packet switched data transfer over GSM system. This paper presents first generally a preliminary network planning process for GSM speech. After that the characteristics of HSCSD and GPRS services are presented and the things related to their capacity calculation are discussed.

1. Introduction
1.1 Dimensioning GSM speech
The network dimensioning is a process of analysis and comparison of different alternatives for building a cellular network in order to satisfy given requirements for coverage, quality and 1

capacity. There are several parameters that are used as input for dimensioning and that should be known or estimated, such as network area size, distribution of the subscribers, expected traffic load, available frequency band, etc. The output of the process is an estimate of the equipment needed for the network development. In dimensioning the whole geographical area is divided into the regions based on radio wave propagation and traffic distribution. Traffic distribution should be flat in each region and propagation environment should not vary too much. If these two assumptions are not valid in a region, the region should be divided into smaller regions to fulfil the assumptions. The three main concepts that are used to describe the composition of the cellular network are site, cell, sector and transceiver-receiver (TRX). Usually a network consists of more than one sites. One site can be divided into several sectors. Each sector can contain one or several TRXs and each TRX operates on a specific frequency. A cell is more like a logical concept that is used to divide the total geographical area into location areas. If mentioned in this document, a cell equals to a sector. A site with three sectors (cells), one with three TRXs and two with two TRXs is depicted in Figure 1.

TRX 1 TRX 2 TRX 3 TRX 1 TRX 2 TRX 1 TRX 2

Figure 1. A site with three sectors In order to be able to estimate the transmission capacity need of a network, the number of sites and the transmission capacity of one individual site (i.e. the number of TRXs per site) should be known. This is done by coverage and capacity calculations. Coverage calculation calculates the number of sites that are needed to cover the geographical area. Capacity calculation calculates the number of sites that are needed for the estimated traffic load in the area. The total number of sites required is then the number that is bigger, either the number of sites for capacity (capacity limited network) or the number of sites for coverage (coverage limited

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network). A new network is usually capacity limited in urban areas and coverage limited outside of urban areas.

1.2 Capacity calculation
Network traffic is not evenly spread. There are traffic peaks, "busy hours", usually around 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. but as the number of non-business subscribers increase, traffic gets more and more evenly spread over time. A network has to be dimensioned according to the "busy hour" traffic. In order to simplify the capacity calculation some assumptions should be made. Firstly, traffic is evenly distributed over the target area. Secondly, all the subscribers in the target area share the same quality targets. This means that the base stations have some common parameters (e.g. location probability, blocking probability, bandwidth, frequency reuse number). In addition to that there are some parameters that should be defined individually for different type of base stations (e.g. propagation model, output power and antenna height). The purpose of the capacity calculation is to define the number of TRXs needed to handle certain traffic load with given blocking probability. The number of carriers, and hence the number of channels, that are available depends on the available bandwidth. In GSM system each channel is allowed to use 200 kHz. For example if the bandwidth is 5 MHz, the number of channels is 25. The number of carriers that can be used per sector depends on the frequency reuse number. Each TRX operates on certain carrier. Again, if the bandwidth is 5 MHz and reuse is 12, the number of TRXs per sector is 2.08 according to the equation below. 5 MHz ≈ 2.08 0.2 MHz ⋅ 12 The number of TRXs per sector and blocking probability define the amount of traffic that one sector can handle. The number of the timeslots per TRX that are allocated for traffic depends on the planning solution and should be noticed. Traffic per one sector with given blocking probability can be calculated by using Erlang B formula, see Table 1 below for some example values.

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Blocking probability means the probability that a call generated by MS is blocked because all the possible traffic channels are reserved. GSM mobiles generate call requests for circuit switched calls as in ordinary telephony by a Poisson process. These GSM calls have an exponentially distributed holding time with a mean value of 50 seconds. Blocking probability for one timeslot speech call is estimated from Poisson distribution. The unit of traffic is called Erland (Erl) and 1 Erl equals to the amount of traffic that is carried by one channel during one hour. The number of the signaling timeslots per TRX, and thus the number of the traffic channels per TRX, depend on the planning solution. Blocking values used for the air interface vary normally been between 1% and 5%. As a network evolves, the number of subscribers will grow, while the average traffic intensity per subscriber will gradually decline over time. At network startup, the traffic per subscriber is typically around 18-20 mErlangs, and this declines to 12-13 mErlangs as the network matures [GSC98]. TRXs Time Slots 1 8 2 16 3 24 4 32 5 40 6 48 7 56 8 64 9 72 10 80
*TS = time slot

Traffic TSs* 7 15 22 30 38 45 53 61 69 76

Signalling Traffic TSs* (1%) 1 1 2 2 2 3 3 3 3 4 2.5 8.1 13.7 20.3 27.3 33.4 40.6 47.9 55.2 61.7

Traffic (2%) 2.9 9.0 14.9 21.9 29.2 35.6 43.1 50.6 58.2 64.9

Traffic (5%) 3.7 10.6 17.1 24.8 32.6 39.5 47.5 55.6 63.7 70.8

Table 1. Mapping TRXs, timeslots and traffic (in Erlangs). If the number of sectors per site is not known some estimate (e.g. weighed average, see Table 2 below) can be used and the traffic per sector and thus per site can be calculated. Then, knowing the traffic per site and the total traffic, the minimum number of sites for capacity can be calculated.

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Site configuration (number of sectors per site) Percentage of this type of sites

1 10%

2 30%

3 60%

Weighed number of sectors per site 1*0.1+2*0.3+3*0.6 = 2.5

Table 2. Weighed number of sectors per site After the total number of sites is calculated and hence the total number of TRXs and channels are known, the number of needed upper level controllers (BSCs) and switches (MSCs) can be calculated. The number of needed BSCs depends on how many TRXs one BSC can handle. The capacity of the BSCs should be decided, thus should there be fewer high capacity BSCs or several low capacity BSCs. This decision depends naturally on the possible locations of the network elements. The number of MSCs is mainly dependent on the number of subscribers in its serving area but also on the services it is expected to provide.

2. GSM Data Services
2.1 High speed circuit switched data
With the idea with HSCSD is to introduce data services in GSM with some software updates, but without any major hardware changes. Higher data throughput is achieved in two ways: using higher coding efficiency over air interface and using multiple channels (TDMA timeslots) for one connection. Thus the data is carried through multiple channels within circuit switched speech traffic. Figure 2 illustrates the concept of HSCSD. In the figure seven vertical timeslots correspond to traffic channels in a TDMA frame (carrier). The content of the TDMA frame changes with time. White boxes represent speech traffic and blue boxes represent HSCSD traffic. If there are four timeslots allocated for HSCSD traffic this could mean for example that there are two connections having two timeslots each or there could also be four timeslots allocated to one connection.

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HSCSD Traffic 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Time Speech Traffic

Figure 2. The concept of HSCSD. HSCSD offers two different kinds of connections, transparent and non-transparent. Transparent connection means that the number of the timeslots is fixed during the entire connection. This gives a constant bitrate and transmission delay. There is no error correction made by the network so the end application must take care of error correction. Non-transparent connection allows the number of allocated timeslots to be changed during the call. More timeslots can be allocated if some resources are released from other calls. The number of timeslots can be decreased for example if current traffic load is high and there are not enough free timeslots left for speech traffic (speech traffic should have priority over data traffic). Increasing and decreasing the number of timeslots are called resource upgrading and resource downgrading procedures, respectively. Error correction (i.e. retransmission of the frames) is done by the network so the data rate seen by the end application can vary. Maximum user data rates depend on used service. With non-transparent service, one connection can have up to four timeslots simultaneously. If 14.4 kbps timeslots are used, the four timeslot configuration results 57.6 kbps data rate. The maximum data rate for transparent service is 64 kbps, which also yields maximum four timeslots. The maximum amount for used timeslots is not limited in transparent service by the specification. The limit for 64 kbps is set by the current infrastructure, since BSC is connected to MSC with 64 kbps transmission link. The intention of using multiple timeslots is to keep the access, signaling and transmission mostly unchanged and simply split the data into several parallel streams for transmission and combine them at the other end. For physical constraints, all times slots associated to an HSCSD connection must belong to the same carrier. Where the timeslot are allocated (in consecutive or

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non-consecutive timeslots) is dependent on the timeslot allocation procedure. The data rates of the different coding schemes are shown in Table 3. [GSM 02.34] [GSM 03.34] Timeslots used 1 4 9.6 kbps channel coding 9.6 kbps 38.4 kbps 14.4 kbps channel coding 14.4 kbps 57.6 kbps

Table 3. Data rates with 1-4 timeslots for transparent service.

2.2 GPRS
GPRS provides packet switched connections between GSM system and external packet switched networks. With GPRS a user can access the standard data networks, such as TCP/IP and X.25, directly using their standard protocol addresses, which can be activated when the MS is attached to the GPRS network. GPRS has four different air interface coding schemes which have different throughput and error correction capabilities. GPRS MS can use from one to eight timeslots for transferring the data, depending on the capacity of the MS. Packet switched GPRS traffic is transferred by using the timeslots that are not used by circuit switched traffic at the moment. Circuit switched traffic load can consist of GSM speech and data traffic and has always priority over GPRS traffic. This means that introducing GPRS will not reduce the quality of service given for the subscribers that are using circuit switched services. However, in order to guarantee some minimum quality of service for GPRS users it is possible to allocate a number of timeslots per cell that can be used only for GPRS traffic. Figure 3 below illustrates the concept of GPRS. In the figure there are seven traffic channels per carrier and one traffic channel is permanently allocated for GPRS traffic. [GSM 03.60]

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GPRS Traffic 7 6 5 4 3 2 Circuit Switched Traffic 1 Time 1 TS reserved for GPRS

Figure 3. The concept of GPRS. GPRS supports both symmetric and asymmetric connections, which means that timeslots for uplink and downlink are allocated separately making it possible that they have different amounts of timeslots in use. For example, if MS is connected to the Internet more capacity (timeslots) is needed on downlink direction. GPRS standard determines four different air-interface coding schemes, CS-1, CS-2, CS-3 and CS-4. CS-1 has the highest error correction and the lowest throughput, while CS-4 has no error correction and the highest throughput. The data rates of the four coding schemes for one and eight timeslots are shown in Table 4. [GSM 03.60]
Channel coding scheme 1 timeslot 8 timeslots CS1 9.05 kbps 72.04 kbps CS2 13.4 kbps 107.2 kbps CS3 15.6 kbps 124.8 kbps CS4 21.4 kbps 171.2 kbps

Table 4. The data rates for different coding schemes. When the vendors are initially introducing GPRS they want, most probably, offer a costeffective GPRS solution without large-scale investment for operators. Because the coding schemes CS-3 and CS-4 do not fit into 16 kbps Abis-interface, only the coding schemes CS-1 and CS-2 will probably be implemented in the first GPRS versions.

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2.3 Capacity calculation
When introducing GSM-data services, the capacity of the underlying GSM network has to be studied. It has to be determined if the GSM network is able to provide sufficient capacity also for data services. The total data traffic load should be estimated based on the percentage of data users and the traffic load per subscriber during peak hour. Perhaps in the beginning, when the number of data users is low, it is possible to introduce data services without having to add new sites for capacity. But later on as the number of data users increase, some new capacity enhancements have to be made to the network. As mentioned before the speech traffic load can be defined in Erlangs per subscriber. One Erlang equals to the amount of traffic that one timeslot can carry during one hour with given blocking probability. When introducing data services, there will be speech traffic and data traffic in the network simultaneously. The most comprehensible way to express data traffic load is kbps per subscriber, but in order to be able to estimate the transmission load of speech and data together, the kbps value should be changed to the corresponding value in Erlangs. For this conversion the average throughput of one timeslot for each coding scheme should be estimated. The data throughput is mainly dependent on the air interface quality (i.e. C/I ratio). Network congestion also decreases data throughput, especially in case of non-transparent HSCSD and GPRS since GSM speech traffic has priority over them. In interference limited network, which is the case in urban area where also the data users are mostly expected to be, the level of frequency reuse and the surrounding environment determine the C/I ratio, which determines the throughput. The level of throughput in respect of certain C/I ratio should be estimated by simulations. After defining the estimated throughput per timeslot, the data traffic amount in Erlangs can be calculated by dividing the total data traffic load by the estimated average throughput per timeslot. This can be done because in a very short time period one Erlang takes exactly one timeslot.

2.3.1 HSCSD The non-transparent service, which allows the number of radio timeslots to vary during a call, can be introduced into the network without any capacity planning. HSCSD statistics are used to 9

monitor service usage, and in places where HSCSD users are not served according to the operator's requirement, the TRX capacity may need upgrading. However, with HSCSD-specific parameter planning, the service quality between HSCSD and normal users can be tuned. The transparent HSCSD service, with a fixed number of allocated timeslots during the entire call, can cause more congestion. This depends on the structure and configuration of the network, so in some cases transparent HSCSD service can be introduced without new network planning. However, when transparent services are launched on a larger scale, new capacity planning methods and algorithms are required. For HSCSD the throughput is 14,4 kbps per timeslot in the best case but decreases as the C/I ratio decreases. Throughput for transparent service depends directly on the blocking rate since there is no upgrade or downgrade procedures, whereas throughput for non-transparent service can vary a lot because of the downgrade and upgrade procedures. The Erlang B formula is not applicable as it is for HSCSD capacity calculation. Capacity planning algorithms are needed for non-transparent and transparent services in order to estimate more precisely the capacity also with different timeslot connections and with different amounts of TRXs. One possibility is to investigate by simulations if it is possible to define Erlang B based algorithms for nontransparent and transparent services.

2.3.2 GPRS It is possible to introduce GPRS in the network without any capacity planning. This is because in the early state of GPRS the existing capacity of the network is probably sufficient to provide good quality service for all GPRS users, due to the low usage of GPRS. But as the number of GPRS users increases, also the capacity demand increases and has to be recalculated. An example how circuit switched traffic and packet switched traffic could be distributed over a day is presented in the Figure 4.

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Total Traffic Load Circuit Switched Traffic Load GPRS Traffic Load

00:00

06:00

12:00

18:00

23:59

Time

Figure 4. Traffic distribution example. For dimensioning it should be possible to define the capacity need separately for circuit switched and packet switched traffic. Depending on the number of subscribers and on the traffic per subscriber it is necessary to define the following figures in the GPRS network: • • Peak circuit switched traffic load (in Erlangs) Peak GPRS traffic load (in kbps)

Also depending on the percentage of subscribers attached during total traffic peak hour and also on the peak hour traffic demand per subscriber, the following figures should be defined: • • Circuit switched traffic load during total traffic peak hour (in Erlangs) GPRS traffic load during total traffic peak hour (in kbps)

If coding schemes CS-1 and CS-2 are available, their data rates being 9.05 kbps and 13.4 kbps respectively, the network data throughput can be estimated to be something between these values. During off peak hour time, when the traffic and interference levels are low, the throughput will increase towards 13,4 kbps. Some simulations were conducted by ETSI to find out more about the single timeslot throughput with respect to C/I ratio, see Figure 5 [GSM 05.50]. From the figure it can be seen that with C/I values of 11-15 dB, the corresponding average throughput for CS-1 and CS-2 is roughly 10 kbps (8*1.25 koctet/s). Actual throughput experienced by the end-user is probably even lower because several users share the timeslot resources.

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maximum throughput in TU 50 no FH
koctet/s

2,5

2 CS-1 and CS-2 average throughput 1,5

CS1 CS2 CS3 CS4

1

0,5

0 3dB

7dB

11dB

15dB C/I

19dB

23dB

27dB

Figure 5. GPRS throughput performance [GSM 05.50]. It should be noted that for multislot MS, for example if MS is using three timeslots, the average throughput is less than three times the one timeslot throughput. This is because: • • Under high load conditions three consecutive timeslots are not often available. There is a set up overhead required to transmit each packet (average packet sizes will be probably be small). The setup time starts to be a larger proportion of the total transmission time for multislot connections. Hence average throughput is less. • The retransmission of erroneous blocks is not so efficient for higher data rates, due to mobile delays in acknowledging reception or requesting retransmission. The simulations made by Nokia showed that after certain point of network congestion the data throughput starts to decrease considerably. For dimensioning it should be possible to define this point, but the situation is very complicated because in general there is no such point but an interval where this situation occurs. However, a variable, loading factor, should be defined to estimate the cell loading in percentages before end-user GPRS data throughput starts to decrease considerably. The value of loading factor is dependent on the configuration and the system parameters, thus some configuration-specific simulations should be made to find out more about the actual value of loading factor.

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The following cases could be considered when calculating capacity for GPRS: 1. Circuit switched traffic (e.g. speech and HSCSD) has priority over GPRS data traffic. First the number of sites for circuit switched traffic is calculated with certain blocking. Then it must be calculated if the network provides enough throughput for given GPRS data traffic load. If more sites have to be added for capacity because of GPRS data, the increased number of sites will also decrease the blocking of circuit switched traffic so the blocking value should be calculated once more. 2. Fixed number of timeslots allocated for GPRS data (e.g. 1 TS/carrier). The throughput that the network provides for GPRS data is the throughput provided by the fixed and varying timeslots together. If this throughput is not enough and more sites have to be added because of GPRS data, the increased number of sites will also decrease the blocking of circuit switched traffic and thus the blocking value should be calculated once more. 3. GPRS data traffic has equal priority compared to circuit switched traffic (this could be the case in the future). This means that if there is some amount of timeslots allocated for GPRS connection and if the network gets so loaded that there aren’t any more free timeslots for new circuit switched calls, the timeslots allocated for GPRS are not released for speech calls (nor incoming GPRS calls) and the incoming calls are blocked.

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References
[GSC98] Grillo D., Skoog R., Chia S., Teletraffic Engineering for Mobile Personal Communicat ions in ITU-T Work: The Need to Match Practice and Theory. IEEE Personal Co mmunicat ions, 1998. ETSI, Digital cellular telecommunications system (Phase 2+); High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD). GSM 02.34 Stage 1, July 1997. ETSI, Digital cellular telecommunications system (Phase 2+); High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD). GSM 03.34 Stage 2, July 1997. ETSI, Digital cellular telecommunications system (Phase 2+), Background for Radio Frequency (RF) requirements. GSM 05.50 versio n 6.0.2, 1997. ETSI, Digital cellular telecommunications system (Phase 2+), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Service Description. GSM 03.60 Stage 2 version 6.2.0, 1997.

[GSM 02.34] [GSM 03.34] [GSM 05.50] [GSM 03.60]

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