RESEARCH PAPER
.
Special Issue
SCIENCE CHINA
Information Sciences
February 2013, Vol. 56 022311:1022311:11
doi: 10.1007/s1143201247692
c Science China Press and SpringerVerlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013 info.scichina.com www.springerlink.com
A unied algorithm for mobility load balancing
in 3GPP LTE multicell networks
WANG Hao
1,2
, LIU Nan
1
, LI ZhiHang
1
, WU Ping
2
, PAN ZhiWen
1
& YOU XiaoHu
1
1
National Mobile Communications Research Laboratory, School of Information Science and Engineering,
Southeast University, Nanjing 210096, China;
2
Department of Engineering Sciences, Uppsala University, Uppsala 75121, Sweden
Received September 20, 2012; accepted October 19, 2012
Abstract 3GPP long term evolution (LTE) is a promising candidate for the nextgeneration wireless network,
which is expected to achieve high spectrum eciency by using advanced physical layer techniques and at
network structures. However, the LTE network still faces the problem of load imbalance as in GSM/WCDMA
networks, and this may cause signicant deterioration of system performance. To deal with this problem, mobility
load balancing (MLB) has been proposed as an important use case in 3GPP selforganizing network (SON), in
which the serving cell of a user can be selected to achieve load balancing rather than act as the cell with the
maximum received power. Furthermore, the LTE network aims to serve users with dierent qualityofservice
(QoS) requirements, and the networkwide objective function for load balancing is distinct for dierent kinds of
users. Thus, in this paper, a unied algorithm is proposed for MLB in the LTE network. The load balancing
problem is rst formulated as an optimization problem with the optimizing variables being celluser connections.
Then the complexity and overhead of the optimal solution is analyzed and a practical and distributed algorithm
is given. After that, the proposed algorithm is evaluated for users with dierent kinds of QoS requirements, i.e.,
guaranteed bit rate (GBR) users with the objective function of load balance index and nonGBR (nGBR) users
with the objective function of total utility, respectively. Simulation results show that the proposed algorithm
leads to signicantly balanced load distribution for GBR users to decrease the new call blocking rate, and for
nGBR users to improve the celledge throughput at the cost of only slight deterioration of total throughput.
Keywords selforganizing network (SON), mobility load balancing (MLB), qualityofservice (QoS), load
balance index, total utility
Citation Wang H, Liu N, Li Z H, et al. A unied algorithm for mobility load balancing in 3GPP LTE multicell
networks. Sci China Inf Sci, 2013, 56: 022311(11), doi: 10.1007/s1143201247692
1 Introduction
3GPP long term evolution (LTE) network can achieve high spectrum eciency due to the usage of at
network structures and advanced physical layer techniques, i.e., orthogonal frequency division multiple
access technology and multiinput and multioutput antennas [13]. However, as in GSM/WCDMA net
works, the system performance is still inuenced by unbalanced load distribution among nearby cells [46].
To deal with this problem, realtime intercell optimization is needed. Previous intercell optimizations in
jC,j=i
g
j,l,k
() p
t
, (1)
where
1) g
i,l,k
() represents the instantaneous channel gain between eNodeB i and user k on PRB l at
subframe . The channel gain takes into account the path loss, lognormal shadowing and fast fading.
2) p
t
represents the equal transmit power on each PRB. And g
i,l,k
() p
t
is the instantaneously received
signal strength of user k from cell i on PRB l at subframe .
3) N
0
is the additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) on a PRB. Without loss of generality, we assume
the noise level is the same for all PRBs.
(1) is justied for the case where all of the system resources are exhausted. Even for the case where
there are residual system resources, (1) is still meaningful and can be seen as a conservative lowbound of
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:4
the practical received SINR. Given SINR
i,l,k
(), the instantaneous bandwidth eciency e
i,l,k
() of user
k in cell i on PRB l at subframe is
e
i,l,k
() = log
2
[1 + SINR
i,l,k
()] (bps/Hz). (2)
Since load balancing is periodically conducted on a larger time scale rather than a subframe, we use
e
i,k
(t) to denote the expectation of the instantaneous bandwidth eciency in (2) among all available
PRBs and subframes between time [t 1, t). Then the load occupied by user k in cell i at time t is
dened as
i,k
(t) = f
1
(e
i,k
(t)), (3)
where f
1
() represents the mapping relation between the occupied load and the bandwidth eciency of
user k in cell i, and it will be dened later in Section 4. Then the total load of cell i at time t is
i
(t) =
kKi
i,k
(t). (4)
2.3 A unied networkwide load balancing objective function
In this subsection, a unied networkwide load balancing objective function is dened as
O
bj
(t) = f(
1
(t),
2
(t),
3
(t), . . .), (5)
where f() denotes the mapping relation between the networkwide load balancing objective function and
the load of each cell in the network, which will be dened in Section 4 for both GBR and nGBR users.
3 Problem formulation, complexity/overhead analysis, and practical algo
rithm
3.1 Problem formulation and complexity/overhead analysis
A unied load balancing optimization problem is formulated with the optimization variables being cell
user connections. Our objective is to make use of enforced handover to perform load balancing for
all users in the network, such that the maximum (or minimum) of the networkwide load balancing
objective function with the optimal celluser connections can be achieved. This is equivalent to the
following constrained optimization problem:
P1: max O
bj
(t) (6)
s.t.
iC
I
i,k
(t) = 1, k K, (7)
iC
I
i,k
(t)e
i,k
(t) , k K. (8)
Constraints in (7) imply that one user can only be served by one cell at a certain time t. Constraints
in (8) explain that the minimum bandwidth eciency of any user k has to be satised strictly in its
serving cell, which is reasonable because a cellcenter users often may not be served by nearby cells. It
is wellknown that all minimization problems can be transformed into maximization problems with the
negative objective function. The optimization problem is formulated as a maximization problem in (6)
for simplicity.
The above P1 is an integer optimization problem with the variable as celluser connection I
i,k
(t), which
is similar to the optimization problem in [17] and has been proved to be an NPhard problem even if
the mapping relation f() is simple enough to be a linear combination of each cells load. To the best
of our knowledge, there are no eective methods, except bruteforce search (BFS), to nd the optimum.
However, the computational complexity of BFS is too tremendous. For example, if there exist p cells
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:5
and q users in the network, the computational complexity of BFS increases with O(p
q
). Apart from the
computational complexity, BFS also has implementation diculties. Firstly, a central unit to run BFS
is indispensable. Secondly, bandwidth eciency information feedback from all users to the central unit
as well as the distribution of central unit s decision denitely brings a huge overhead to the network.
3.2 Practical and distributed algorithm
In this subsection, a practical and distributed algorithm is proposed for the above optimization problem
P1. Since the objective function is optimized at each time t, we omit the symbol t in the following for
convenience.
In cell i, if a user k is switched to a neighboring cell j for load balancing, the gain of the handover for
load balancing is dened as
i,j,k
= O
bj
(j, k) O
bj
(i, k), (9)
where O
bj
(j, k) and O
bj
(i, k) stand for the networkwide load balancing objective function in (5) after
and before the handover, respectively. It is obvious that
i,j,k
should be large than 0, otherwise the
handover is harmful, thus aecting the objective function.
In each cell i, there may be lots of users with a positive load balancing gain at the same time. To
avoid pingpong eect, in each load balancing cycle, cell i only chooses the user and its corresponding
target cell with the largest load balancing gain dened in (9), and meanwhile the constraints in (7) and
(8) should be satised. That is, for all users in cell i, the user k
are chosen as
k
(j
) = arg max
kKi, jC
k
i,j,k
, (10)
where C
k
is the set of neighboring cells that user k can be served, as is decided by the constraints in (8).
4 Algorithm application for both GBR and nGBR users
In this section, the unied problem formulation and algorithm proposed in Section 3 are applied to GBR
and nGBR users, respectively.
4.1 Application for GBR users
In this subsection, we rst apply the unied problem formulation and algorithm to GBR users. For GBR
user k in cell i, a minimal number of PRBs are allocated to guarantee its GBR requirement
w
GBR
i,k
=
_
k
e
i,k
_
, (11)
where
k
is the GBR requirement of user k, and e
i,k
is the bandwidth eciency of user k in cell i. x
refers to the minimum integer larger than or equal to x. Then the load of GBR user k in cell i is
GBR
i,k
=
w
GBR
i,k
s
i
, (12)
where s
i
means the total resources in cell i. Since all cells often have equal resources, we use s instead of
s
i
in the following analysis for simplicity. And
GBR
i,k
is used to denote the load occupied by GBR user k in
cell i, which comes from the denition in (3). Obviously, mapping function f
1
() in (3) equals
k
/e
i,k
/s
here for any GBR user k in cell i. And the load of cell i is decided by (4) with all
GBR
i,k
(k K
i
).
For GBR users, Jains fairness index [20] is used as the networkwide load balancing objective function
O
GBR
bj
=
(
1
+
2
+
3
+ )
2
C(
1
2
+
2
2
+
3
2
+ )
, (13)
where C is the number of cells in the network, and O
GBR
bj
denotes the networkwide load balancing
objective function for GBR users, referred to as the load balance index. The load balance index takes
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:6
value in the interval [1/C, 1]. A larger O
GBR
bj
means a more balanced load distribution among cells.
The objective of load balancing for GBR users is to maximize O
GBR
bj
. Then the unied load balancing
problem P1 in (6)(8) is transformed for GBR users as
P2: max O
GBR
bj
(14)
s.t. (7), (8);
iC
I
i,k
w
GBR
i,k
e
i,k
k
, k K. (15)
The newly added constraints for GBR users in (15) insures that the GBR requirement
k
of any user k
has to be satised strictly in its serving cell.
For GBR user k in cell i, switching it to cell j should increase the load balance index O
GBR
bj
. Let
O
GBR
bj
(i, k) and O
GBR
bj
(j, k) be the load balance index before and after the switch (handover). Then
user k should only be switched from cell i to j if O
GBR
bj
(i, k) < O
GBR
bj
(j, k). Assume the numerator of
O
GBR
bj
(i, k) and O
GBR
bj
(j, k) are the same, which is reasonable because it is preferable to choose boundary
users for load balancing handover that consume almost equal resources in the original and the target cell.
Then O
GBR
bj
(i, k) < O
GBR
bj
(j, k) together with (12) and (13) yields
2
i
+
2
j
> (
i
w
GBR
i,k
/s)
2
+ (
j
+ w
GBR
j,k
/s)
2
w
GBR
i,k
(2s w
GBR
i,k
)
w
GBR
j,k
(2s + w
GBR
j,k
)
> 1. (16)
Then
GBR
i,j,k
= w
GBR
i,k
(2s w
GBR
i,k
)/(w
GBR
j,k
(2s +w
GBR
j,k
)) is dened as the GBR user load balancing gain
for switching user k from cell i to j. In each load balancing cycle, each cell i only chooses the user k
which satises constraints in (8) and (15), and meanwhile achieves the largest gain
k
(j
) = arg max
kKi, jC
k
GBR
i,j,k
. (17)
A newly arriving GBR user m will be admitted to cell i if and only if there are enough timefrequency
resources satisfying its GBR requirement, that is,
s
kKi
w
GBR
i,k
w
GBR
i,m
. (18)
4.2 Application for nGBR users
In this subsection, we apply the unied problem formulation and algorithm to nGBR users, which is quite
dierent from that applied for GBR users in the above subsection.
Since all nGBR users are without any rate requirements and with the same priority, cell i allocates
resources to all its serving users equally. Then, for nGBR user k in cell i, the quantity of PRBs allocated
to it is
w
nGBR
i,k
=
s
K
i

, (19)
where K
i
 is the number of all nGBR users in cell i. Then the load of nGBR user k in cell i is
nGBR
i,k
= log
a
(w
i,k
e
i,k
), (20)
where w
i,k
e
i,k
is the achievable throughput of nGBR user k in cell i, and log
a
() (a > 1) is the commonly
used utility function [21] for nGBR users. Similar to GBR users, the load of nGBR users in cell i is
decided by (4) with all
nGBR
i,k
(k K
i
).
For nGBR users, total utility, denoted by O
nGBR
bj
, is used as the networkwide load balancing objective
function
O
nGBR
bj
=
iC
i
=
iC
kKi
nGBR
i,k
=
iC
kKi
log
a
(w
i,k
e
i,k
). (21)
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:7
The unied load balancing problem P1 in (6)(8) is transformed for nGBR users as
P3: max O
nGBR
bj
s.t. (7), (8). (22)
For nGBR user k in cell i, switching it to cell j should increase the total utility O
nGBR
bj
. Let O
nGBR
bj
(i, k)
and O
nGBR
bj
(j, k) be the total utility before and after the switch (handover), together with (19)(21), then
we have
O
nGBR
bj
(i, k) = log
a
__
mKi
e
i,m
w
nGBR
i
__
nKj
e
j,n
w
nGBR
j
__
+
lC,l=i,l=j
l
, (23)
O
nGBR
bj
(j, k) = log
a
__
mKi,m=k
e
i,m
w
nGBR
i
___
nKj
e
j,n
w
nGBR
j
_
e
j,k
w
nGBR
j
__
+
lC,l=i,l=j
l
, (24)
where m and n represent nGBR user in cell i and cell j, respectively. Since resource is equally allocated
in each cell, let w
nGBR
i
and w
nGBR
j
denote the resource allocated to each user in cell i and cell j before
the handover, while let w
nGBR
i
and w
nGBR
j
denote the resource allocated to each user in cell i and cell
j after the handover, respectively. Together with the resource allocation criterion in (19), O
nGBR
bj
(i, k) <
O
nGBR
bj
(j, k) can be simplied into
e
i,k
_
s
K
i

_
Ki
_
s
K
j

_
Kj
< e
j,k
_
s
K
i
 1
_
Ki1
_
s
K
j
 + 1
_
Kj+1
e
i,k
K
i

_
K
i
 1
K
i

_
Ki1
<
e
j,k
K
j
 + 1
_
K
j

K
j
 + 1
_
Kj
. (25)
If there are lots of users in cell i and cell j, both ((K
i
 1)/K
i
)
Ki1
and (K
j
/(K
j
 +1))
Kj
in (25)
can be approximated as the same constant e
1
, where e is the Napierian base, then (25) nally becomes
e
j,k
K
i

e
i,k
(K
j
 + 1)
> 1. (26)
nGBR
i,j,k
= e
j,k
K
i
/(e
i,k
(K
j
 + 1)) is dened as the nGBR user load balancing gain for switching user
k from cell i to j. Similar to that for GBR users, in each load balancing cycle, each cell i only chooses
the user k
which satises the constraint in (8) and achieves the largest gain as
k
(j
) = arg max
kKi, jC
k
nGBR
i,j,k
. (27)
For newly arriving nGBR users, there is no constraint at call admission control.
5 Simulation
Simulations are performed to evaluate the performance of the proposed algorithm in terms of load balance
index O
GBR
bj
and new call blocking rate for GBR users, total utility O
GBR
bj
, fth percentile throughput
and total throughput for nGBR users. The fth percentile throughput is dened as the average of the
lowest 5% throughput of nGBR users and usually regarded as a representative performance metric of
celledge users.
5.1 Simulation setup
The network considered here is composed of seven hexagonal micro cells with unbalanced user distribution
as shown in Figure 1. The distance between adjacent eNodeBs is 130 m. The maximum transmission
power of all eNodeBs is 38 dBm and the bandwidth is 10 MHz. The path loss in dB is 39+20 log
10
(d), 10 <
d 45 or 39+67 log
10
(d), d > 45, where d is the distance from eNodeB to user in m. And the minimum
coupling loss is 53 dB when d is less than 10 m. The standard deviation and correlation distance of
lognormal shadowing are 10 dB and 25 m, respectively. And Rayleigh fast fading is considered in this
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:8
paper. All of the parameters are consistent with the simulation scenario recommended by 3GPP in [22].
To avoid border eects, the wraparound technique [23] is used.
In order to provide practical simulation results, the proposed algorithm is investigated in a dynamic
setting. GBR and nGBR users arrive in any cell i according to a Poisson process at uniformly distributed
locations and depart from the system after holding for an exponentially distributed period with the mean
of 100 s. The rate requirements of all GBR users are uniformly chosen from 64256 kbps. To dierentiate
the load of neighboring cells, cell 1 is chosen as the busiest cell with an alterable arrival rate for its
serving users, while that in all the other cells are assumed to be 0.2 user/s. Each simulation takes 1000 s,
and simulations are performed thousands of times under each arrival rate of cell 1 to get the average
performance.
The choice of load balancing cycle is a tradeo between signaling overhead and the performance gain
(the shorter the period, the better the performance, and the heavier the overhead). Since the load of each
cell varies slowly due to the above settings, 1 s is taken as the load balancing cycle in our simulations. In
the following, N/A and MLB are used to represent no handover for load balancing and run the proposed
algorithm for load balancing in Section 4, respectively. Besides, CB is used to present the load balancing
method of cell breathing, which is similar to that in [10] with reasonable modication to our scenario.
5.2 Optimality analysis for both GBR and nGBR users
In this subsection, an optimality analysis is given to compare the proposed algorithm to the optimal one,
i.e., BFS. Thousands of random static scenarios are picked, in which there are no user arrivals/departures
but the number and allocation of users are varying in each scenario. For each scenario the optimal user
cell connections was obtained by BFS, and we evaluated the proposed algorithm for both GBR and nGBR
users. Figure 2 exhibits the CDF for the performance ratios, which are dened as the ratio of performance
values obtained from the proposed algorithm to that from BFS. As can be seen, the performance ratio of
load balance index O
GBR
bj
exceeds 84% for almost all scenarios, 90% for 91.4% scenarios, and reaches 100%
for 56.6% scenarios. The performance ratio of total utility O
nGBR
bj
exceeds 97% for all scenarios. The
optimality loss of load balance index O
GBR
bj
compared to that of total utility O
nGBR
bj
mainly comes from
the simplication in the deduction of (16). From Figure 2, we can conclude that our proposed algorithm,
which is ecient and easy to implement, is a good approximation of the optimal BFS algorithm for both
GBR and nGBR users.
5.3 Simulation results of GBR users
In this subsection, the simulations results are given in terms of load balance index O
GBR
bj
and new call
blocking rate with an alterable arrival rate of cell 1 for GBR users.
5.3.1 Load balance index of GBR users O
GBR
bj
The variation of load balance index of GBR users O
GBR
bj
with dierent arrival rates of cell 1 is shown in
Figure 3. We see that the load balance index O
GBR
bj
of N/A, CB and MLB all decrease monotonously
with the increasing arrival rates. That is reasonable since the value of arrival rate determines the degree
of load imbalance. In other words, the larger the arrival rate of cell 1, the more unbalanced the load
distribution among cells, and the lower the load balance index O
GBR
bj
. In addition, Figure 3 shows that
the load balance index O
GBR
bj
in MLB is larger than that in N/A and CB by about 8.42% and 5.24% on
average, respectively. This demonstrates that the proposed algorithm performs better than cell breathing
and no handover, thus yielding signicant performance gain for GBR users to enhance the load balance
index O
GBR
bj
.
5.3.2 New call blocking rate of GBR users
The new call blocking rate of GBR users is shown in Figure 4 and it increases with the arrival rates in
N/A, CB and MLB. As shown in Figure 4, utilizing the proposed algorithm leads to a decrease in the
new call blocking rate of GBR users by about 72.28% and 53.43% on average compared to N/A and
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:9
0.84 0.88 0.92 0.96 1.00
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1.0
Performance ratio
C
D
F
Load balance index
Total utility
O
GBR
bj
O
nGBR
bj
0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
0.80
0.85
0.90
0.95
Arrival rate of GBR uses of cell 1 (user/s)
L
o
a
d
b
a
l
a
n
c
e
i
n
d
e
x
o
f
G
B
R
u
s
e
r
s
N/A
MLB
CB
O
G
B
R
b
j
Figure 2 Performance ratios of the proposed algorithm
to the optimal BFS: load balance index O
GBR
bj
and total
utility O
nGBR
bj
.
Figure 3 Load balance index O
GBR
bj
with various arrival
rates of cell 1.
0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
0%
1%
2%
3%
4%
5%
6%
Arrival rate of GBR uses of cell 1 (user/s)
N
e
w
c
a
l
l
b
l
o
c
k
i
n
g
r
a
t
e
o
f
G
B
R
u
s
e
r
s
N/A
MLB
CB
0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
180
185
190
195
Arrival rate of nGBR uses of cell 1 (user/s)
T
o
t
a
l
u
t
i
l
i
t
y
o
f
n
G
B
R
u
s
e
r
s
N/A
MLB
CB
O
n
G
B
R
b
j
Figure 4 New call blocking rate with various arrival rates
of cell 1.
Figure 5 Total utility O
nGBR
bj
with various arrival rates
of cell 1.
CB, respectively. With small arrival rates (0.30.4 user/s), the proposed algorithm can even avoid the
blocking of newly arriving users completely.
5.4 Simulation results for nGBR users
In this subsection, we give the simulations results as total utility, fth percentile throughput and total
throughput with an alterable arrival rate of cell 1 for nGBR users.
5.4.1 Total utility of nGBR users O
nGBR
bj
The variation of total utility of nGBR users O
nGBR
bj
with dierent arrival rates of cell 1 is shown in
Figure 5. It increases monotonously with the arrival rates, suggesting that the larger the arrival rates,
the more the users in the network, and the larger the network utility O
nGBR
bj
. We see that the total utility
O
nGBR
bj
of MLB is larger than that of N/A and CB, which is the objective of load balancing handover for
nGBR users.
5.4.2 Fifth percentile throughput of nGBR users of cell 1
The fth percentile throughput of cell 1 is shown in Figure 6. The fth percentile throughput in MLB
is larger than that in N/A and CB by about 7.29% and 3.88% on average, which shows that the load
balancing of nGBR users yields the throughput gain of boundary users of a busy cell.
Wang H, et al. Sci China Inf Sci February 2013 Vol. 56 022311:10
0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
205
210
215
220
225
Arrival rate of nGBR uses of cell 1 (user/s) F
i
f
t
h
p
e
r
c
e
n
t
i
l
e
t
h
r
o
u
g
h
p
u
t
o
f
c
e
l
l
1
(
k
b
p
s
)
N/A
MLB
CB
0.30 0.40 0.50 0.60 0.70
27.8
28.2
28.6
29.0
Arrival rate of nGBR uses of cell 1 (user/s)
T
o
t
a
l
t
h
r
o
u
g
h
p
u
t
o
f
n
G
B
R
u
s
e
r
s
(
M
b
p
s
)
N/A
MLB
CB
Figure 6 Fifth percentile throughput in cell 1 with var
ious arrival rates of cell 1.
Figure 7 Total throughput with various arrival rates
of cell 1.
5.4.3 Total throughput of nGBR users
The total throughput of nGBR users with dierent arrival rates is shown in Figure 7. The total throughput
in MLB is on average 2.09% and 1.25% less than that in N/A and CB, respectively, which is reasonable,
because handover of nGBR users from a busy cell to a relatively idle one often increases its throughput
at the cost of lower spectrum eciency of the network. This phenomenon is consistent with the results
presented in [14].
6 Further consideration
In this section, we consider the case where there are both GBR and nGBR users in the network. In
each load balancing cycle, we try to maximize O
GBR
bj
and O
GBR
bj
simultaneously. Since both of them are
determined by the celluser connection I
i,k
, i C, k K, the problem can be formulated as the following
multiobjective optimization problem [24]:
P4: max
_
O
GBR
bj
, O
nGBR
bj
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