A Concept for Dynamic Neighbor Cell List Planning in a Cellular System

Hikan Olofsson, Sverker Magnusson, Magnus Almgren
Ericsson Radio Systems AB

S-164 80 Stockholm
Abstract - In the near future, capacity needs will lead to cellular systems with a complex mixture of cells with different sizes and unpredictable coverage areas. Such complex systems will increase the need for manual radio network planning dramatically, unless intelligent tools are developed to assist in the planning, This paper addresses the problem of determining which cells arc neighbors to a ccrtain cell. Today this has to be manually determined for each cell in a system. A concept is proposed where the neighbor cell lists are dynamically planned during system operation, with little or no manual assistance. The proposed class of algorithms uses information about the long term network behavior, and the neighbor cell lists are continuously updated. The proposed concept considerably reduces manual planning, and simulation results show that the scheme also improves the overall system quality by reducing the length of the neighbor cell lists.

cells without manual planning. Whereas several methods for dynamic frequency allocation have been proposed in the literature, e.g. [ 11-[3], dynamic planning of neighbor cell lists has hardly been addressed at all. The intention of this paper is to propose a concept for dynamic planning of neighbor cell lists which solves the problems involved with the manual planning of today. The analysis is done for a TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) system, but the concept is applicable and equally useful in all systems, regardless of multiple access method. Simulations are performed to evaluate the quality of the neighbor cell lists thus derived. 11. MOBILE ASSISTED HANDOVER The main digital cellular standards of today all use Mobile Assisted Handover (MAHO). It consists in letting the mobile station measure the signal strength on neighboring cells’ broadcast control channels. If the signal strength of a neighbor cell is sufficiently high compared to the own link signal strength, the network initiates a handover to that cell. To be able to perform measurements, the mobile must know which broadcast control channels are used in the neighbor cells. Therefore, for each cell the network stores a list of handover candidate cells. This list is referred to as the neighbor cell list for that particular cell. For each neighbor cell in the list, the cell identity is stored together with the frequency number used by the broadcast channel in the cell. When a mobile station enters a cell and needs to know what neighbors to measure, the frequency numbers included in the cell’s neighbor cell list are transmitted to the mobile station. This list of frequency numbers IS referred to as afrequency list. A simple example can be used to illustrate the use of neighbor cell lists. Consider Figure 1, where a mobile station enters cell B, through a call setup or a handover. The network stores a neighbor cell list for cell B, in this case including cells A, C and D (1). A frequency list containing the frequency numbers included in the neighbor cell list is transmitted to the mobile station via the base station ( 2 ) .The mobile station is then able to perform signal strength measurements on the selected frequencies (3) In GSM, the mobile station also decodes a 6-bit base station identity code (BSIC) transmitted on each cell’s broadcast channel. The measurements are periodically reported to the network (4) together with the received signal


A major issue for cellular operators today and in the near future is system capacity. The fast subscriber growth in many cellular systems forces network operators to increase the number of sites and make cells smaller in order to provide higher capacity. There is already a fast development towards hierarchical cell structures (HCS), where large and small cells provide coverage for the same area. In that perspective, it is easy to realize that the effort and cost of manual planning of the networks will increase. Hence, there is a need for intelligent radio network algorithms that reduce manual planning. Creating and maintaining the frequency reuse plan of a system is a main task, as frequency planning to a large extent determines the quality and capacity of the system. Power planning is another important field since the output power of a cell determines its coverage. A third important system planning issue, which will be emphasized in this paper, is to determine neighbor’ cell lists. In today’s main digital cellular standards, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), D-AMPS (Digital American Mobile Phone System) and PDC (Personal Digital Cellular), a neighbor cell list for each cell is needed. Proper planning of these lists is a prerequisite for a well functioning network. The ultimatc goal would be a self-configuring system where frequencies and neighbor cell lists are allocated to all

0-7803-3692-5/960 1996 IEEE


and picocell layers the radio propagation is also affected by new buildings. C. and thus the knowledge of the neighbor relations slowly increases. Information that is interesting for neighbor relations is collected and processed through slow filters. which actively tries to discover infrastructural changes. Moreover. the neighbor environment of a cell is subject to frequent changes. the cell planner must include a large number of cells in the list to ensure that all potential neighbors are included. A dynamic neighbor cell list algorithm will identify unnecessary cells and provide a possibility to keep the lists short. D. In a conventional system with fixed lists. based on event statistics from the statistics unit and measurements previously collected from mobile stations and base stations. A dynamic neighbor cell list algorithm based on measurements of the actual propagation environment. 139 . Neighbor list generator The neighbor list generator generates a neighbor cell list for each cell. CONCEPT PRESENTATION In order to solve the problems with manual planning. Flexibility In an evolving cellular network. the maps are not detailed enough to include buildings etc. since they may be unknown to the network operator. A dynamic neighbor cell list algorithm based on event statistics will identify and remove unfavorable cells from the list. PROBLEMS WITH MANUAL LIST PLANNING In commercial cellular systems of today.B. The basic idea is to let the neighbor cell lists be dynamically built. thereby reducing the number of lost calls and reducing the need for manual replanning. the unfavorable cell will remain in the list until a manual redesign is made. based on the long term behavior of the network. strength on the own link. Measurement accuracy I! FIGURE 1. However. the different blocks in Figure '2 is examined in some detail. thus improving measurement accuracy. and the cell planner normally uses such models together with digitized maps to predict coverage areas and create neighbor cell lists for the cells in a system. together with a description of how dynamic planning would help solving them. The broadcast control frequencies of the A. However. new walls etc. especially in micro. The knowledge is then used to update the neighbor cell lists. New base stations are often installed. A number of problems with the manually planned lists can be identified. Changes of this kind are even more difficult to handle.makes the predictions more or less inaccurate. the neighbor cell lists are used to control the MAHO measurements made by the mobiles. Unfavorable neighbor cells The cell planner may make a mistake and include a cell in a neighbor cell list that is unfavorable in a sense that making a handover to that cell often means losing the call. Since the neighbor environment is difficult to predict. and the aim of a dynamic neighbor cell list algorithm is to solve these problems. which . 1V. will reduce the need for time consuming manual replanning of the network.and pic'olayers. In the network. the measurement reports are used for handover purposes (5). in micro. the neighbor cell lists are planned manually by the cell planner by means of theoretical coverage predictions before installation of a base station. A. The cell selection algorithms differ slightly between manufacturers. In the following sections. 111. A dynamic neighbor cell list algorithm based on measurements of the actual propagation environment will reduce the need for manual predictions.together with the statistical nature of the propagation models . a dynamic list' planning scheme is proposed according to Figure 2. Predictability Radio propagation is highly dependeint on the geographical environment. The use of a neighbor cell list in a TDMA system that uses Mobile Assisted Handover (MA HO). In the following sections the problems will be described. each of them requiring manual replanning of the neighbor cell lists in a number of surrounding cells. and since their measurement capacity is limited long neighbor cell lists cause poor measurement accuracy. Statistical models for radio propagation in different types of environments exist. but are normally based on comparing the signal strengths of neighbors and own link. The reporting interval is in the order of one second.

Two lognormal shadow fading components were added to the pathloss. one version of the algorithm has been evaluated in simulations of a TDMA system. 140 . The simulator includes models of traffic.UREMENT nc PORTS \ \ 1 STATISTICS UNIT L--T---l NEIGHBOR LIST GENERATOR I TABLE 1. one of which was defined as broadcast frequency.5. i.or downlink. The used simulation environment dynamically models a large number of mobiles moving in an area covered by cells. The Okumura-Hata model was used to calculate the path loss between mobile stations and base stations. which implies that a total number of 54 frequencies were used in the system. with a handover hysteresis of 3 dB. Examples of output data from the simulator are the distribution of C/I samples for the ongoing calls and statistics of handover and dropped calls.5 I FREQUENCY LIST I/e at I10 m(short) / I100m(long) 8 dB(4. all potential neighbor cells within the system must be tested every now and then. thus allowing the mobile station to perform measurements on those frequencies. If a test neighbor cell is measured strongly by a large number of mobiles. System parameters used in simulations. the test neighbor list generator is included in the neighbor list generator block. radio propagation and radio resource allocation. Only one time slot was simulated due to limited simulation capacity. all performed continuously throughout the simulation: 1) collecting information about the network behavior. On average. I . I I I 120 sec. A system with 27 equidistant 3-cell sites was simulated. Simulation environment resulting in 81 cells.MEA5 -r . Important system parameters used in the simulations are listed in Table 1. Each cell used 6 frequencies.e. Test neighbor list generator To be able to discover new good neighbor cells. C. Statistics unit The statistics unit provides event statistics to the neighbor cell list generator. the neighbor list generator takes this into account and eventually includes this neighbor in the regular neighbor cell list. The total standard deviation of the shadow fading was 8 dB. The traffic distribution was uniform throughout the area and calls were generated according to a Poisson process.5 dB long) I Simulator time step Number of frequencies Frequency reuse Simulated time slots I 10 sec. handover occurred 0. one with long spatial correlation distance modeling terrain variations and one with short correlation distance modeling buildings etc. and the radio environment remained the same. The test neighbor list generator adds one or more test frequencies to the frequency list. Block diagram of the proposed scheme for dynamic neighbor cell list planning. The events of main interest are handover failure rate between two cells. dev. The resulting cell shapes are indicated in Figure 3. I Okumura-Hata: 351og(d) p = 0.5 d B short. In Figure 2. are then put in a frequency list that is sent to the mobile station via the base station. 6. Simulation methodology Simulations were carried out for a system with static infrastructure. B. number of handovers between two cells and dropped call rate immediately after handover between two cells. A. I 9 broadcast / 45 traffic frequencies 9 cell reuse I FIGURE 2. To avoid border effects which would prevent the use of data from the border cells. I Number of simulated cells Cell radius Geographical traffic distribution Mean mobile speed Traffic time distribution I 81 cells (27 sites with 3 cells each) I km I I I I I I I I Uniform SO km/h Poisson I Mean call time Distance attenuation model Shadow fading BS correlation Shadow fading spatial correlation Shadow fading std. a wrap-around technique was used. No multipath fading was included. SIMULATIONS To investigate the performance of the proposed concept.*Asimulation run consisted of three main parts. Moreover. Handover hysteresis DI-opped call ClI threshold 3 dB 5 dB neighbor cells. the neighborfrequencies.37 times per call. Cell selection at call setup and handover was based on signal strength. V. Calls were dropped if the CO ratio was lower than 5 dB in either up. no base stations were added or removed during the simulations. The frequencies were reused in every 9th cell. B. the fading values between a mobile station and different base stations was correlated with a correlation coefficient p = 0.

The top plot depicts the average list length as it develops over time. Hence. the system with dynamically designed lists displays a performance similar to that of the system with the 6 geographically closest cells in the lists. the situation for the mobiles who made “correct” base station choices was of little interest. Figure 3 illustrates the outcome for one of the cells (shaded). The quality is poor for very short lists and increases fast with increasing list length until an average list length of 6 is reached. On the other hand. based on neighbor lists including all other cells. Each cell maintained a filtered value for each other cell. the maximum value is 100. a mobile station dropped or blocked in either of the parallel simulations was removed from the other as well. All frequencies not defined as neighbor frequencies were defined as test frequencies. With 6 neighbors in the lists. The results show that the algorithm converges faster with a lower threshold. updated neighbor cell lists were derived from the filtered values. the methods used for the three parts are described and commented. just as the difference in signal strength for those particular mobiles compared to their reference twins. As the objective was to observe to what extent incorrect or incomplete neighbor cell lists result in poor selection of base stations. a neighbor cell list for the shaded cell can be generated. the neighbor cell list was created by including the cells for which A had filtered values exceeding a certain predefined threshold. C. apart from the fact that selection of base station was FIGURE 3. the simulations were performed in the following manner: For each simulation. The middle plot shows the percentage of time a mobile selected a different base station than that of its identical twin in the reference system. First of all. the total frequency list always consisted of all broadcast frequencies. From the results in Figure 5 it is easy to draw the hasty 141 . the threshold was increased or decreased. The surrounding cells are marked with filtered values describing how suitable for handover they are. One should note that the quality improves as the dynamically designed lists expand beyond that length. Based on these. corresponding to all handovers going to one single cell. The important thing to monitor is consequently what mobiles make an “incorrect” (choice. The events of interest were those when the signal strength of a frequency in the frequency list for which BSIC was decodable exceeded that of the own cell.2) designing the neighbor cell lists based on gathered information so far. Designing the neighbor cell lists At the beginning of each simulation the neighbor cell lists were empty. This should not come as a surprise. The right plot is part of the simulation result: the filtered values show how suitable handovers are from the shaded cell. which was updated during certain events. Finally. the bottom plot shows the degradation in received signal strength for the differing mobile stations compared to the reference system. note that the number of occasions with different base station choices decreases as the neighbor list length increases. with designed lists corresponding to a certain threshold value. 3) In the following. For comparison.) For each iteration. These results are represented by dashed lines. Monitoring the quality of the obtained lists The quality of the obtained neighbor cell lists was monitored continuously. when a steady-state is reached. Thus. describing its suitability for handovcr. A frequency list including neighbor frequencies and test frequencies was sent to each mobile. a parallel reference simulation was run in which the mobiles performed in an identical fashion. Some conclusions may be drawn from Figure 5. To make this possible. The left plot shows the typical coverage area for some of the simulated cells. the results from simulations with dynamically designed lists and different list thresholds are plotted. which is used as quality measure. The filtered values essentially correspond to the percentages of the total number of handovers from the shaded cell that go to each of the surrounding cells. For a certain cell A. To sirnulate lists of different average length. and monitoring the quality of the obtained lists. Collecting network information The information used to create neighbor cell lists was gathered by the mobile stations’ MAHO measurements. Information was then gathered only for mobiles that had selected different base stations in the parallel simulations. and how that effects the quality of their connection. results are also shown for two simulations where the lists consisted of the 6 and 18 geographically closest cells respectively. A “correct” selection of base station is here equivalent to that which would result from having a neighbor cell list including all other cells. Figure 5 shows the performance when a steady-state is reached as a function of average list length. Simulation results In Figure 4. The same threshold was used for all cells. a low threshold value results fn larger performance variance between iterations. Thus. (This is a pessimistic assumption: in a real network there would always exist some kind of initial lists.

778-78 I . pp. pp. “Adaptive Channel Allocation in TACS”. [3] M. since long lists imply poor measurement accuracy. A number of advantages have been described. compared to the reference system. [2] H. The dashed lines correspond to two systems. It may even look as if the best performance is achieved with neighbor lists including all cells. Wallstedt.conclusion that the overall system quality improves with increased number of neighbors in the lists. in Proceedings of the Second Nordic Seminar on Digital Land Mobile Radio Communications. J. Stockholm. A Distributed Adaptive Channel Allocation Scheme for Mobile Communication Systems”. since long lists have the disadvantage of poor measurement accuracy (which is not modeled in the simulations). It is worth noting that the results have been obtained in a system with a simple cell structure. 10. 778-78 I .L41. B. The signal strength performance of a system with such lists is similar to that of systems whose lists include the geographically closest cells. Performance of systems with dynamically designed lists with different average length as they develop over time. “Adaptive Channel Allocation in a TIA IS-54 System”. Lundequist. 15 17. By means of simulations it has been shown that the proposed scheme has a performance similar to that of a manually well-planned system. Akaiwa. Frodigh. pp. Results are given for three different thresholds. including in the neighbor cell lists the 6 and 18 geographically closest cells respectively.5. the dynamic list planning scheme is expected to perform even better relative to systems planned using only geographical information. among them the considerable reduction in manual planning needed for the network operator. K. Andersson. 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 l Simulation iteration number 0 : 415 h 5’5 6 5’5 7 7 1 5 ”s 8’5 b Average neighbor cell list length 0 i 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50 I Simulation iteration number \Dynamically designed lists i 0 5‘ 4 4. REFERENCES [I] Y. 1995.5 and 0. In a system with a mixture of cell sizes and more complicated traffic patterns. the proposal improves the overall system quality. 142 . “Channel Segregation. it is possible to design neighbor cell lists without manual planning. 1987.5 5 5 5 6 6 5 7 7 5 8 8 5 I 9 0 I 5 10 15 20 25 80 35 40 45 50 l Average neighbor cell list length Simulation iteration number FIGURE 4. A . since the proposed scheme is able to reduce the average length of the lists without loss of signal strength performance. 0 00 oL. Steady-state performance of lists with different average length. long lists still have to be avoided. CONCLUSION A concept for dynamic planning of neighbor cell lists in a cellular system has been proposed. Almgren. H. Hansson. in Proceedings of the 42nd IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference. However.I S2 I . Madfors. Furuya. The solid lines correspond to a system with dynamically designed lists. VI. 1992. M. Y. VII. Fallgren. M. FIGURE 5. in Proceedings of the IEEE Global Telecommunications Conference. Eriksson. The main result of the simulations is that by gathering MAHO measurement statistics from a system. In fact. 5 5 I .