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Jeroen Wigard', Thomas Toftegaard Nielsen', Per Henrik Michaelsen', Sgren Skjaerris" and Preben Mogensen' * Center for PersonKommunikation Frederik Bajers Vej 7 - A6, DK-9220 Aalborg ast, Denmark E-mail: jw @

** Danish GSM operator SONOFON, Skelagervej 1,9100 Aalborg, Denmark.

Abstract Discontinuous transmission (DTX) is a feature which has been reported to give about 2,5 dB gain in C/I performance. However in real live, network operators, who switch on DTX, often experience a loss in performance. They measure the performance by the RXQUAL distribution. RXQUAL is a quality parameter in GSM, which directly related to the estimated BER before decoding. In non DTX mode the estimated BER is based on 100 bursts within 0.48 sec, while in DTX mode the BER estimate is based on only 12 bursts within the same period. One way of estimation the BER, and its inaccuracies, has been studied in this paper. It is also explained why the quality in a network, where DTX is turned on, seems to decrease. Real live measurements and simulation results are shown.

operators usually evaluate the quality of the network by the fraction of the RXQUAL values, which is called badRXQUAL. RXQUAL is the parameter in GSM, which represents the estimated quality, in terms of bit-enor-rate (BER) before decoding [2]. RXQUAL can take 8 discrete values, each describing the average raw BER (over a period of 0.48 sec.) before decoding. RXQUAL 7 is the worst quality (BER > 12,8%), while an RXQUAL value equal to 0 means that the BERc0.296. The values and the corresponding BER can be seen in Table 1. Table 1 RXQUAL values and comspondhg BER.

0 1


. .

2 3


The level of interference and the trunking efficiency determine the capacity of a cellular radio system. The trend is to go to lower reuses, which means that trunking efficiency is less of a problem as interference. An effective way of decreasing the interference and thus increasing the quality/capacity is switching the transmitter off when speech is not present. This is known as discontinuous transmission (DTX). In a normal conversation, each person speaks, on average, for less than 50% of the time. Results from simulation of DTX mode has shown a linear proportionality between the DTX factor and the improvement in CIR, when combined with random frequency hopping (FH) [I]. This implies that a DTX factor of 0.5 gives an interference reduction of approximately 3 dB if disregarding the SACCH and noise description frame - otherwise 2.5 dB. The gain from DTX is invariant to the network load and location of the mobile stations, which is the case for power control. Therefore the interference reduction gain from downlink DTX may be included in the frequency planning with less caution than power control. Uplink DTX has like uplink power control also the second aim of conserve battery power in the mobile station. Uplink DTX is widely used, whereas only a few network operators use downlink DTX. When network operators turn on DTX in their network, the experience has not been very good. Network

BER c 0.2% 0.2% -0.4% 0.4% -0.8% 0.8% 1.6% 1.6% 3.2% 3.2% -6.4% 6.4% 12.8% > 12.8%

! Assumed value


0.14% 0.28% 0.57% 1.13%

2.26% 4.53%

! i 'i !

9.05% 18.1%

Usually RXQUAL 6 and 7 are used as bad-RXQUAL when frequency hopping is used. In this article the inaccuracies of DTX are studied and it is tried to give an explanation of the increase in bad RXQUAL values. Section 2 describes DTX in GSM, including the measurement aspects. In section 3 the accuracy of one method of estimation of the BER is studied with the help of a link simulator. Section 4 and 5 contain respectively the network simulation setup and results. In section 6 some measurements from a live network can be found.
2 DI~COIWIZWOIJ~ Tit&lr8HI88Iolr I H 6811 When a mobile station is not in DTX mode its sends and receives 100 TDMA bursts per SACCH multiframe (0.48 sec.), which can be used for estimation of the RXQUAL (4 idle bursts) [2]. When a mobile station is in DTX mode, i.e. there is not being spoken, only 12 TDMA bursts are sent in 480 msec. Figure 1 shows burst transmission in DTX mode.


O off n


480 m s Fiqure ISchematic time-power diagram of a SACCH multaame in DTX mode t31.

Speech detection is carried out at the transmitting end by a voice activity defector (VAD), which distinguishes between speech superimposed on environmental noise and noise without speech being present. The output of the VAD is used to control the transmitter switch. If the VAD fails to detect every speech event, then the transmitted speech will be degraded due to clipping. On the other hand, if the VAD identifies noise as speech often, then the effectiveness of DTX is diminished. Both of these result in degraded performance [4]. At the receiving end, the background acoustic noise abruptly disappears whenever the radio transmitter is switched off. Since switching can take place rapidly, it has been found that this noise switching can be very annoying. In very bad cases the noise modulation greatly reduces the intelligibility of the speech. This problem can be overcome by generating at the receiver a synthetic signal known as comfort noise inserted at the receiver whenever the transmitter is switched off. If the comfort noise characterizes are well matched to those of the transmitted noise, the gaps between talkspurts can be filled in such a way that the listener does not notice the switching during the conversation. Since the noise constantly changes, the comfort noise generator should be updated constantly [ 5 ] . From the 12 bursts, which are sent in DTX mode 4 are the SACCH frame, which is being used signaling The 8 others contain the silence descriptor frame (SID frame) refreshing the comfort noise characteristics.
3 RXQUAL ~ S T I M A T I OACCURACY ~ As mentioned in the previous section RXQUAL is the quality measure, which is being used in GSM. It is measured by mobile station for the downlink and by the base station for the uplink. The estimated RXQUAL values can be averaged before they are used in the power control and handover algorithm. The estimation is done by evaluating the BER before decoding over a SACCH multiframe (0.48 sec) and then maps the value over to an RXQUAL in the way, which was shown in Table 1. The way the BER is estimated is not specified by the GSM Recommendations, but is free to implement in any way, as long as the accuracys of [2] are fulfilled.

Figure 2 shows one way of estimating the BER. A is the frame, which has been transmitted through a radio channel and which has deinterleaved, but not yet decoded. If this frame is compared to the original encoded frame (B), we get the actual BER before decoding, called real BER. The estimated BER is found by encoding the received frame after it has been decoded and then comparing it to A, i.e. comparing A and C. C is the estimate of B . If all the errors in A can be corrected by the decoder, C will be the same as B, so the estimated BER is the same as the real BER. However if there are still errors after the decoding, the estimated and real BER might differ.
......................................................................... reeerveri


estimated BER .........................................................................

A: transmitted erroneous frame aAer channel (456 bits) 8: original encoded frame (456 bits) C: estimate of B (456 bits) Figure 1 The studied method o f estimating the BER

before decoding

Other methods of estimating the BER and RXQUAL exist, but they are not being considered in this article. Since an RXQUAL value is calculated for every SACCH multiframe, the BER is estimated over 100 TDMA bursts in case of not being in DTX mode and 12 TDMA bursts if in DTX mode. The first is called RXQUAL-FULL and the second RXQUAL-SUB. In the power control and handover algorithm these two different quality measures can be weighted differently. Figure 3 and Figure 4 show the difference between the real BER and the estimated BER as function of the real BER respectively in case of being not in DTX mode and in DTX mode. A GSM linksimulator has been used to generate the results. Each of the operations in the GSM transmission path including a fading radio channel and thermal noise (white Gaussian) is included. A typical urban channel (TU) [6] with speed of 50 k m h has been used with random hopping over 8 uncorrelated frequencies. Every point in the DTX mode case is averaged over 12 bursts, while 100 bursts are used in the non DTX mode case.



iz 25

ti 8 l6 Q

10 5






R m l BER (%)

Figure 3 Eiror of estbated BER as funclkm of the real BER in case of not being in DlXmode.

lower, since some errors of B are also present in C, so they are not detected. Sometimes however the error will be negative, especially for a high real BER. This is due to the fact that the error patterns become more random. No negative error can be seen in the case of non DTX mode, since there the averaging over 100 burst removes this, while when averaging over 12 burst, some negative values still exist. This gives that the reported RXQUAL value can be better than the actual situation. However if the real RXQUAL is compared to the estimated RXQUAL (based on the estimate BER), then it is found that only a small percentage of the values differ. The difference is never more than 1 RXQUAL value. When compared to the specifications[2], this means that the specifications are 100% fulfilled.



2 20

15 10




. I

b; 4



R o l l BER (%)

Figure 4 Error of estimated BER as functbn of the real

BER in case of being in DTX mode.

It can be seen that the estimation error is highest for high real BER and for the DTX mode case compared to the non DTX mode case, i.e. the variance in the DTX mode is higher than when DTX is not active. The reason for this is the lower number of bursts, which can be used for the estimation. The estimation error is not symmetric. The average estimation error is positive. In the non DTX mode there are no negative points at all, while also in DTX mode the error is clearly more positive than negative. This means that the estimated BER is lower than the real BER. An explanation can be found when looking to Figure 2. As long as all errors in A are corrected in the decoder, no estimation error will be made. However if there still are errors after the decoder, this will introduce errors in C. These errors are not just errors on random places, since the error patterns in B and C are quite correlated. If the first 10 bits of B are corrupted and the decoder can only correct 5 of them, then it is very likely that there are some errors in the first 10 bits in C. The estimated BER will be

The network simulator CAPACITY was used to find the relation between RXQUAL-SUB and RXQUAL-FULL. CAPACITY has been developed in order to measure both the performance and the capacity of a frequency hopping GSM network. It is able to simulate the factors that affect the performance of the GSM network, like frequency hopping, DTX, and power control and returns the quality experienced by each individual mobile station of every single frame (0.48 seconds) at a given system load. The most important quality measures, which can be extracted are the CII, BER, FER, RXQUAL, number of blocked new calls and blocked handovers attempts. In the simulations, both Rayleigh and shadow fading are included. The log-normal fading is correlated over 110 m. and has a standard deviation oa of 6 dB (for urban area). For each SACCH multi frame, measurements are performed on 100 bursts. For burst measurements, the time resolution is set to 4.615 ms, corresponding to one TDMA burst. The power control algorithm in the simulator tries to minimize the base station output power, while maintaining a minimum quality and a minimum received signal level at the mobile station. The mobile stations are initialized at a random place in the network and they move with a constant speed in a randomly chosen direction. In each simulation, at least 3000 mobile connections are simulated. The presented results are the results of downlink simulations. The RXQUAL estimate in the simulator is 100% accurate, so no inaccuracies are introduced. To find the relation between RXQUAL-FULL and RXQUAL-SUB both values where estimated parallel. The RXQUALFULL values then were used for the handover and power control algorithm, so the simulation was run without DTX.


Two different networks were simulated, a 113 and a 319 reused network. The network load in the simulations was respectively 23% and 68%. The simulation parameters can be seen in Table 2.
Table 2 Summary of h e siinulationparameters in the dynamic simulations

fi~~%~=j)=Cfim= j l m = f i f i m = G

Path loss Shadow fading standard deviation Shadow fading correlation distance Call mean hold time Mobile velocity Cell radius Max. effective B S output power Min. effective BS output power Antennas Frequency hopping algorithm Handover Power control

L,= 35 log d
6dB lleat110m 80 s (exponential distribution) 3 km/h 2km 34 dBm 4 dBm 90 ' sectorized random hopping based on quality, signal level and interference both level and quality


Figure 5 shows the simulation results. The distribution of RXQUAL-FULL and RXQUAL-SUB is shown for the 1/3 and 3/9 reused networks. It can be seen that, while the network is exactly the same for SUB and FULL RXQUAL values, the distribution changes. More RXQUAL values equal to zero and more RXQUAL values 5,6 and 7 occur, when DTX is turned on. The sum of RXQUAL 6 and 7 rises in the 113 case from 8.2% to 1196, while in the 3/9 case the increase goes from 3.9% to 6.04. In other words the amount of bad RXQUAL values can very well nearly double, while the quality is exactly the same. The change is singely caused by the higher variance of the RXQUAL-SUB.

where P(SUB=j) is the probability of a RXQUAL-SUB value being j , P(FULL= i) the corresponding probability of a RXQUAL-FULL value to be equal to i and P(S[IB=j I FULL=i) is the probability of RXQUAL-SUB being j , while the RXQUAL-FULL value is equal to i. Figure 6 the estimated conditional probability of RXQUAL-SUB for different RXQUAL-FULL values (P(SUB=j I FULL=i )), which were found from the 113 reuse simulation results. A remarkable thing can be seen. The top of a certain estimated probability distribution of the RXQUAL-SUB does not necessarily lie at the value of the RXQUALFULL value. For if there is looked at the estimated conditional probability (P(SUB=j I FULL=4 )), then it can be seen that its top lies at 5 , while also a value of 0 is very likely to occur. In other words, when the actual value is equal to RXQUAL 4, then it will happen often that the reported RXQUAL-SUB value is equal to 5 or even 0.

. 2 0 00%

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18.00% 18.00% 14.00%


Figure 6 The estimated conditional probability of RXQUAL-SUBfor diffeerent RXQUAL-FULL values.

:: i a

0 1 2 3 4 5 0 7


The fact that RXQUAL equal to zero often will occur is caused by the fact that there are a lot of RXQUAL zero's totally, so by the chance that the BER in the 12 burst is very low, even though the average BER over 100 bursts corresponds to a higher RXQUAL value, is quite high. The spread around the actual RXQUAL value is caused by the higher variance.


Figura 5 The SUB and FULL RXQUAL distriButkm from Y 9 reused netwotk. CAPACITY for a 1/3and a 3

The distribution of RXQUAL-SUB values can be calculated by:

Figure 7 shows the distribution of downlink RXQUAL based on 12 bursts (SUB) and the RXQUAL based on 100 bursts (FULL) of two cells in the live Sonofon GSM network in Denmark. No DTX was used in these cells, but in GSM both the RXQUAL-SUB and RXQUALFULL are reported all the time so then can directly be compared to each other. Power control was used.






Z Network operators experience a loss in quality when they


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14.00% 12.00% 10.Owc

7 CowcLasro~s

6 8 1


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40.00% 90.00%

! f!

turn on DTX in the network, if they evaluate the network by the sum of the worst RXQUAL values. In DTX mode E a RXQUAL value is based on the estimated BER over 12 bursts (RXQUAL-SUB), where it is based on 100 bursts, when in non DTX mode (RXQUAL-FULL).


2 In this paper


1 2 9 4
5 6 7


~ i g u r e7

The downlink SUB and FULL RXQUAL distribution of two cells in a live network.

If compared to the results in Figure 5 it can be seen that the absolute distributions are a bit different. This is due to the fact that the networks differ in frequency plan, environment, power control and handover settings and so on. As in the simulations it can be noticed that more RXQUAL values equal to zero occur and more RXQUAL values 5,6 and 7, when DTX is turned on. A network operator often will think that the network has become worse since the RXQ UAL-bad percentage (the percentage RXQUAL values 6 and 7) has increased. I n cell 1 it increases from 1.15% to 1.81%. while the increase in cell 2 goes from 0.95% to 1.45%. Ail this while the network is exactly the same. This is caused by the variance in reported values becomes higher in DTX mode, since only 12 burst are used instead of 100.

is shown that this is not caused by the BER estimation, but by the higher variance of the RXQUALSUB values compared to the RXQUAL -FULL values. An estimation method has been studied and it was shown that, though the actual estimated BER is on average a bit lower than the actual BER, the accuracy was very good. Network simulations showed that the higher variance causes the fact that the RXQUAL-SUB values are more spread to the lower and higher values, if compared to the RXQUAL-FULL values. So while the network actually gets better with DTX, it can not be seen by looking at the bad RXQUAL values, since they are made worse by DTX.
We would like to thank Nokia Telecommunications Finland and Sonofon Denmark for co-sponsoring the presented work.

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[I] Johansen I. and Vejlgaard B., Capacity Analysis of a Frequency Hopping GSM System. M.Sc.E,E. Thesis Report, Aalborg University, June 1995. [2] GSM Recommendations 05.08, Radio Subsystem Link Control, ETSI, 1994. European Radiocommunications Office (ERO), Final 131 Document for the ER0 Workshop on Traffic Loading and Efficient Spectrum Use, 1998. ETSI Section 6.12, Comfort Noise Aspect for Full Rate Speech Traffic Channels, January 1993. Asha Mehrotra, GSM System Engineering, Artech House, Boston, 1997. GSM Recommendations 05.05, Radio Transmission and Reception, March 1995.

Figure 0 The estimated cond7tional pmbabillity of RXQUAL-SUBfor difetent RXQUAL-FULL values.

Figure 8 shows the conditional probabilities for the SUB values. Just as in the simulation results it can be seen that the probability of having a RXQUAL SUB values equal to zero occurs relatively often. Also can be seen that the RXQUAL-SUB values are spread out around the actual RXQUAL FULL values.