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Quality of Service (QoS) in LTE

Background: Why we need QoS ?
There are premium subscribers who always want to have better user experience on their 4G LTE
device. These users are willing to pay more for high bandwidth and better network access on
their devices. Not only the subscribers but some services itself need better priority handling in
the network (e.g. VoIP call). To be able to full fill this, QOS plays the key role. QOS defines
priorities for certain customers / services during the time of high congestion in the network
3GPP definition for QoS
In LTE Network QoS is implemented between UE and PDN Gateway and is applied to a set of
bearers. 'Bearer' is basically a virtual concept and is a set of network configuration to provide
special treatment to set of traffic e.g. VoIP packets are prioritized by network compared to web
browser traffic.
In LTE, QoS is applied on Radio bearer, S1 bearer and S5/S8 bearer, collectively called as EPS
bearer as shown in figure below.




In order to comprehend the concept of QoS , we must understand the bearer types and properties
associated with each bearer through hierarchical chart as shown below. First there are two types of
Bearer, i.e. Dedicated bearer and Default bearer. There is at-least one default bearer established
when UE is attached to LTE network while dedicated bearer is always established when there is
need to provide QoS to specific service (like VoIP, video etc). Please go through the article Default
and Dedicated Bearer which hopefully will help to explain the concept in more detail.




Dedicated bearer can be subdivided into Non-GBR and GBR types.
GBR provides guaranteed bit rate and is associated with parameters like GBR and MBR
- GBR: The minimum guaranteed bit rate per EPS bearer. Specified independently for uplink and downlink
- MBR: The maximum guaranteed bit rate per EPS bearer. Specified independently for uplink and downlink

On the other hand, Non-GBR bearer does not provide guaranteed bit rate and has parameter like A- AMBR
and UE- AMBR

- A-AMBR: APN Aggregate maximum bit rate is the maximum allowed total non-GBR throughput to specific
APN. It is specified interdependently for uplink an downlink
- UE -AMBR: UE Aggregate maximum bit rate is the maximum allowed total non-GBR throughput among all
APN to a specific UE

As you can see, the default bearer can only be non-GBR type. Some other important terms associated with
each bearer type are discussed below:

- ARP: Allocation and retention priority is basically used for deciding whether new bearer modification or
establishment request should be accepted considering the current resource situation.
- TFT: Traffic flow template is always associated with dedicated bearer and while default bearer may or may
not have TFT. As mentioned earlier, dedicated bearer provides QoS to special service or application and TFT
defines rules so that UE and Network knows which IP packet should be sent on particular dedicated bearer. It
usually has rules on the basis of IP packet destination/source or protocol used.

L-EBI: It stands for Linked EPS bearer ID. As I discussed in previous article about dedicated and default
bearer, we know that each dedicated bearer is always linked to one of default bearers. L-EBI tells Dedicated
bearer which default bearer it is attached to.

IP Address/ PDN: Each default bearer is attached to some PDN network and has its own IP address while
dedicated bearer does not need this since it is linked to default bearer.

You can also see one other parameter associated with all bearers i.e. QoS class of identifier (QCI).This
parameter basically defines IP level packets characteristics as shown below






EXAMPLE
Let me try to explain here again with the same example I gave in Default and Dedicated Bearer section

Usually LTE networks with VoLTE implementations have two default and one dedicated bearer

Default bearer 1: Used for signaling messages (sip signaling) related to IMS network. It uses qci 5
Dedicated bearer: Used for VoLTE VoIP traffic. It uses qci 1 and is linked to default bearer 1
Default bearer 2: Used for all other smartphone traffic (video, chat, email, browser etc), assuming qci 9 is used
here


This means that Default bearer 1 is associated with IMS PDN and has specific IP address. It has throughput
limitations defined in terms of A-AMBR and UE-AMBR. Since it has qci 5 which means that its IP packets
has the highest priority over other IP packets and maximum delay as 100ms between UE and PGW with packet
loss percentage up to 10
-6


Default bearer 2 is associated with internet PDN and has specific IP. It has throughput limitations defined in
terms of A-AMBR and UE-AMBR as well. Since it has qci 9 which means that its IP packets has the lowest
priority over other IP packets and maximum delay possible as 300ms between UE and PGW with packet loss
percentage up to 10
-6


Dedicated bearer will be linked to Default bearer 1 with L-EBI and it also has TFT which basically defines
which IP packets should be allowed to travel on this bearer. It has throughput limitations defined in terms of
MBR and GBR. Since it is using QCI 1, the IP packets traveling on this bearer have the second highest
priority. The maximum delay possible to IP packets on this bearer is 100 ms and the percentage of packet loss
will be under 10
-2


QCI


QCI stands for QoS Class Identifier. This is a special indentifier defining the quality of packet
communication provided by LTE. The range of the class is from 1 to 9. Each of this class is
defined as in the following table (TS 23.203).


(Table from TS 23.203)
Note : GBR stands for Guaranteed Bit Rate

The specific QCI value is allocated for each UE and is informed to UE via 'Activate default
EPS bearer context request' message as shown below. (Followings are just a couple of
examples.)

Activate default EPS bearer context request ::= DIVISION
. ...
EPS quality of service
Length: 1
Quality of Service Class Identifier (QCI): QCI 9 (9)

Activate dedicated EPS bearer context request ::= DIVISION
. ...
EPS quality of service
Length: 5
Quality of Service Class Identifier (QCI): QCI 1 (1)
Maximum bit rate for uplink : 1 kbps
Maximum bit rate for downlink : 1 kbps
Guaranteed bit rate for uplink : 1 kbps
Guaranteed bit rate for downlink : 1 kbps


LTE provides different QoS for a given application by putting it into the different
bearer . each bearer has its own QCI (QoS Class Identifier) which introduce a
particular service for a particular application. as far as I know 9 different QCIs
have been defined in LTE based on priority,packet loss and delay.

QoS class identifier (QCI) is a scalar that is used as a reference to a specific
packet forwarding behaviour (e.g. packet loss rate, packet delay budget) to be
provided to a SDF. This may be implemented in the access network by the QCI
referencing node specific parameters that control packet forwarding treatment
(e.g. scheduling weights, admission thresholds, queue management thresholds,
link layer protocol configuration, etc.), that have been pre-configured by the
operator at a specific node(s) (e.g. eNodeB).

The QoS architecture in EPC enables a number of important capabilities for both
operators and users:



 VoIP support with IMS. QoS is a crucial element for providing
LTE/IMS voice service.
 Enhanced application performance. Applications such as gaming
or video can operate more reliably.
 More flexible business models. With flexible, policy-based
charging control, operators and third-parties will be able to offer
content in creative new ways. For example, an enhanced video
stream to a user could be paid for by an advertiser.
 Congestion control. In congestion situations, certain traffic flows
(e.g., bulk transfers, abusive users) can be throttled down to provide
a better user experience for others.

In LTE there are 9 different services based on QCI characteristics which are as
below.