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Autonomous Inter Cell Interference Avoidance under

Fractional Load for Downlink Long Term Evolution

Sanjay Kumar (1, 3), G. Monghal (1), Jaume Nin (1), Ivan Ordas (1),
K. I. Pedersen (2), P. E. Mogensen (1, 2)

Aalborg University, (2) Nokia Siemens Networks, Aalborg, Denmark,

Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi, India.

Abstract: - The main source of interference in OFDMA system

in downlink is inter-cell interference, which can severely limit
the throughput of users near the cell edge. The inter-cell
interference coordination (ICIC) is one method to improve the
performance. In this paper autonomous inter-cell interference
avoidance schemes under Fractional Load (FL) conditions in the
downlink for 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Long
Term Evolution (LTE) are proposed. The proposed schemes do
not require any inter-cell signaling for ICIC; rather the decision
about the allocation of the spectrum in order to avoid the intercell interference is taken based on the information available
within the cell itself. We show that the schemes for spectral
resource selection is important for FL scenario to avoid high
BLER. The proposed schemes further improve the SINR
condition therefore higher cell throughput and coverage are

traffic load is low enough and the transmission is required

only on a portion of the total system bandwidth. Under FL
the allocated spectral resources are only a subset of the total
available spectral resources. This leads to a reduction in ICI
and thereby an improvement in SINR, which can help to
improve the cell edge users throughput [6].

Keywords: - fractional laod; long term evolution; downlink;

intercell interference coordination.

Figure 1 shows the performance deterioration due to onoff transition under FL conditions compared against the
complete overlapping case. The complete overlapping
represents a scenario where each cell has same amount of
spectral resource as fractional load but are fully overlapped as
in the full load scenario. The deterioration observed in this
figure provides motivation to develop schemes to avoid
effects of ON-OFF transitions.

Within 3GPP the LTE is targeted to improve coverage
and increase data rate [1]. The downlink of 3GPP LTE
system uses Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access
(OFDMA) as the multiple access technique. Due to inherent
property of OFDMA the intra-cell interference is avoided
however the inter-cell interference remains the main source
of interference which limits the system performance,
especially at the cell edge, which is extremely sensitive to the
interference conditions. Inter-cell interference coordination
(ICIC) is one method to improve coverage and increase cell
edge bit rate [2]. The ICIC has been extensively studied in the
downlink for 3GPP LTE for controlling the interference
between the cells in order to improve the cell edge user
performance [3].

However, under FL conditions, an opportunistic

scheduling metric [7] will lead to rough ON-OFF transitions
of the spectral resources due to inaccuracy and delay in the
Channel Quality Indication (CQI) information. The CQI
measured at the receiver is not instantaneously available at
the transmitter; therefore the Link Adaptation (LA) will not
be able to track the changes in interference conditions,
resulting in increased Block Error Rate (BLER) and reduced
capacity and coverage [6].

In this paper we propose several autonomous intercell

interference avoidance schemes aiming to prevent ON-OFF
transition as well as to minimize/avoid intercell interference
for FL conditions. The proposed schemes are autonomous in
a sense that these schemes do not require dedicated signaling
amongst the cells for ICIC, rather are based on the
information available within the cell itself.

However, so far the studies have been mainly focused

under full load conditions. The main conclusions from these
studies are that the interference coordination does not provide
significant gain under full traffic load conditions [4].
Therefore, the need for dedicated signaling between eNodeBs for ICIC is not justified [4]. As is shown in [5] the
dynamic eNode-B packet scheduler is able to control the
trade off between cell edge coverage and the average cell
throughput depending on the users QoS requirements in such
simple reuse one configurations.
In this paper we aim to address the ICIC under FL
conditions. FL is characterized by a condition when the

Figure 1: Performance deterioration due to ON-OFF transition

978-1-4244-2517-4/09/$20.00 2009 IEEE

This paper is organized as follows. Section II describes

inter-cell interference avoidance schemes proposed in this
paper. Section III provides the description of system model
and simulation environments. Section IV provides simulation
results and, finally the conclusions are presented in section V.



The proposed schemes for autonomous inter-cell

interference avoidance under fractional load conditions are
namely; Orthogonal Allocation (OA), Random Selection and
Masking (RS), Correlation Metric based selection scheme
(CM) and Quality Estimation based selection scheme (QE).
A. Orthogonal Allocation (OA)
OA shares out the spectral resources amongst the three
cells of every site in orthogonal manner. The distribution is
hard coded giving ownership of the resources to cells and is
coordinated among the cells. The granularity for the
allocation of spectral resource is considered in terms of
Physical Resource Blocks (PRBs). A PRB is defined as the
smallest time frequency unit for spectral resource allocation
[2]. We consider 50 PRBs over of 10 MHz bandwidth, where
each PRB consists of 12 subcarriers with 15 kHz sub carrier
spacing. Under this scheme the total number of PRBs is
partitioned in three non overlapped sets. Assuming all the
cells having equal number of orthogonal PRBs, then 16 PRBs
are assigned to each cell of a site in the considered hexagonal
cellular lay out. Therefore the maximum Load Factor (LF)
per cell supported is 0.32 without overlapping of PRBs. The
LF is defined as the percentage of the active number of PRBs
over the total number of PRBs under the fractional load
conditions. The PRB distribution can be freely decided.
Figure 2 presents localized and distributed configurations for
orthogonal PRB allocation. The OA offers the best
overlapping avoidance for PRB allocation under low load
condition; however it restricts the packet scheduling freedom,
in selection of the most suitable PRB for allocation.
For scenario where the LF is higher than 0.32, the
fully orthogonal allocation is not possible, hence some PRBs
will be allowed to overlap. In such situation a mechanism
will be required to allocate the overlapping PRBs. In this
scheme allocation of such overlapping PRBs are based on
Quality Estimation Metric (QEM), described in section II-D.
B. Random Selection and Masking (RS)
RS selects randomly a set of PRBs, then the packet
scheduling functionality performs mapping of PRBs to User
Equipments (UE) on the selected PRB set. It builds and
updates a PRB mask to decide the set of PRBs to be
scheduled for certain duration of time, inserting a time
correlation, in order to avoid frequent on-off of PRBs. The
duration for which the time correlation is maintained is called
mask length. An appropriate mask length should be long
enough to avoid the frequent on-off conditions at the same
time it is short enough to effectively randomize the set of
PRB selection.









Fig. 2: Different configurations for orthogonal PRB allocation

C. Correlation Metric based Selection (CM)

The goal of CM is to exploit the opportunistic
scheduling by giving the possibility to the full range of the
spectrum to be scheduled and at the same time to avoid the
on-off hopping by adding weights to the metric thus
increasing the number of TTIs in a row where a PRB is
scheduled. In order to achieve this, weights are assigned to
the scheduling metric. When a PRB goes from the OFF state
to the ON state, a weight is applied to the metric for a
maximum of 120 TTIs. If the PRB goes in the OFF state, the
weight ceases being applied.
The value of 120 TTI is chosen so that it is
significantly larger than the channel quality reporting time.
The value of the weight is constant and chosen to be 1.8. It
has been chosen as it provides the best tradeoff between
opportunistic scheduling gain and on/off hopping avoidance
[8]. Figure 3 presents the functionality of time and frequency
domain packet scheduler [9]. The correlation weighting is
Correlation weighting

CQI per

HARQ data

Time Domain

Set of
Users for


Fig. 3. Correlation metric based scheduling in frequency domain.

introduced in the frequency domain to impact the frequency

domain scheduler decisions.
D. Quality Estimation based selection scheme (QE)
The selection of the PRBs under this scheme is based
on the estimated quality of the PRBs. Quality Estimation
Metric (QEM) is developed and the PRBs are sorted based on
this metric and the required number of PRBs are selected

from the sorted list. This scheme aims to achieve an adaptive

behavior because QEM reacts against environmental changes.
The quality estimation is based on the CQI feedback sent by
UEs. The CQI is represented by (1).
Q [k ] =

T Avg


SINR (t,k)


t =0

where, SINR ( t , k ) represents SINR over all the UEs on PRB

k at TTI t and TAvg represent the window size or the average
time duration, which should be long enough to provide a
certain amount of steadiness in PRB allocation, but short
enough to guarantee a fast response against channel


The 3GPP guidelines for system level simulation

scenarios [10] are followed for performance evaluation of the
proposed schemes. However, the layout is assumed to be of
3-sectored 7 sites instead of 19 site lay out, to avoid the
excessive long duration of simulation time. A wrap around is
considered in order to obtain a uniform interference pattern in
every cell. The packet scheduling is performed using time
domain and frequency domain proportional fair packet
Different fractional load scenarios are considered for FL
with a best effort traffic model:
Low load: where LF is simply fixed to 0.32
Medium load where FL is a stationary stochastic
process of average value LF= 0.50. FL is determined
by 50 (as many as there are PRBs) 2 states Markov
chains where one state corresponds to ON and the
other state corresponds to OFF [8]. FL corresponds
to the proportion of chains in the ON state. This
model is more realistic as it introduces variation in
the number of PRBs in use.
Furthermore, we consider two adaptive fractional load
models, which try to adapt FL to the actual traffic. Adaptive
models are tested in a more realistic traffic environment,
namely, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) of 512kbps per user with
Poisson call arrival:
The non-optimal load determines FL from a
function of the number of users present in the
system built through extensive simulations. Each
point of the non-optimal load function is built by
running long simulations with different fixed FL.
The lowest FL value that allows all users to be
provided their CBR throughput is chosen.
Throughput based FL estimation load model tries to
adapt to the instant channel conditions. FL is
calculated as follows:
FL =



where C is an estimate of the cell capacity. We

choose a value equal to 12Mbps based on previous
studies [9] and NUE is the number of users present
in the cell.
Table1 summarizes the considered traffic scenarios
whereas, the main parameters and the simulation assumptions
are listed in table 2.
Nature of

0.32 (low
load )

Type Of Traffic
Best Effort
finite buffer
Best Effort
finite buffer

Traffic Model


Fixed Load


Markow Model

Constant Bit Rate

(512 kbps, 2 second
session time)

Poission Call Arrival

(5 calls / second)




Cellular layout
Inter-site distance
Carrier Frequency
System Bandwidth
Effective Bandwidth
Number of Subcarriers
Number of PRBs
Sub-frame duration
Total eNode-B transmit power
UE Receiver

7 sites, 3 sectors per site

500 m
2 GHz
10 MHz
9 MHz
50 (12 sub-carriers/PRB)
1 ms (14 OFDM symbols)
46 dBm (1 Tx antenna)
2-Rx Antenna Interference
Ratio Combining (IRC)
15 m
14 dBi
20 dB
8 dB
Ideal chase combining
2 ms
1 dB
1 dB
2 ms
20 %
ITU typical urban (TU) 20 path
3 kmph
QPSK (1/3, 1/2 , 2/3)
16-QAM (1/2, 2/3, 4/5)
64-QAM (1/2, 2/3, 4/5)

Antenna height
Antenna gain
Penetration loss
Shadowing standard deviation
HARQ model
Ack / Nack delay
CQI log normal std. error
CQI reporting resolution
CQI reporting delay
BLER target
Power delay profile
UE speed
Minimum UE to eNodeB distance
Modulation and coding schemes

Performance metrics
In order to evaluate the performance the following
measures are used as the performance metrics.
A. Throughput per PRB
The throughput is the amount of data sent successfully
over a period of time. Under different loads, different number
of PRBs is used; therefore the cell throughput does not
provide a uniform measure of performance hence, throughput
per PRB is considered, which is the cell throughput over the
mean number of active PRBs. This provides a throughput
indicator independent of load and provides a measure of how
efficiently the PRBs are used.
RPRB = Rcell / NActive PRBs

B. Coverage
The coverage can be defined as the 5th percentile of the
throughput, i.e. the minimum throughput achieved by the
95% of the users.
Prob. (ruser<Coverage) =.05
C. Geometry factor (G-factor)
The geometry factor (G-factor) is defined as the ratio
between the desired received signal power that one UE receives
(Ps) and the total inter-cell interference (PI) plus noise (PN)
averaged over fast fading.
G-factor = Ps / ( PI + PN )


D. Effective SINR
Since, in an OFDMA sub-channel, each sub carrier
might exhibit a different SINR level, these have to be
combined to an effective SINR. The effective SINR has been
calculated as described in [11] and considered as a
performance measure.
A. Fixed FL Model
Table 3 summarizes the main parameter settings for
different schemes. The numerals of these parameters are
determined by running a set of simulations beforehand. In
order to evaluate the performance of the proposed schemes it
is required to compare against the full load scenario as lower
limit. However the fractional load and full load scenarios
cannot be directly compared in terms of throughput and
coverage due to difference in number of PRBs in use.
Therefore, a complete resource overlapping distribution is
considered as the reference case.
Mask Length

Low load Medium load



window size

The effective SINR gains over the reference case using

different schemes are presented in figure 4. The observed
gains span around 0.7 dB, ranging from 7.8 to 8.5 dB.
Despite this narrow difference, the throughput per PRB for
QE is found about 15 % higher compared to CM (fig. 5).
From figure 5, it can be observed that even the
simplest scheme, i.e. RS achieves significant improvement
over the reference case in terms of cell throughput and
coverage. The other schemes such as OA and QE further
improve the performance. Due to quality estimation based
PRB selection, QE results in best SINR and therefore the
highest cell throughput per PRB and coverage. The cell
throughput per PRB is 10 % higher for QE compared to RS
scheme. QE outperforms OA also because it accounts for the
overall channel condition not only the interference. However
CM gives slightly lower cell throughput per PRB and slightly
higher coverage compared to the RS scheme. When the LF is
increased from low to medium, a general decrease in the cell

throughput per PRB and coverage is observed due to decrease

in the effective SINR because of overlapping of PRBs.
C. Adaptive FL Model
Figure 6 presents user throughput versus G factor and
delay, whereas figure 7 presents throughput per PRB and
outage under adaptive FL models and compared with full
load results. User throughput versus G-factor and outage are
used as measures to state whether the CBR users are fulfilling
their requirements or not. Outage indicates the percentage of
users under their guaranteed bit rate while throughput versus
G factor shows the bit rate achieved at different G-factor
values. It can be observed that the non-optimal load model is
under performing, since very large number, 93.98 % users are
in outage and experience delays much higher than the full
load. The non-optimal load model aims to fulfill the constant
bit rate without taking into account the users distribution and
channel conditions. Therefore the LF is under or over
estimated. As the maximum bit rate is limited, over
estimation period do not compensate for the under estimation
However, with cell throughput estimation the achieved
user throughput and delays are close to the full load scenario.
The cell throughput estimation model has better estimates of
LF because it takes into account the users distribution in the
cell and the channel conditions. The 9.8 % users are found in
outage which is significantly lower compared to non optimal
load model, whereas the cell throughput per PRB is very
close. The improved performance in case of cell throughput
estimation load model is obtained at the cost of increased
complexity and processing overhead.
Different autonomous inter-cell interference avoidance
schemes are presented for FL It has been observed that
appropriate scheme for PRB selection is necessary for FL
conditions to avoid high BLER which is reflected in realized
cell throughput and coverage. It is found that even the
simplest scheme RS i.e. random PRB selection with
correlation also provides significant improvement in SINR.
The quality estimation based scheme i.e. QE, further
improves the SINR and results in 10 % higher cell throughput
compared to RS. In case of adaptive load with cell throughput
estimation based scheme the performance is very close to full
load scenario in terms of user througput and average delay,
but at significant reduced bandwidth, thereby improving the
cell throughput per PRB and coverage performance.
Therefore, the proposed schemes provide efficient
mechanism for intercell interference avoidance under
fractional load conditions without need for dedicated
signaling for ICIC among the cells.
The first author would like to thank Prof S. C. Goel of Birla
Institute of Technology, Ranchi, India and Prof. Ramjee Prasad,
Director, CTIF, Aalborg University for supporting his research
work. Also the authors would like to thank their colleague Istvan Z.
Kovcs of Nokia Siemens Network, Aalborg,
for useful

Fig. 4: The effective SINR under low fractional load with different proposed
schemes compared with reference case.

Fig. 6: User throughput vs G factor and packet delay under

adaptive FL load model

Fig. 7: Throughput per PRB and the coverage under dynamic load.

Fig. 5 Comparison of throughput per PRB and the coverage of different

schemes with reference case. (in each pair the bars in the left represent
low load and the right ones represent medium load scenario)

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