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This page on soft handover vs softer handover describes difference between soft

handover and softer handover.These types are used when RRC layer is in the cell
DCH state.
Soft and Softer handover types are used when RRC layer is in the cell DCH state.
Here multiple radio links are kept as active radio links. Hence radio links can
be easily added and removed. This helps in many ways as mentioned below.
-Alternate radio link helps by exploiting antenna diversity concepts (refer dive
rsity page to know more)
-Call drop rate can be drastically reduced.
-It helps in smooth handover without any interruption in call/data flow.
Soft handover - handover between two sectors of the same cell of a NodeB is call
ed soft handover.
Softer handover - handover between two cells (different NodeB) is called softer
handover. There are two types of softer handover viz. Intra RNC and Inter RNC ha
Reference - 3GPP TS 25.331
UMTS WCDMA Handover: hard soft, softer, inter-RAT
- There are several different types of 3G UMTS handover that are available: hard
handover, soft handover, softer handover and inter-RAT handover.
UMTS / WCDMA Tutorial Includes
3G history
Network architecture
Physical layer / radio interface
Frequency bands
CDMA multiple access
Data channels
UMTS handover
Handover or handoff is as important for UMTS as any other form of cellular telec
ommunications system. As with any other cellular telecommunications system it is
essential that UMTS handover is performed seamlessly so that the user is not aw
are of any change. Any failures within the UMTS handover (or UMTS handoff) proce
dure will lead to dropped calls which will in turn result in user dissatisfactio
n and ultimately it may lead to users changing networks, thereby increasing the
churn rate.
It is worth noting that the two terms UMTS handover and UMTS handoff have the sa
me meaning. UMTS handover tends is the terminology that tends to be used within
Europe, whereas UMTS handoff is more likely to be used within North America.
UMTS handover types
Within UMTS it is possible to define a number of different types of UMTS handove
r or handoff. With the advent of generic CDMA technology, new possibilities for
effecting more reliable forms of handover became possible, and as a result one o
f a variety of different forms of handover are available depending upon the diff
erent circumstances.
For purely inter W-CDMA technology, there are three basic types of handover:

Hard handover: This form of handover is essentially the same as that used
for 2G networks where one link is broken and another established.
Soft handover: This form of handover is a more gradual and the UE communic
ates simultaneously with more than one Node B or base station during the handove
r process.
Softer handover: Not a full form of UMTS handover, but the UE communicates
with more than one sector managed by the same NodeB.
UMTS GSM inter RAT handover: This form of handover occurs when mobiles hav
e to change between Radio Access Technologies.
Each of the different types of handover is used on different occasions dependent
upon the conditions. Further details of each type of UMTS handover are given in
the individual sections below.
UMTS hard handover
The name hard handover indicates that there is a "hard" change during the handov
er process. For hard handover the radio links are broken and then re-established
. Although hard handover should appear seamless to the user, there is always the
possibility that a short break in the connection may be noticed by the user.
The basic methodology behind a hard handover is relatively straightforward. Ther
e are a number of basic stages of a hard handover:
The network decides a handover is required dependent upon the signal strengt
hs of the existing link, and the strengths of broadcast channels of adjacent cel
The link between the existing NodeB and the UE is broken.
A new link is established between the new NodeB and the UE.
Although this is a simplification of the process, it is basically what happens.
The major problem is that any difficulties in re-establishing the link will caus
e the handover to fail and the call or connection to be dropped.
UMTS hard handovers may be used in a number of instances:
When moving from one cell to an adjacent cell that may be on a different fre
When implementing a mode change, e.g. from FDD to TDD mode, for example.
When moving from one cell to another where there is no capacity on the exist
ing channel, and a change to a new frequency is required.
One of the issues facing UMTS hard handovers was also experienced in GSM. When u
sage levels are high, the capacity of a particular cell that a UE is trying to e
nter may be insufficient to support a new user. To overcome this, it may be nece
ssary to reserve some capacity for new users. This may be achieved by spreading
the loading wherever possible - for example UEs that can receive a sufficiently
strong signal from a neighbouring cell may be transferred out as the original ce
ll nears its capacity level.
3G UMTS soft handover
Soft handover is a form of handover that was enabled by the introduction of CDMA
. Soft handover occurs when a UE is in the overlapping coverage area of two cell
s. Links to the two base stations can be established simultaneously and in this
way the UE can communicate with two base stations. By having more than one link
active during the handover process, this provides a more reliable and seamless w
ay in which to perform handover.
In view of the fact that soft handover uses several simultaneous links, it means
that the adjacent cells must be operating on the same frequency or channel as U

Es do not have multiple transmitters and receivers that would be necessary if th

ey were on different frequencies.
When the UE and NodeB undertake a soft handover, the UE receives signals from th
e two NodeBs and combines them using the RAKE receiver capability available in t
he signal processing of the UE.
In the uplink the situation is more complicated as the signal combining cannot b
e accomplished in the NodeB as more than one NodeB is involved. Instead, combini
ng is accomplished on a frame by frame basis. The best frames are selected after
each interleaving period. The selection is accomplished by using the outer loop
power control algorithm which measures the signal to noise ratio (SNR) of the r
eceived uplink signals. This information is then used to select the best quality
Once the soft handover has been completed, the links to the old NodeB are droppe
d and the UE continues to communicate with the new NodeB.
As can be imagined, soft handover uses a higher degree of the network resources
than a normal link, or even a hard handover. However this is compensated by the
improved reliability and performance of the handover process. However with aroun
d 5 to 10% of handovers falling into this category, network operators need to ac
count for it.