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1, JANUARY 1997


ATM-Based Routing in LEO/MEO Satellite

Networks with Intersatellite Links
Markus Werner, Member, IEEE, Cecilia Delucchi, Hans-Jorg Vogel, Student Member, IEEE,
Gerard Maral, Senior Member, IEEE, and Jean-Jacques De Ridder

Abstract An asynchronous transfer mode (ATM)-based concept for the routing of information in a low earth orbit/medium
earth orbit (LEO/MEO) satellite system including intersatellite
links (ISLs) is proposed. Specific emphasis is laid on the design
of an ATM-based routing scheme for the ISL part of the system.
The approach is to prepare a virtual topology by means of virtual
path connections (VPCs) connecting all pairs of end nodes in
the ISL subnetwork for a complete period in advance, similar to
implementing a set of (time dependent) routing tables. The search
for available end-to-end routes within the ISL network is based on
a modified Dijkstra Shortest Path Algorithm (M-DSPA) capable
of coping with the time-variant topology. With respect to the
deterministic time variance of the considered ISL topologies, an
analysis of optimization aspects for the selection of a path at call
setup time is presented. The performance of the path search in
combination with a specific optimization procedure isby means
of extensive simulationsevaluated for example LEO and MEO
ISL topologies, respectively.
Index Terms ATM, intersatellite links, LEO/MEO satellite
networks, routing, VPC.


ECENTLY, intense research work has been undertaken

on the definition of global communication systems providing a wide range of broadband multimedia services. As a
central outcome, the asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) has
been defined as the underlying transmission and switching
principle of broadband integrated services digital networks
In the satellite world, low earth and medium earth orbit
(LEO/MEO) satellite constellations are foreseen as appropriate
alternatives to geostationary satellite systems for providing
global mobile and fixed services; these nongeostationary systems are envisaged to add a flexible and wide-area satellite
component to the future personal communications network
(PCN) infrastructure.
Compared to geostationary satellites, these constellations
offer a significantly smaller round trip delay between earth
and space segment. Furthermore, the use of intersatellite links
(ISLs) has been identified as a means to provide global
connectivity [1][4] (thereby enhancing system autonomy and

Manuscript received February 1, 1996; revised June 1996.

M. Werner and C. Delucchi are with the German Aerospace Research
Establishment (DLR), Institute for Communications Technology, Wessling,
H.-J. Vogel is with the Technical University Munich, Institute of Communication Networks, Munchen, Germany.
G. Maral and J.-J. De Ridder are with the Ecole Nationale Superieure des
Telecommunications (ENST), Site de Toulouse, Toulouse Cedex, France.
Publisher Item Identifier S 0733-8716(97)00055-3.

flexibility) and has been retained in the design of systems like

Iridium [5] and Teledesic [6]. From a networking point of
view, a major benefit of a developed ISL subnetwork in space
lies in the possibility to transport long distance traffic over
reliable and high capacity connections, and that with minimal
usage of terrestrial resources.
The trend toward broadband communications in space is
foreseeable, and its features predestine ATM as the basic mode
of operation. The integration of space-based and terrestrial
ATM networks definitely requires a well functioning interface.
It is therefore essential to develop a comprehensive and
clear concept for efficient end-to-end communications, including the critical up-/downlink (UDL) between space segment
(satellites) and earth segment (mobile users and gateway
stations). An overall end-to-end ATM transport architecture
incorporating ATM switching in the wireless space segment
will enable the satellite network to provide service features like
fast, hardware-implemented switching, dynamic bandwidth
allocation, and support for a variety of traffic characteristics,
such as constant bit rate (CBR), variable bit rate (VBR), and
available bit rate (ABR).
The focus of the research results presented is on traffic
routing aspects. Routing deals with providing paths for the
exchange of information between two (or more) users on
earth. This entails identifying a start and end satellite, and
connecting these via a time-variant ISL infrastructure. Due to
the motion of the satellites both the start and end ones may
change with time and also the ISL path. Indeed, since ATM
switching implies low delay at each satellite node on the ISL
route, the advantage gained from low propagation delay on the
LEO/MEO up- and downlink can be retained.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows: in
Section II, the overall ATM-based networking concept is presented. In the following sections, the ISL part is developed
in detail. Section III first introduces the considered satellite
constellations and ISL topologies, and then focuses on the
specific ATM-based ISL routing. In Section IV, the detailed
approach for the simulation of ISL routing is discussed;
representative simulation results are given and analyzed in
Section V. Conclusions and outlook are then presented in the
last Section VI.
An overview of LEO/MEO satellite constellations and system concepts can be found in [4]. These networks aspects
mainly relevant for routing tasks are: i) system topology, i.e.,

07338716/97$10.00 1997 IEEE



Fig. 1. Protocol architecture for end-to-end ATM communication in an integrated satellite/fixed terrestrial network.

nodes and their placement and ii) system connectivity, i.e.,

the links between the nodes and the degree of interconnection
(fully meshed, partially meshed etc.).
The nodes in such a satellite network are user terminals,
satellites and earth station gateways providing an interface to
the terrestrial fixed networks. Mobility of users and orbital
movement of the satellites result in a time varying network
topology. Some of the LEO/MEO satellite concepts make use
of ISLs to provide global connectivity with minimal usage
of terrestrial fixed network resources. Using ISLs of course
requires satellite on-board switching. Interconnecting neighboring satellites with ISLs thus results in a partially meshed
switching (sub)network in space. The remaining part of a
LEO/MEO system, concerned with user access and interfacing
with other networks namely terrestrial fixed networks, is called
the UDL part for the purpose of this paper. As for the UDL
part, there are two different types of links involved, the mobile
user link (MUL), and the gateway link (GWL). The MUL is
a shared medium multiple access link between satellite and
mobile terminals, whereas the GWL between satellite and fixed
earth station gatewayessentially a switching centeris used
for routing the mobile user connections into the terrestrial fixed
As indicated in the introduction, it is regarded crucial for
future PCNs satellite componentthe space segmentto provide multiservice/multimedia capabilities. The future terrestrial
fixed broadband networks will be offering multiservice capable
transmission for a broad range of traffic characteristics, such as
constant, variable, and available bit rate (CBR/VBR/ABR), by
use of the ATM cell-relay paradigm. The satellite systems will
not only be required to offer support for the same multimedia
services as in fixed networks but also to co-exist with and
provide interfaces to the future integrated broadband communication network (IBCN). Support for various service classes
and bit rates, quality-of-service (QoS) negotiation and interworking with the IBCN can most conveniently be achieved
by using the IBCN switching and transmission technology in
satellite PCN, too. Therefore, we suggest to implement ATM
principles for switching on both the ISL part and the UDL
part of the satellite system. The resulting protocol stack for
the space segment is equivalent to the fixed networks ATM
protocol stack, with some modifications and extensions due to
the special requirements of the satellite links.
The U-plane of the protocol stack in an end-to-end constellation is shown in Fig. 1. The satellites GWL is a point-to-point
link without the need to provide multiple access capabili-

ties. It can operate as a high-capacity transparent ATM link

with user connections carried as virtual path/virtual channel
(VP/VC) combinations, where the physical layer involves
some sort of forward error correction coding in the modems.
The same holds for the ISL subnetwork. ISLs are fairly
reliable, high-capacity radio or optical links, which despite
their high demands in terms of pointing, acquisition, and
tracking (PAT) are expected to display good transmission
capabilities. The expected viability of a high-quality broadband
ISL subnetwork is particularly encouraging to employ ATM
transmission and switching techniques for the space segment
with all the benefits like, e.g., virtualization of network topology, ease of information routing, and dynamic bandwidth
The MUL, on the other hand, is expected to be the most
critical part of the system with the highest impact on available
transmission speeds and QoS, for the MUL has to provide
multiple access facilities on the wireless shared medium for
low power mobile stations. This requires some extensions to
the protocol stack (Fig. 1). The media-access control (MAC)
sublayer will play an important role in future multiservice
satellite PCN, as it will in terrestrial PCN [7]. It has to provide
services flexibly supporting the wide variety of ATM traffic
types thus enabling standard ATM applications to transparently communicate over the satellite shared wireless medium.
Therefore, the MAC sublayer has to deal with channel coding,
encryption, power management and handover, as well as
it has to provide means for multiple access on the MUL
and some kind of priority oriented scheduling mechanism
to be able to transport the broad variety of ATM traffic
An overall ATM transport architecture based on the endto-end cell relay paradigm can thus be achieved. Using ATM
cells as the basic unit of switching on the MUL may prove
advantageous in some other respects as well. Partitioning the
user data stream in basic information cells facilitates handover
of connections between neighboring satellites. Moving the task
of connection handover up to the ATM protocol level means,
that fast, flexible and decentralized methods of handover can
be employed, as has already been proposed for terrestrial
mobile networks (see, e.g., [8]). By adapting these concepts
to the satellite environment or developing similar methods,
the same degree of flexibility in handover management can be
achieved for the satellite networks. In addition, by carefully
designing the respective protocols, handover can be done
hitless, i.e., without loss of information in this context. This


can be achieved by, e.g., using sequence numbers in the

The ATM-based satellite networking concept underlying this
work has been outlined and we have briefly discussed the
applicability of ATM cell-relay technologies to the satellite
component of future PCN. An overall ATM transport architecture seams feasible, allowing transparent transmission of
ATM cells over the MUL. In the following, we will discuss
the various aspects of information routing in an ATM-based
satellite network, focusing on the ISL subnetwork.
LEO/MEO systems add an extra degree of complexity to the
routing task due to the satellite movement. First of all, neighboring satellites have a varying distance or may even loose
sight of each other. Satellite movement thus results in timedependent ISL availability and network topology. Topological
or connectivity changes in return demand rerouting of user
information streams in some way or another. Mobile users
have to switch their connections over to incoming satellites
(handover), once they leave the outgoing satellites service
area. The same happens to GWLs, which have to be switched
from time to time as the satellite enters new gateway areas.
Both actions result in the need for finding a new route through
the ISL subnetwork, as for sure the start/end-satellites of the
user connections involved will change. Although all routing
actions in the satellite network seem to be interconnected, the
complexity of the system dynamics analysis for the routing
task can be reduced by splitting the problem into two parts,
as illustrated in Fig. 2: i) the UDL routing which takes care
of call routing into the fixed networks and of handover
situations arising due to the relative motion of satellites and
users and ii) the ISL routing which deals with the setup
of paths between any given pair of satellites, including the
necessary rerouting due to the changing ISL network topology.
As pointed out, UDL and ISL routing are not completely
independent as, e.g., handover actions on the UDL part involve
some rerouting actions on the ISL part, as well. However,
mechanisms employed for routing in the ISL subnetwork
can be designed such that they are independent of the cause
requiring a routing action. For the remainder of this paper we
will concentrate on the ISL part.
It should be emphasized that contrary to the UDL routing
which depends on the respective satellite and user location and
therefore cannot be predicted, the ISL routing deals only with
the respective satellite positions which vary in a deterministic
and periodic way, as the satellite constellation planes are
fixedly oriented in space and satellites orbit with a constant
period. Therefore, ISL routing alternatives are predictable, and
this feature will be considered in the next section.
A. Satellite Systems and ISL Topologies
Among the big LEO systems proposed for implementation, Iridium and Teledesic are the only ones providing
intersatellite links. Teledesic intends to operate the network
layer on the basis of a distributed adaptive routing scheme,
with ATM-like short packets. However, ATM networking


Fig. 2. UDL and ISL routing for end-to-end communication in a LEO/MEO

satellite system.

definitely implies virtual circuit operation for connectionoriented services rather than a pure datagram transmission
which would be required for a really distributed and adaptive
routing. Iridium, on its side, will be the first operational LEO
system with ISLs. For this reason, we have chosen the latter as
a real LEO representative for application of the routing concept
presented in this paper. To cover the MEO systems as well,
results are also presented for an interesting MEO constellation
with ISLs: LEONET [9]1 serves as a reference MEO system
to show the operation and benefit of the proposed routing
scheme. The parameters of both considered systems are given
in Table I.
Figs. 3 and 4 show the frozen ISL topologies for LEONET
and Iridium, respectively, as assumed in this work. In general, a distinction has to be made between intraplane ISLs
connecting satellites in the same orbit plane and interplane
ISLs between satellites in adjacent (corotating) planes. The
requirements for the latter in terms of PAT of the antenna
are high due to the visibility angles changing permanently
relative to the satellite trajectory [10]. Assuming that the PAT
1 The name LEONET is derived from the title of a study under ESA contract
in 1992 and reflects the unclear terminology LEO and MEO in former



Fig. 3. Considered LEONET ISL topology at

Fig. 4. Considered iridium ISL topology at

= 0; solid lines denote the intraplane and dashed lines denote the interplane ISLs.

= 0; solid lines denote the intraplane and dashed lines denote the interplane ISLs.

requirements are met in LEONET, all the ISLs (also the

inter-plane ones) shown in Fig. 3 may be maintained permanently over the system period. In the Iridium case, interplane
ISLs are switched off during a certain time interval when
satellites are in polar regions. Considering lately published
Motorola plans w.r.t. the actual topology to be implemented
[5] we assumed one ISL toward a neighboring satellite on
each co-rotating plane, as shown in Fig. 4, whereas potential
ISLs crossing the seam between counter-rotating orbits are

B. ATM-Based Networking Concept for ISL Routing

The integration of the ISL routing task into the overall ATM
networking concept has already been presented in Section II.
In the following, the ATM-based ISL routing concept itself is

introduced and discussed in detail; on its abstraction level, a

satellite is regarded as an ATM (switching) node.
The proposed concept essentially bases on the role of start
and end satellite (see Fig. 2) for end-to-end communication in
the considered systems: interfacing space and earth segment,
they incorporate the two-fold ATM functionality of a usernetwork interface (UNI) with the served mobile users in their
footprints and of a networknetwork interface (NNI) with any
visible gateway earth station as transition point to fixed users.
With this clear interface definition, it is possible on the ATM
networking level to take out the ISL subnetwork as a whole
for internal routing investigation.
All proposed LEO/MEO constellations show a two-fold
system dynamics due to the motion of satellites relative to
each other and relative to the earth. However, this dynamics
is completely deterministic and periodical, and these features



Fig. 5. VPCs between start satellite S1 and end satellite S2 .

can be exploited for the system analysis. Given the rules

for potential ISL switching, these features enable, from a
topological point of view, a complete (over one system period)
and correct off-line description of the operational system. A
straightforward approach is to consider a series of topology
snapshots with arbitrary time resolution. Such an approach
has been proposed independently in [11].
On this basis, the ATM-based network concept looks as
Within ATM, a VP is understood as a logical link between
two adjacent ATM nodes. It can assemble a group of VCs
between different (and potentially multiservice) end user connections, which are using the physical channel between these
two nodes. With each satellite being an ATM node in the ISL
subnetwork, every physically existing ISL carries specific
VPs between the connected satellites at each instant of time.
A possible route from a start to an end satellite is consequently modeled as a virtual path connection (VPC); see
Fig. 5. Since most satellite pairs are not directly connected
by an ISL, intermediate satellites will often be needed to
constitute a complete VPC route. Every section of this route,
i.e., every ISL between adjacent satellites, in general contains
a set of VPs (as indicated exemplarily for the satellite pair
S S in Fig. 5), all sections of course being independent in
their VP Identifier (VPI) management.
All satellites as functional elements within the ISL subnetwork are pure VP switching nodes, i.e., end-to-end VCs
are completely transparent within the whole ISL routing task.
Thereby, fast VP switching can be performed throughout the
space segment, resulting in a high degree of flexibility to
perform the necessary rerouting of traffic streams, which is
foreseeable in operation due to inevitable start- and/or end
satellite handovers as well as ISL handovers.
Generally, every start/end satellite pair is connected via
link-disjoint VPCs,
being dependent on the
up to
connectivity of the underlying topology at the considered
instant of time. To get an impression of the momentaneous
number of resulting VPCs, one may consider the specific
case of having one (first choice, best) VPC for every start/end
satellite pair: With satellites in the constellation,
VPCs build the virtual topology which is superimposed to the
physical one in the respective time interval.

Finally, Fig. 6 illustrates the major conceptual aspects related to time continuity and interfacing the UDL routing part.
Exemplarily considering two remote mobile users MU and
MU communicating in the system over a certain time period,
the following two fundamental steps can be identified.
1) A responsible satellite selection procedure (RSSP) takes
care of providing continuous service to MU and MU
by (at least) one start and end satellite out of the respective clusters; the latter are constituted of all presently
visible satellites; see Fig. 6.
2) Between start and end satellite(s), which in general
change over time, a hitless handover between predefined
or preselected momentary VPCs must be guaranteed
in order to avoid forced connection termination. This
task is essentially performed by a change of VPI translation tables in the corresponding start/end satellites,
which can also be prepared in advance (off-line) and
may use in operation (on-line) a time window of limited
but sufficient duration.
The presented concept is used as the basis for a straightforward ATM-based implementation of ISL routing simulations,
as discussed in the following. A detailed graph theoretical
discussion of the underlying general routing concept, dynamic
virtual topology routing (DVTR), can be found in [12].
Due to the system dynamics, the simulation approach is split
into three steps residing on two different time scales. On the
first level, a quasistatic investigation is performed for every
considered time interval, the time step between successive
intervals being
. This is followed by a procedure covering
. Fig. 7 illustrates the
one whole constellation period
simulation approach.
1) ISL Topology Setup: For each interval, the momentary
ISL topology is defined, especially including exact geometrical information on subsatellite points, distance
between satellites, and pointing angles of ISLs.
2) Path Search: For each interval and each start/end satellite pair, a path search is performed to define a set of
link-disjoint VPCs based on the actual ISL topology
according to Procedure 1.



Fig. 6. VP/VPC routing concept for LEO/MEO systems with ISLs.

A. ISL Topology Setup

Fig. 7. Two-level simulation approach for ATM-based ISL routing.

3) Optimization Procedure: Over one constellation period,

an optimization procedure is performed in terms of
minimizing the occurrence of VPC handover (VPCHO)
situations by choosing respective VPCs from the given
sets according to Procedure 2.
The time resolution reflected by the time step
has to
be small enough to capture all topological impacts on route
changes, either due to varying distance or to switching of
ISLs. Moreover, this time granularity also influences the
decision-taking in the optimization procedure.
The three steps are discussed in more detail in the following
separate subsections.

The ISL topology setup is crucial to define the candidate

ISLs that will be retained to subsequently search and establish
routes in the space segment. In the context of this paper, we
only consider systems where the time-variance of the ISL
topology is deterministic, as explained above. For a first step
of topology setup this means that all possible ISLs (i.e., the
ones between all pairs of mutually visible satellites) can be
calculated in advance for the whole system period, that is in the
design process prior to system operation. Given these possible
ISLs, the goal is to proceed toward a reasonably restricted
connectivity, thus enhancing the utilization of installed ISL
capacity in space. This suggests to drop out links between remote satellites, as for instance the ones crossing several orbital
planes. In the simulations underlying this paper, specifically,
only ISLs with adjacent satellites in terms of a strict distance
criterion were allowed.
Starting from here, a geometrically based filtering process
(see Fig. 8) includes two major steps.
1) ISLs that cannot be maintained permanently during the
whole system periode.g., due to temporarily missing visibilityare dropped out to avoid complex ISL
switching procedures. In polar constellations like Iridium, for instance, which are characterized by a seam
of counter-rotative planes, this criterion eliminates ISLs
crossing this seam, which would require not only switching but also formidable acquisition and tracking capabilities for the antenna.
2) The remaining ISLs can be subdivided into intra- and
interplane ones as already discussed in Section III-A, the
latter being time-variant w.r.t. distance, elevation angle,
and azimuth angle, in contrast to the intraplane ISLs.
The time-variance of these geometrical parameters al-



Fig. 8. Illustration of the ISL filtering approach.

lows a more specific filtering of the respective ISLs.

Reasons can be, for example, to limit the resulting variation of propagation delay or free-space loss. In the case
of Iridium, it is in this way for instance recommended
to eliminate inter-plane ISLs between satellites crossing
polar regions. This is desirable because here satellites
in adjacent planes cross each other making the antenna
tracking process much more difficult and increasing the
pointing angle requirements drastically.
From the above, the necessary filters are the following: i)
nonpermanent link filters (eliminate nonpermanent ISLs), ii)
distance filters, iii) elevation filters, and iv) azimuth filters
(eliminate ISLs with respective parameter values beyond
given upper and lower limits).
The ISL topology setup and filtering is performed using
the LEONART-ISL software. LEONART2 (Low Earth Orbit
Analysis & Research Tools) [13][16] is a framework for
the system level design and analysis of multisatellite systems
in low (LEO) or medium (MEO) earth orbits; its general
architecture is illustrated in Fig. 9.
The ISL module of LEONART simulates the evolution in
time of the relative position of all the satellites in a constellation. From this set of raw simulation data, the mutual visibility
of the satellites can be displayed, as well as the evolution of
satellites relative distance, elevation, and azimuth. ISL filters
as discussed above are provided by LEONART-ISL in order
to enable the selection of an ISL topology for the subsequent
path search.
B. VPC Path Search
At this point ISLs are identified, and the next step deals
with the search for the end-to-end routes. This search is based
on an M-DSPA. Considering variable cost metrics, the wellknown DSPA [17] is applied to define a subset of the least-cost
paths for all satellite pairs and all time intervals, thereby
forming the basis to cope with the time dependency of the
1) Link Weight
and Total Link Weight
: Each
momentary link VP between two satellites is provided with
2 LEONART has been developed since 1992 by the ENST under contract
from the French space agency CNES.

Fig. 9. General architecture of the simulation tool LEONART.

a link weight
showing its expected costs at the regarded
time interval. Considering real-time services, it is obvious that
propagation delay should dominate the cost metric. Consequently, in the simulations the
is mainly determined by
the distance between two satellites: the greater it is, the higher
is the
attached to the link.
In addition, permanently active ISLs should be given
preference over those being temporarily switched off. This
will in general reduce the number of forced VPC handovers
and consequently enhance the overall path continuity over
time. The permanence of ISLs is introduced into the cost
function as parameter
, assigning lower costs to permanent ISLs and thus resulting in preferential routing over such
A third component contributing to the
is the geographical position of the satellites. Satellites covering medium
latitude or land mass regions will probably collect more calls
from ground than satellites crossing polar regions or oceans,
thereby directly imposing a corresponding traffic demand on
their ISLs. This unequal traffic demand imposed from earth
suggests traffic distribution shaping in space for the sake
of overall traffic routing performance. An efficient handling
of this task will of course require some sophisticated traffic
adaptive routing during system operation. However, based on
the above considerations, it is possible to roughly capture the
major effects already at the stage of off-line path search. This
is done by a parameter
, which assigns lower costs to
ISLs of satellites covering regions with lower traffic demand.
Considering these components, the weighting function is
therefore given by the expression

speed of light,
, and
being dimensionless.
In accordance with the scaling proposed in this function,
reasonably take values from the interval
. Possible implementations may range from very simple,



but less powerful discrete solutions up to complex nonlinear

functions. One could for example select an exponentially
value (from 1 to 0 ) for nonpermanent ISLs,
covering the period from the respective ISL being switched
on until being switched off.
Once the calculation of all
s is completed, the weighting problem for one whole route, i.e., one VPC including
several VPs, can be analyzed. For this, a total link weight
of VPC at
is defined as follows:

is the number of ISLs on the route and
is the ATM switching time at each ATM satellite node. For
the presented simulations,
is set to the value of 10 ms,
is only constituted by the distance, reflecting
propagation delay, i.e., setting
s calculated in advance, the calculation and
With the
evaluation of the
s is the core task of the M-DSPA.
It should be noticed at this point, that the exact evaluation
of dynamic quantities like instantaneous traffic load cannot be
included in this pre-operational path search approach. The MDSPA procedure searches the whole set of possible VPCs
per time interval and satellite pair, selects a subset of the
max paths best candidates, and stores them, sorted by their
value, for the coming optimization. The cardinal of this
subset, max paths, is a central parameter for the simulations
and especially influences the performance of the optimization
C. Optimization Procedure
VPC handovers should be kept to a minimum, since the
rearrangement of the VPCs causes abrupt changes in the
traffic load of the involved nodes. This may lead to a sudden
decrease in the QoS of already existing connections, if the load
of the satellite node increases above a certain value after the
rearrangement. Moreover, every VPC handover action is likely
to affect the corresponding single end-to-end connections
(VCs) in form of a sudden change in path delay, due to
different path distances. This should of course be avoidedas
far as possibleright from the beginning especially in the
case of connection-oriented services, in order to minimize
flow control complexity as well as the danger of potentially
remaining QoS degradation.
Taking into account all these factors, the overall objective
of the presented optimization procedure is the reduction of the
VPC handover (VPCHO) rate with reference to one system
period, while regarding the side effects arising in the form
of instantaneously higher costs (which are caused in a certain
step if the second best path is selected instead of the first best
one, for example); the latter may be evaluated in terms of
jitter. The implementation of this approach is
explained in the following and illustrated with the flow chart
in Fig. 10.
From the available set of best paths found by the M-DSPA
for a specific time interval and start/end satellite pair, one path

Fig. 10. Simplified flow chart for the VPCHO optimization procedure, as
applied to one start/end satellite pair.

must be selected to provide the corresponding calls during this

interval, following two rules.



1) If the path chosen in the last time interval is also

available for the present one, it should be maintained
as long as its costs are good enough.
2) If the path chosen in the last time interval is not an
element of the present set, or if its cost are not good
enough, a VPC handover is initiated toward the best
path of this set.
The decision whether the costs of a path are good enough
is in both cases not only based on the actual
values, but
in addition on a complex nonlinear function value
total cost), which incorporates the history of the respective
paths in terms of costs. In a first loop over all intervals of the
system period, one unique and fixed
value is calculated for
each occurring VPC in the network; see Fig. 10. To this end,
a simulation parameter continuity factor is introduced
into the
function and adapted from one interval to the
next in such a manner, that the existence in earlier steps
is rewarded whereas the absence is punished. (A detailed
mathematical discussion of
and continuity factor
is beyond the scope of this paper and can be found in [18].)
influences the selection
The flow chart then illustrates how
of the best actual path; of course, a proper weighting has to
be included in the two summands
guarantee an appropriate decision through simple minimum
calculation. Following the procedure, the case that i) the old
path is not an element of the present set isin terms of
optimization potentialas trivial as the case that ii) the old
path is again the best candidate: i) forces a handover toward
the best new path and ii) does not require any change. A more
interesting situation arises when the old path is in the present
set but not the best candidate, so that a choice may be made
between an actually lowest cost but new (HO!) path and an old
(continuing) but higher cost path. In order to handle this case
in a tailored and well defined manner, an additional parameter
change factor is introduced which specifies the actual
decision threshold. According to its definition (see Fig. 10), the
change factor ranges between 0 and 1, reasonable values
being determined from simulation tests for each constellation.
Before proceeding to the next time step of the optimization
procedure, all useful informationsuch as handover counter,
jitter valuesis updated with information
related to the considered step and stored for later statistical

The LEONET simulation results in this work are presented

for the iridium results are given for
; it has
been shown that the best results are achieved for these values.
The parameter change factor is used in the optimization procedure to fine-tune the decision threshold for maintaining an earlier selected VPC over the first-choice VPC of
the considered step. All presented results are derived from
simulations with a profitable value for this parameter, i.e.,
yielding a reasonable tradeoff between VPCHO reduction
jitter increase.
in the satellite nodes is
The ATM switching time
are set to 1 for
10 ms and the parameters
is identical with a summed
all simulations, so that
propagation and switching delay, without any other weighting.
The simulation time steps are
for iridium, thus providing sufficient time
resolution within the simulated system periods.
2) Visualization of Path Search: For the LEONET system,
the sets of best three paths for a satellite pair in four consecutive time steps, as found by the M-DSPA, are illustrated in
Fig. 11. Fig. 12, on its side, shows one major benefit of the
optimization procedure: two VPCHO situations (second and
third step) can be avoided by maintaining the path through
satellite S over all steps. This example reflects the main
goal of the optimization, namely to reduce the VPCHO rate
throughout the whole network over a complete system period,
or in other words, to enhance VPC continuity.
3) Impact of VPC Continuity Optimization on TLW: It is
obvious that the reduction of the VPCHO rate inevitably
values, i.e.,
causes some increase in the corresponding
the total delay between start and end satellites. To specify
this tradeoff numerically, Figs. 13 and 14 show representative
simulation results for selected start satellites of LEONET and
Iridium, respectively. Two major effects can be summarized.
1) The potential of the optimization procedure seems to be
higher in the MEO system with less nodes, lower connectivity, and exclusively permanent ISLs, compared
to Iridium: The VPCHO reduction ranges from no
change up to complete avoidance, whereas it is limited
but nevertheless distinct for Iridium. In the simulations
presented here, the overall reduction amounts to 57% for
LEONET and 7% for Iridium. This difference is mainly
due to the fact that the Iridium ISL switching forces
quite a number of situations where VPCHO cannot be
avoided at all; only the instant of the HO action may be
optimized in these cases.
2) In both systems, on the other hand, the improvement
achieved in VPC continuity does not at all result in
; rather, the increase of
a strong deterioration of
average delay is nearly negligible.
over one system
Fig. 15 shows the development of
period for a selected LEONET satellite pair where VPCHO
can be completely avoided through optimization. A less favorable casereflecting a seldom occurring but serious drawback
of the actual implementation of the optimizationis shown for
both systems in Figs. 16 and 17: Maintaining an old nonoptimal VPC in order to reduce handovers, forces an unpleasant

Most simulation results are taken exemplarily from the study
on ATM-based ISL routing in [18]. First, some important
simulation parameter settings are discussed.
1) Parameter Settings: The ISL topologies presented in
Figs. 3 and 4 show the systems for a maximum of four
intersatellite links per LEONET and Iridium satellite. In
Iridium, due to the necessity to switch ISLs on and off, the
maximum number of ISLs per satellite is not permanently
available, as it is in LEONET. Each ISL represents one ATM
port, and therefore determines the number of possible linkdisjoint VPC paths originating (respectively terminating) in
the corresponding satellite node.



Fig. 11. VPCs for the satellite pair S0 S9 in LEONET before optimization
(5 min steps).

Fig. 12. VPCs for the satellite pair S0 S9 in LEONET after optimization
(5 min steps).

drop in one of the subsequent intervals when the

handover becomes inevitable. For two users communicating
via the involved VPCs, this results in negative delay jitter.
4) Distribution of Delay and Delay Jitter: From an overall
system rather than a single connection point of view, a
general evaluation of delay and delay jitter performance for

both, the proposed routing scheme (M-DSPA) as well as the

optimization procedure, should be based on the respective
It is important to notice at this point that all presented
distributions are conditional ones, the 100% total referring to
the number of encountered VPCHO situations. Considering


Fig. 13. Number of VPCHO and average

for start satellite S0 in LEONET.



over one system period

the system operation from a user connections point of view,

one finds that a large number of connections may actually
terminate without encountering a HO situation at all. The
percentage of such connections is dependent on characteristics
like call arrival rate and call holding time as well as on
regional distribution and time variation of generated traffic.
Since consideration of such parameters is beyond the scope of
this paper, distributions and probabilities can not be given with
reference to the total number of connections among the worldwide user community. However, the conditional probability
figures clearly represent an upper bound for all corresponding
values that would be obtained considering the total number of
user connections; therefore, all figures discussed explicitely in
the following, can be considered to be even more favorable
in a real user connection scenario. In the following, we use
connections assuming: i) a single connection-oriented service
type scenario (i.e., all calls with same parameters), and ii) a
completely balanced traffic distribution over start/end satellite
pairs and time. Then all probability figures related to VPCHO
situations are directly applicable to connections encountering
Figs. 18 and 19 show example
distributions for both
systems, and that for a selected start satellite and averaged over
all end satellites and one whole system period. The shape of
the distributions reflects characteristics of the underlying constellation and the ISL network connectivity. The influence of
the optimization is obviously marginal. Moreover, maximum
values do not exceed 180 ms for LEONET and 240 ms for
iridium; a meaningful figure for end-to-end delay, however,

Fig. 14. Number of VPCHO and average

for start satellite S11 in Iridium.

Fig. 15.



over one system period

versus system time for satellite pair S0 S9 in LEONET.

must additionally include propagation and processing delays

in the UDL and terrestrial parts of the communication.
As for the distribution of delay jitter, Figs. 20 and 21 show
that positive and negative values are quite equally distributed
before optimization.
In the case of iridium (Fig. 21), the influence of the optimization is again marginal; specifically the effect of negative
delay jitter increase, caused as explained above, is virtually
negligible. Typically, in more than 90% of the connections
encountering a VPCHO the jitter is below 20 ms. However,
in order to guarantee a proper implementation of the ATM
networking concept and an appropriate QoS for all end users,


Fig. 16.



versus system time for satellite pair S0 S13 in LEONET.

Fig. 19. Distribution of TLW for start satellite S11 in iridium, averaged
over all 65 end satellites.

Fig. 17.


versus system time for satellite pair S11 S55 in iridium.

Fig. 20. Distribution of TLW jitter for start satellite S0 in LEONET,

averaged over all 14 end satellites.

Fig. 18. Distribution of TLW for start satellite S0 in LEONET, averaged

over all 14 end satellites.

jitter values up to 60 msas for the rest of the connectionsimposes the challenge for a powerful alignment of the
two switched ATM cell streams. This can be done by using
techniques like the alignment server proposed in [19].

In contrast to that, the increase of negative delay jitter caused by the optimization is relatively significant for
LEONET; see Fig. 20. Though, one should notice that this
is mainly due to the fact that LEONET shows an excellent
delay jitter performance in the nonoptimized case, since its
topology is exclusively based on permanent ISLs. Moreover,
the resulting absolute delay jitter extremum of 22 ms is still
three times smaller than the iridium one. Around 20% of the



possibly be avoided by introducing some kind of path history

knowledge already to the path search procedure for the setup
of instantaneously best VPCs.

Fig. 21. Distribution of T LW jitter for start satellite S11 in iridium,

averaged over all 65 end satellites.

VPCHO situations imply delay jitter values slightly above 20

ms. Taking into account that more than 50% of the original
handovers are completely avoided through optimization, one
concludes again that jitter values above 20 ms affect less than
10% of the connections which encountered a VPCHO in
the nonoptimized case. The potential worst case and average
requirements imposed on ATM cell stream alignment are
clearly lower than with Iridium.
5) Final Remarks: For all simulation results presented and
discussed, it is important to recognize that the evaluation
has been made in terms of a rough assessment of overall
network performance, which is partly due to the fact that
operational parameters like geographical and temporal traffic
demand cannot be included in this stage. Indeed, evaluating the
proposed schemes in terms of resulting QoS for certain end
users with specific activity and service characteristics, may
be done partly off-line by capturing the parameters in good
models, and is intended for future work.
Moreover, despite all improvements achieved, the above
proposed optimization procedure has shown to be principally
limited in its potential and therefore not fully optimal itself.
Some unpleasant effects, as discussed above, may be eliminated or at least reduced by improvements in the optimization
procedure. One promising approach would be to consider a
moving time window for capturing the VPC history rather
than optimizing the whole system over a period, the latter depending on a fixed starting point. A second field for
improvements could be the handling of restrictions during
path search. For example, the considered link-disjoint criterion
sometimes hinders the choice of an intelligent VPC set. This
happens for instance when a completely new VPC enters the
set of best paths, being slightly less costly, but uses common
links with the best candidate of the preceding step. This could

An ATM-based concept for the routing of information

over an ISL network of an LEO/MEO satellite system has
been proposed. On the conceptual level, the integration of
well-known routing algorithms and the VPC concept is used
to introduce the strengths of ATM to the network layer
of future broadband ISL networks. Based on a Modified
Dijkstra Shortest Path Algorithm, an optimization strategy
was developed to cope with the time variance of the ISL
network. It could be shown that this strategy is capable of
reducing the average number of route changes for an end-toend connection, without significant increase of the path delay.
At the same time, one evades significant rearrangements of
large traffic streams over time. This approach permits the
design of an optimized routing strategy over specific time
intervals of the constellation period, and is done once for all,
given the constellation geometry and the ISL connectivity.
A major benefit of a low VPCHO rate is the absence
of severe delay jitter for a large part of typical end-toend connections which in turn reduces complexity of the
ATM cell streams alignment. It has been shown that typical
maximum end-to-end delay within the ISL subnetwork is
about 180 ms for LEONET and 240 ms for iridium, and
that delay jitter is below 20 ms in more than 90% of the
connections encountering a VPCHO. Since the ATM cell
streams alignment will in principle be carried out by an endto-end protocol, the consideration of the interface to the UDL
routing task is essential for the global performance evaluation
and will be investigated in further research work.
Major parts of this work have been performed in the
framework of PROCOPE, a bilateral program promoting the
cooperation of French and German research institutes. The
authors would also like to thank their colleagues from the
Institute of Communication Networks at the Technical University Munich, who have contributed many ideas during fruitful
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Markus Werner (M92) received the Dipl.-Ing.

degree in electrical engineering from Darmstadt
Technical University, Darmstadt, Germany, in 1991.
Since 1991, he has been a Research Scientist
with the Institute for Communications Technology
of the German Aerospace Research Establishment
(DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. His project activities include participation in ESA studies and
in European COST 227, COST 252, and ACTS
programs. His research interests are in the areas of
communication networks, traffic engineering, and
networking aspects of nongeostationary satellite systems. His current work
focuses on adaptive routing in networks with dynamic topology. He is also a
lecturer at the Carl-Cranz-Gesellschaft..

Cecilia Delucchi was born in Uruguay in 1966.

She received the computer science degree from the
University of Uruguay in 1989, and the Dipl.-Ing.
degree in electrical engineering from the Munich
Technical University, Germany, in 1995.
Since 1995, she has been a Research Scientist
with the Institute for Communications Technology
of the German Aerospace Research Establishment
(DLR), Oberpfaffenhofen, Germany. Her project
activities include participation in European ACTS
programs. Her research interests are in the areas of
future broadband networks, traffic engineering, and networking aspects of
terrestrial and satellite systems.

Hans-Jorg Vogel (S93) was born in Oberstaufen,

Germany, in 1968. He received the Dipl.-Ing. degree
in electrical engineering from Munich Technical
University in 1993 and is currently pursuing a
doctoral degree at the Institute of Communication
Networks of the Munich Technical University.
His research interests are in the area of design
and control of cellular networks with spatial diversity, mobile satellite communications, and design of
network protocols for mobile high-speed communication, especially mobile ATM.
Mr. Vogel is a member of Corps Vitruvia.

Gerard Maral (M78SM87) received the engineering degree from the Ecole Centrale des Arts
et Manufactures, Paris, in 1965, and the Doctorat
dEtat from French University in 1970.
He is now a Professor at the Ecole Nationale
Superieure des Telecommunications (ENST) and
heads the site of Toulouse of ENST, where he is
responsible for the Satellite Communications Systems Educational and Research Programme and is
the Director of several Ph.D. research projects. He
has extensive teaching and research experience in
the field of electronics and communications, and is a renowned international
expert on various aspects of satellite communications. He has authored many
papers in the areas of computer-aided design, digital communications, and
advanced satellite communications systems, holding several patents in the
field. He is the author of numerous textbooks on satellite communications:
Telecommunications par satellite (Paris, France: Masson, 1982), Satellite
Communications Systems (New York: Wiley, 1986; 2nd ed., 1994), and VSAT
Networks (New York: Wiley, 1995). He participates in several COST European
projects for future communications satellite systems.

Jean-Jacques De Ridder graduated from the Ecole

Nationale Superieure de Constructions Aeronautiques (ENSICA), Toulouse, France, in 1985. He
received the Master degree in Satellite Communication Systems at the Ecole Nationale Superieure
des Telecommunications (ENST), in 1988.
He worked with the ONERA-CERT as a Research
Engineer from 1988 to 1990 in the microwave
department. He has been working since 1990 at the
ENST as a Research Engineer in satellite communication systems at Toulouse, especially on future
mobile satellite communication systems.