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It has been a particularly successful cellular phone technology for a variety of reasons including the ability to roam worldwide with the certainty of being able to be able to operate on GSM networks in exactly the same way - provided billing agreements are in place. The letters GSM originally stood for the words Groupe Speciale Mobile, but as it became clear this cellular technology was being used world wide the meaning of GSM was changed to Global System for Mobile Communications. Since this cellular technology was first deployed in 1991, the use of GSM has grown steadily, and it is now the most widely cell phone system in the world. GSM reached the 1 billion subscriber point in February 2004, and is now well over the 3 billion subscriber mark and still steadily increasing.
GSM system overview
The GSM system was designed as a second generation (2G) cellular phone technology. One of the basic aims was to provide a system that would enable greater capacity to be achieved than the previous first generation analogue systems. GSM achieved this by using a digital TDMA (time division multiple access approach). By adopting this technique more users could be accommodated within the available bandwidth. In addition to this, ciphering of the digitally encoded speech was adopted to retain privacy. Using the earlier analogue cellular technologies it was possible for anyone with a scanner receiver to listen to calls and a number of famous personalities had been "eavesdropped" with embarrassing consequences.
Speech or voice calls are obviously the primary function for the GSM cellular system. To achieve this the speech is digitally encoded and later decoded using a vocoder. A variety of vocoders are available for use, being aimed at different scenarios. In addition to the voice services, GSM cellular technology supports a variety of other data services. Although their performance is nowhere near the level of those provided by 3G, they are nevertheless still important and useful. A variety of data services are supported with user data rates up to 9.6 kbps. Services including Group 3 facsimile, videotext and teletex can be supported. One service that has grown enormously is the short message service. Developed as part of the GSM specification, it has also been incorporated into other cellular technologies. It can be thought of as being similar to the paging service but is far more comprehensive allowing bidirectional messaging, store and forward delivery, and it also allows alphanumeric messages of a reasonable length. This service has become particularly popular, initially with the young as it provided a simple, low fixed cost.
The GSM cellular technology had a number of design aims when the development started: • • • • • • It should offer good subjective speech quality It should have a low phone or terminal cost Terminals should be able to be handheld The system should support international roaming It should offer good spectral efficiency The system should offer ISDN compatibility
The resulting GSM cellular technology that was developed provided for all of these. The overall system definition for GSM describes not only the air interface but also the network or infrastructure technology. By adopting this approach it is possible to define the operation of the whole network to enable international roaming as well as enabling network elements from different manufacturers to operate alongside each other, although this last feature is not completely true, especially with older items. GSM cellular technology uses 200 kHz RF channels. These are time division multiplexed to enable up to eight users to access each carrier. In this way it is a TDMA / FDMA system. The base transceiver stations (BTS) are organised into small groups, controlled by a base station controller (BSC) which is typically co-located with one of the BTSs. The BSC with its associated BTSs is termed the base station subsystem (BSS). Further into the core network is the main switching area. This is known as the mobile switching centre (MSC). Associated with it is the location registers, namely the home location register (HLR) and the visitor location register (VLR) which track the location of mobiles and enable calls to be routed to them. Additionally there is the Authentication Centre (AuC), and the Equipment Identify Register (EIR) that are used in authenticating the mobile before it is allowed onto the network and for billing. The operation of these are explained in the following pages. Last but not least is the mobile itself. Often termed the ME or mobile equipment, this is the item that the end user sees. One important feature that was first implemented on GSM was the use of a Subscriber Identity Module. This card carried with it the users identity and other information to allow the user to upgrade a phone very easily, while retaining the same identity on the network. It was also used to store other information such as "phone book" and other items. This item alone has allowed people to change phones very easily, and this has fuelled the phone manufacturing industry and enabled new phones with additional features to be launched. This has allowed mobile operators to increase their average revenue per user (ARPU) by ensuring that users are able to access any new features that may be launched on the network requiring more sophisticated phones.
Despite the developments of the newer systems.915 MHz Downlink frequency band (basic 900 MHz band only) Channel spacing 200 kHz Modulation GMSK Various . frame and slot structures to the logical and physical channels as well as details about the GSM network.615 ms GSM summary The GSM system is the most successful cellular telecommunications system to date. the basic GSM network architecture has been maintained. Further pages of this GSM tutorial or overview detail many of the GSM basics from the air interface.833 kbps Frame duration 4. . and the elements described below perform the same functions as they did when the original GSM system was launched in the early 1990s. Specification Summary for GSM Cellular System Multiple access technology FDMA / TDMA Duplex technique FDD 933 -960 MHz Uplink frequency band (basic 900 MHz band only) 890 . GSM Network Architecture GSM Network Architecture The GSM technical specifications define the different elements within the GSM network architecture. It defines the different elements and the ways in which they interact to enable the overall network operation to be maintained. the basic GSM network architecture has been updated to interface to the network elements required by these systems. With subscriber numbers running into billions and still increasing.GSM system overview The table below summarises the main points of the GSM system specification. showing some of the highlight features of technical interest. it has been proved to have met its requirements. The GSM network architecture is now well established and with the other later cellular systems now established and other new ones being deployed.original was RPESpeech coding LTP/13 Speech channels per RF 8 channel Channel data rate 270.
and the electronics used to generate the signal. although the two main elements are the main hardware and the SIM. There are a number of elements to the cell phone. A further advantage is that the time between charges has significantly increased. It is accessed by the network during registration to check whether the equipment has been reported as stolen. . In recent years their size has fallen dramatically while the level of functionality has greatly increased. mobile equipment (ME) or as they are most widely known. The hardware itself contains the main elements of the mobile phone including the display. cell or mobile phones are the section of a GSM cellular network that the user sees and operates. It also contains a number known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). and process the data receiver and to be transmitted.GSM network architecture elements The GSM network architecture as defined in the GSM specifications can be grouped into four main areas: • • • • Mobile station (MS) Base-station subsystem (BSS) Network and Switching Subsystem (NSS) Operation and Support Subsystem (OSS) Simplified GSM Network Architecture Mobile station Mobile stations (MS). case. battery. This is installed in the phone at manufacture and "cannot" be changed.
The BTS is the defining element for each cell. Equipment Identity Register (EIR): The EIR is the entity that decides whether a given mobile equipment may be allowed onto the network. the GSM network is able to route calls to the relevant base station for the MS. call location. It also provides an interface to the PSTN so that calls can be routed from the mobile network to a phone connected to a landline. Even when the phone is not active (but switched on) it reregisters periodically to ensure that the network (HLR) is aware of its latest position. It consists of two elements: • Base Transceiver Station (BTS): The BTS used in a GSM network comprises the radio transmitter receivers. Home Location Register (HLR): This database contains all the administrative information about each subscriber along with their last known location. and their associated antennas that transmit and receive to directly communicate with the mobiles. Base Station Subsystem (BSS) The Base Station Subsystem (BSS) section of the GSM network architecture that is fundamentally associated with communicating with the mobiles on the network. Base Station Controller (BSC): The BSC forms the next stage back into the GSM network. and is often co-located with one of the BTSs in its group. The BTS communicates with the mobiles and the interface between the two is known as the Um interface with its associated protocols. but also provides additional functionality to enable the requirements of a mobile user to be supported.The SIM or Subscriber Identity Module contains the information that provides the identity of the user to the network. Interfaces to other MSCs are provided to enable calls to be made to mobiles on different networks. It controls a group of BTSs. It manages the radio resources and controls items such as handover within the group of BTSs. although it may be distributed across various subcentres to for operational reasons. but it is commonly realised as an integral part of the MSC. There is one HLR per network. These include registration. In this way. The VLR can be implemented as a separate entity. Visitor Location Register (VLR): This contains selected information from the HLR that enables the selected services for the individual subscriber to be provided. It provides the main control and interfacing for the whole mobile network. the phone registers with the network and from this it is possible to determine which BTS it communicates with so that incoming calls can be routed appropriately. and is often termed the core network. Each mobile equipment • • • . authentication. inter-MSC handovers and call routing to a mobile subscriber. The MSC acts like a normal switching node within a PSTN or ISDN. In this way access is made faster and more convenient. It communicates with the BTSs over what is termed the Abis interface. allocates channels and the like. The major elements within the core network include: • Mobile Switching services Centre (MSC): The main element within the core network area of the overall GSM network architecture is the Mobile switching Services Centre (MSC). rather than a separate entity. When a user switches on their phone. • Network Switching Subsystem (NSS) The GSM network subsystem contains a variety of different elements. It contains are variety of information including a number known as the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI).
timeslots and the like to be allocated to the mobile equipments being serviced by the BSSs. allowing savings in the cost of ownership of the system. This facilitates the information interchanges can take place. For signalling. the mobile may be allocated one of three states .• • • has a number known as the International Mobile Equipment Identity. Authentication Centre (AuC): The AuC is a protected database that contains the secret key also contained in the user's SIM card. This number. as mentioned above. However as many of these interfaces were not fully defined until after many networks had been deployed. the level of standardisation may not be quite as high as many people might like. Um interface The "air" or radio interface standard that is used for exchanges 2.allowed onto the network. The interface carries information to enable the channels. It must be noted that as the number of BS increases with the scaling of the subscriber population some of the maintenance tasks are transferred to the BTS. Operation and Support Subsystem (OSS) The OSS or operation support subsystem is an element within the overall GSM network architecture that is connected to components of the NSS and the BSC. the "directory number" of a MS) and routing the call to the correct visited MSC. Gateway Mobile Switching Centre (GMSC): The GMSC is the point to which a ME terminating call is initially routed. The "MSC" part of the term GMSC is misleading. The two gateways handle messages directed in different directions. known as LAPDm is used. The SMS-IWMSC (Short Message Service InterWorking Mobile Switching Centre) is used for short messages originated with a mobile on that network. It is used to control and monitor the overall GSM network and it is also used to control the traffic load of the BSS. The network structure is defined within the GSM standards. a modified version of the ISDN LAPD. B interface The B interface exists between the MSC and the VLR . It is used for authentication and for ciphering on the radio channel. The GMSC is thus in charge of obtaining the MSRN (Mobile Station Roaming Number) from the HLR based on the MSISDN (Mobile Station ISDN number. It uses a protocol known as the MAP/B protocol. and it has not been totally standardised. The messaging required within the network to enable handover etc to be undertaken is carried over the interface. 3. The SMS-GMSC role is similar to that of the GMSC. without any knowledge of the MS's location. The Abis interface allows control of the radio equipment and radio frequency allocation in the BTS. Additionally each interface between the different elements of the GSM network is also defined. It also enables to a large degree that network elements from different manufacturers can be used. or monitored in case its problems. The SMS-GMSC (Short Message Service Gateway Mobile Switching Centre) is for short messages being sent to an ME. A interface The A interface is used to provide communication between the BSS and the MSC. 4. since the gateway operation does not require any linking to an MSC. whereas the SMS-IWMSC provides a fixed access point to the Short Message Service Centre. . Dependent upon the information held in the EIR. Abis interface This is a BSS internal interface linking the BSC and a BTS. is installed in the equipment and is checked by the network during registration. between a mobile (ME) and a base station (BTS / BSC). As most VLRs are collocated with an MSC. barred access. 1. SMS Gateway (SMS-G): The SMS-G or SMS gateway is the term that is used to collectively describe the two Short Message Services Gateways defined in the GSM standards.
The E interface exchanges data related to handover between the anchor and relay MSCs using the MAP/E protocol. the MSC may optionally forward billing information to the HLR after the call is completed and cleared down. during e.5. and many of these had a direct impact on the air interface. they do at least provide a large element of the definition required. C interface The C interface is located between the HLR and a GMSC or a SMS-G. . One of the key elements of the development of the GSM. 7. The protocol used for communication is MAP/C. In addition to this. Messages exchanged over the I interface are relayed transparently through the BSS. 9. The interface is used whenever the MSC needs access to data regarding a MS located in its area. burst structure and the like were all devised to provide the optimum performance. During the development of the GSM standard very careful attention was paid to aspects including the modulation format. It uses the MAP/D protocol to exchange the data related to the location of the ME and to the management of the subscriber.e. 8. E interface The E interface provides communication between two MSCs. a location update procedure. When a call originates from outside the network. There were many requirements that were placed on the system. H interface The H interface exists between the MSC the SMS-G. all had a considerable impact on the performance of the system as a whole. 11. The communications along this interface are used to confirm the status of the IMEI of the ME gaining access to the network. Elements including the modulation. F interface The F interface is used between an MSC and EIR. 6. the modulation format for the GSM air interface had a direct impact on battery life and the time division format adopted enabled the cellphone handset costs to be considerably reduced as detailed later. Global System for Mobile Communications was the development of the GSM air interface. It transfers short messages and uses the MAP/H protocol. Although the interfaces for the GSM cellular system may not be as rigorouly defined as many might like. It uses the MAP/F protocol. enabling the functionality of GSM network entities to be defined sufficiently. G interface The G interface interconnects two VLRs of different MSCs and uses the MAP/G protocol to transfer subscriber information. GSM slot structure. the letter "C" indicating that the protocol is used for the "C" interface. GSM signal and GMSK modulation characteristics The core of any radio based system is the format of the radio signal itself. i. For example.g. this makes the interface purely an "internal" interface. GMSK was used for the GSM system for a variety of reasons: • It is resilient to noise when compared to many other forms of modulation. the way in which the system is time division multiplexed. D interface The D interface is situated between the VLR and HLR. I interface The I interface can be found between the MSC and the ME. from the PSTN or another mobile network it ahs to pass through the gateway so that routing information required to complete the call may be gained. 10. The carrier is modulated using a form of phase sift keying known as Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying (GMSK).
577 mS (15/26 mS).120/26 ms) and it forms the basic unit for the definition of logical channels. The basic carrier is able to support a data throughput of approximately 270 kbps. thereby reducing current consumption and conserving battery life. and hence each GSM burst lasts for 0. Each GSM slot. thereby saving on current consumption. The data transported by the carrier serves up to eight different users under the basic system by splitting the carrier into eight time slots. This lasts for approximately 4. One physical channel is one burst period allocated in each TDMA frame. It has advantages in terms of spectral efficiency as well as having an almost constant amplitude which allows for the use of more efficient transmitter power amplifiers. the data rate allotted to each time slot is only 24. . Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying is a form of phase modulation that is used in a number of portable radio and wireless applications. As GMSK modulation has been used. It has a constant power level which allows higher efficiency RF power amplifiers to be used in the handset. Note on GMSK: GMSK.e. In addition to this error correction is required to overcome the problems of interference. but as some of this supports the management overhead. i. and the GSM burst is the transmission that is made in this time. the unwanted or spurious emissions outside the nominal bandwidth are sufficiently low to enable adjacent channels to be used from the same base station. Click on the link for a GMSK tutorial The nominal bandwidth for the GSM signal using GMSK is 200 kHz. Typically each base station will be allocated a number of carriers to enable it to achieve the required capacity. This means that the available data rate for transporting the digitally encoded speech is 13 kbps for the basic vocoders. using a TDMA scheme. The FDMA element involves the division by frequency of the (maximum) 25 MHz bandwidth into 124 carrier frequencies spaced 200 kHz apart as already described. The carriers are then divided in time.615 ms (i. the channel bandwidth and spacing is 200 kHz.e. The slot is then the time that is allocated to the particular user. Eight of these burst periods are grouped into what is known as a TDMA frame. fading and general data errors that may occur.• • Radiation outside the accepted bandwidth is lower than other forms of phase shift keying. They are then able to use the same RF channel without mutual interference.8 kbps. GSM slot structure and multiple access scheme GSM uses a combination of both TDMA and FDMA techniques. This enables the different users of the single radio frequency channel to be allocated different times slots. a critical issue for battery power equipment.
This data can be used for carrying voice data. As a result of this a number of different types of GSM burst are defined.There are different types of frame that are transmitted to carry different data. and also the frames are organised into what are termed multiframes and superframes to provide overall synchronisation. and there is a time offset between the transmit and receive. GSM slots showing offset between transmit and receive It can be seen from the GSM slot structure that the timing of the slots in the uplink and the downlink are not simultaneous. GSM slot structure These GSM slot is the smallest individual time period that is available to each mobile. Although there are shortened transmission bursts. This offset in the GSM slot timing is deliberate and it means that a mobile that which is allocated the same slot in both directions does not transmit and receive at the same time. It also provides a space saving. the slots is normally used for transmitting 148 bits of information. control and synchronisation data. • • • • Normal burst uplink and downlink Synchronisation burst downlink Frequency correction burst downlink Random Access (Shortened Burst) uplink . It has a defined format because a variety of different types of data are required to be transmitted. This considerably reduces the need for expensive filters to isolate the transmitter from the receiver. or transmission can fulfil a variety of functions. Some GSM bursts are used for carrying data while others are used for control information. GSM burst The GSM burst.
7. but nearby base stations using the same radio frequency channels will use different ones. 1 bit flag Again this flag indicates the type of data in the data field. 57 data bits Again. The structure of the normal GSM burst is exactly defined and follows a common format. GSM Normal Burst . each 26 bits long. 3 tail bits These final bits within the GSM burst are used to enable the transmitter power to ramp down.GSM normal burst This GSM burst is used for the standard communications between the basestation and the mobile. and this enables the mobile to differentiate between the various cells using the same frequency. They are often called final tail bits. 3 tail bits: These tail bits at the start of the GSM burst give time for the transmitter to ramp up its power 2. this block of data within the GSM burst is used for carrying data. 8.25 bits guard time At the end of the GSM burst there is a guard period. 4. 26 bits training sequence: This training sequence is used as a timing reference and for equalisation. 1 bit flag: This bit within the GSM burst indicates the type of data in the previous field. It contains data that provides a number of different functions: 1. The same sequence is used in each GSM slot. There is a total of eight different bit sequences that may be used. and typically transfers the digitised voice data. This is introduced to prevent transmitted bursts from different mobiles overlapping. 57 data bits: This block of data is used to carry information. 8. 6. As a result of their differing distances from the base station. 5. and most often contains the digitised voice data although on occasions it may be replaced with signalling information in the form of the Fast Associated Control CHannel (FACCH). or just tail bits. The type of data is indicated by the flag that follows the data field 3.
these tail bits at the start of the GSM burst give time for the transmitter to ramp up its power. 3 tail bits Again these are to enable the transmitter power to ramp down. the burst essentially consists of a constant frequency carrier with no phase alteration. 1. GSM Frequency Correction Burst . 64 bits of a Long Training Sequence: 4. 39 bits Information: 5.25 bits guard time: to act as a guard interval. 3 tail bits: Again. 3 tail bits Again these are to enable the transmitter power to ramp down. 8.GSM synchronisation burst The purpose of this form of GSM burst is to provide synchronisation for the mobiles on the network. 6. 2.25 bits guard time: to act as a guard interval. 39 bits of information: 3. 3 tail bits: Again. 4. these tail bits at the start of the GSM burst give time for the transmitter to ramp up its power 2. 8. 1. GSM Synchronisation Burst GSM frequency correction burst With the information in the burst all set to zeros. 142 bits all set to zero: 3.
If a voice signal is misinterpreted as noise. GSM Random Access Burst GSM discontinuous transmission (DTx) A further power saving and interference reducing facility is the discontinuous transmission (DTx) capability that is incorporated within the specification. 1. However if noise is misinterpreted as a voice signal too often. . 69. then there is no requirement for the long guard period. for example when the person using the mobile is listening. 2. 41 training bits: 3. This GSM burst structure is used to ensure that it fits in the time slot regardless of any severe timing problems that may exist. In fact it is found that a person speaks for less than 40% of the time during normal telephone conversations. 36 data bits: 4. It is particularly useful because there are long pauses in speech. By establishing these schedules by the use of a frame structure. The GSM frame structure establishes schedules for the predetermined use of timeslots. Once the mobile has accessed the network and timing has been aligned. the efficiency of DTX is dramatically decreased. It must correctly distinguish between voice and noise inputs. a task that is not trivial. 3 tail bits Again these are to enable the transmitter power to ramp down. The GSM system has a defined GSM frame structure to enable the orderly passage of information. The noise is controlled by the SID (silence indication descriptor). both the mobile and the base station are able to communicate not only the voice data. Accordingly this is added as appropriate. The most important element of DTx is the Voice Activity Detector. filling the remaining time of the GSM burst provides for large timing differences. the transmitter is turned off an effect known as clipping results and this is particularly annoying to the person listening to the speech. 5.GSM random access burst This form of GSM burst used when accessing the network and it is shortened in terms of the data carried.25 bits guard time: The additional guard time. It is also necessary for the system to add background or comfort noise when the transmitter is turned off because complete silence can be very disconcerting for the listener. and during these periods there is no need to transmit a signal. but also signalling information without the various types of data becoming intermixed and both ends of the transmission knowing exactly what types of information are being transmitted. 7 tail bits: The increased number of tail bits is included to provide additional margin when accessing the network. having a much longer guard period.
615 ms (i. each used for different users within the TDMA system. One physical channel is one burst period allocated in each TDMA frame.e. These are numbered 0 to 11 and 13 to 24. Accordingly the channel structure is organised into two different types of frame. and accordingly it is at the heart of the overall system. GSM frame consisting of eight slots The basic GSM frame defines the structure upon which all the timing and structure of the GSM messaging and signalling is based. Basic GSM frame structure The basic element in the GSM frame structure is the frame itself. The actual position used alternates between position 12 and 25.The GSM frame structure provides the basis for the various physical channels used within GSM. Eight of these burst periods are grouped into what is known as a TDMA frame.577 ms (15/26 ms). . the remaining frame remaining free. GSM multiframe The GSM frames are grouped together to form multiframes and in this way it is possible to establish a time schedule for their operation and the network can be synchronised. In simplified terms the base station transmits two types of channel. one for the traffic on the main traffic carrier frequency.120/26 ms) and it forms the basic unit for the definition of logical channels. This lasts for approximately 4. the slots for transmission and reception for a given mobile are offset in time so that the mobile does not transmit and receive at the same time. One of the remaining bursts is then used to accommodate the SACCH. This comprises the eight slots. 24 bursts are used for traffic. There are several GSM multiframe structures: • Traffic multiframe: The Traffic Channel frames are organised into multiframes consisting of 26 bursts and taking 120 ms. The fundamental unit of time is called a burst period and it lasts for approximately 0. namely traffic and control. and the other for the control on the beacon frequency. As mentioned in another page of the tutorial. In a traffic multiframe.
brings them back into line again taking exactly the same interval.4 ms.• Control multiframe: the Control Channel multiframe that comprises 51 bursts and occupies 235.12 seconds. the different number of traffic and control multiframes within the superframe. 4 and 6 of the beacon frequency as well. These consist of 51 traffic multiframes or 26 control multiframes. . These logical channels and functions include the following: o Frequency correction burst o Synchronisation burst o Broadcast channel (BCH) o Paging and Access Grant Channel (PACCH) o Stand Alone Dedicated Control Channel (SDCCH) GSM Superframe Multiframes are then constructed into superframes taking 6. This multiframe is subdivided into logical channels which are time-scheduled. This always occurs on the beacon frequency in time slot zero and it may also occur within slots 2. As the traffic multiframes are 26 bursts long and the control multiframes are 51 bursts long.
This is used to maintain synchronisation of the different scheduled operations with the GSM frame structure. it is unlikely that the cellphone conversation will be over 3 hours and accordingly it is unlikely that security will be compromised as a result. Within the GSM hyperframe there is a counter and every time slot has a unique sequential number comprising the frame number and time slot number.GSM Hyperframe Above this 2048 superframes (i.76 seconds. the transmitter and receiver must be synchronised so they hop to the same frequencies at the same time. It is the largest time interval within the GSM frame structure. It can help reduce interference and fading issues. • GSM Frame Structure Summary .e. However. These include functions such as: • Frequency hopping: Frequency hopping is a feature that is optional within the GSM system. Encryption: The encryption process is synchronised over the GSM hyperframe period where a counter is used and the encryption process will repeat with each hyperframe. 2 to the power 11) are grouped to form one hyperframe which repeats every 3 hours 28 minutes 53. but for it to work.
0 806.0 728.0 915.0 851. superframes and hyperframes. i.4 900 915.0 .4 457.8 486.e.4 . tri-band or quad-band phones will operate in most countries.2 .0 .0 716.6 488.8 450.399. While the majority of GSM activity falls into just a few bands.0 1800 1710. or in countries where spectrum allocation requirements mean that the standard bands cannot be used.894.0 747. Accordingly for most global roaming dual band. and therefore it is possible for phones to be used for global roaming.0 Downlink (MHz) 390. The GSM frame structure forms the basis onto which the other forms of frame and hence the various GSM channels are built.005.0 Comments P-GSM.0 T-GSM 876.2 389. the GSM standard defines GSM frequency bands and frequencies for the different spectrum allocations that are in use around the globe.0 915.921.0 . Railway GSM 900 876.0 allocation R-GSM.0 .4 .0 - .960. for some specialist applications.Although it is possible for the GSM cellular system to work on a variety of frequencies.0 849.0 880.6 478.792.0 .0 821.866. Band 380 410 450 480 710 750 810 850 900 Uplink (MHz) 380. the timing and organisation is set into an orderly format that enables both the GSM mobile and base station to communicate in a reliable and efficient manner.496.8 410. GSM band allocations There is a total of fourteen different recognised GSM frequency bands. For most applications the GSM frequency allocations fall into three or four bands.915 921. i.8 420.GSM frame structure summary By structuring the GSM signalling into frames.0 890.0 .e.0 698.467.960.746. different allocations may be required.0 935.0 824. i. although in some instances phones using other frequencies may be required.429. Extended GSM 900 925.2 .0 .8 .0 allocation 870.0 1805.0 762.0 .2 419.8 460. These are defined in 3GPP TS 45.0 869.e. multiframes.0 777. Primary or standard GSM allocation E-GSM.960.
For Europe. These bands are also generally used in the Middle East. For Canada the 1900 MHz band is the primary one used. the actual band used is determined by the regulatory authorities and is dependent upon the area. 1800 and 1900 bands giving good coverage in Europe as well as moderate coverage in North America.0 1930.0 1990.0 Band Downlink (MHz) 1880. etc dual band phones would operate on GSM 850 and 1900 frequency bands. The power levels and power control of GSM mobiles is of great importance because of the effect of power on the battery life. As a rough guide Europe tends to use the GSM 900 and 1800 bands as standard.0 Comments GSM frequency band usage The usage of the different frequency bands varies around the globe although there is a large degree of standardisation. the four major bands and thereby allowing global use. Typically most standard phones are dual-band phones.Uplink (MHz) 1785. it is necessary that the cellphones are able to cover the bands of the countries which are visited. GSM power class designations have been allocated to indicate the power capability of various mobiles. Africa.0 1850. The GSM frequencies available depend upon the regulatory requirements for the particular country and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) region in which the country is located. Middle east. GSM multiband phones In order that cell phone users are able to take advantage of the roaming facilities offered by GSM. 1800 and 1900 GSM frequencies. For Central and South America. particularly for urban areas with 850 MHz used as a backup in rural areas. 900. Also to group mobiles into groups. the GSM 850 and 1900 MHz frequency bands are the most widely used although there are some areas where other frequencies are used. For North America the USA uses both 850 and 1900 MHz bands. i. Quad band phones are also available covering the 850. To provide better roaming coverage. and also the levels of interference are reduced and performance of the basestation is not compromised by high power local mobiles. tri-band and quad-band phones are also available. 1800 and 1900 MHz GSM frequency bands. Asia and Oceania these would operate on GSM 900 and 1800 bands and for North America. In addition to this the power of the GSM mobiles is closely controlled so that the battery of the mobile is conserved.0 1900 1910. Similarly North America tri-band phones use the 900.e. . Today most phones support operation on multiple bands and are known as multi-band phones. Asia and Oceania. European triband phones typically cover the GSM 900.
overloading.5 dB at the lower levels. and also to preserve the battery life. In virtually all cases the increment between the different power level numbers is 2dB. The power level numbers vary according to the GSM band in use. Figures for the three main bands in use are given below: Power level number 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 39 37 35 33 31 29 27 25 23 21 19 17 15 13 11 9 7 5 GSM power level table for GSM 900 Power output level dBm .2 dB. At the maximum power levels they are typically required to be controlled to within +/. while not too high to reduce interference.GSM power levels The base station controls the power output of the mobile. A table of GSM power levels is defined. The accuracies required for GSM power control are relatively stringent. keeping the GSM power level sufficient to maintain a good signal to noise ratio. whereas this relaxes to +/. and the base station controls the power of the mobile by sending a GSM "power level" number. The mobile then adjusts its power accordingly.
Power level number Power output level dBm 29 36 30 34 31 32 0 30 1 28 2 26 3 24 4 22 5 20 6 18 7 16 8 14 9 12 10 10 11 8 12 6 13 4 14 2 15 0 GSM power level table for GSM 1800 Power level number 30 31 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 Power output level dBm 33 32 30 28 26 24 22 20 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 GSM power level table for GSM 1900 GSM Power class .
to ensure long battery life it should be as efficient as possible. These are then used by different logical channels to transfer information. these channels are separated into physical channels and logical channels. In order that the base station knows the maximum power level number that it can send to the mobile. the average power is an eighth of the maximum. In GSM. it is necessary for the base station to know the maximum power it can transmit.e. i. Again the GSM power classes vary according to the band in use. GSM Power Class Number GSM 900 GSM 1800 GSM 1900 Maximum power output 30 dBm / 1W 24 dBm / 250 mW 33 dBm / 2W 1 2 3 4 5 Power Maximum Power Maximum Power level power level power level number output number output number 30 dBm / PL0 PL0 1W 39dBm / 24 dBm/ PL2 PL3 PL3 8W 250 mW 37dBm / 36 dBm / PL3 PL29 PL30 5W 4W 33dBm / PL4 2W 29 dBm / PL5 800 mW GSM power amplifier design considerations One of the main considerations for the RF power amplifier design in any mobile phone is its efficiency. The Physical channels are determined by the timeslot. These channels may either be used for user data (payload) or signalling to enable the system to operate correctly. Common and dedicated channels . whereas the logical channels are determined by the information carried within the physical channel. This GSM power class number indicates to the base station the maximum power it can transmit and hence the maximum power level number the base station can instruct it to use. The RF power amplifier is one of the major current consumption areas.Not all mobiles have the same maximum power output level. for their allocated slot which is one of eight. GSM uses a variety of channels in which the data is carried. Accordingly. It can be further summarised by saying that several recurring timeslots on a carrier constitute a physical channel. This is achieved by allocating a GSM power class number to a mobile. It is also worth remembering that as mobiles may only transmit for one eighth of the time.
and the GSM system supports a number of specific audio codecs. Audio codecs or vocoders are universally used within the GSM system. location update.g.g.Full rate traffic channel. and those used for traffic. FACCHs .The channels may also be divided into common and dedicated channels. RACHMS .Half rate traffic channel. FACCHt . e. The dedicated channels are of two main types: those used for signalling. providing facilities such as handover when the call is in progress. e. responding to channel requests. The forward common channels are used for paging to inform a mobile of an incoming call.terminating call announcement. for describing the current control channel structure. etc.Acknowledge channel requests from MS and allocate a SDCCH. handover of an eightrate channel.TCH in-band signalling. AGCH .Synchronisation of the MSs.e. the digitised speech would occupy a much wider bandwidth then would be available. Without the use of a speech codec. e. registration / location updates. e. The traffic channels handle the actual payload. using a "SDCCH-like" channel for other purposes than signalling).For time critical signalling over the TCH (e. and AMR codecs. The following logical channels are defined in GSM: TCHf . SACCHt . TCH h .g. The return common channel is a random access channel used by the mobile to request channel resources before timing information is conveyed by the BSS. half rate. They reduce the bit rate of speech that has been converted from its analogue for into a digital format to enable it to be carried within the available bandwidth for the channel. and broadcasting bulletin board information. . PCHMS . FCHMS .FACCH for the SDCCH. The signalling channels are used for maintenance of the call and for enabling call set up. The SDCCH burst is stolen for a full signalling burst. for handover signalling).g.frequency correction. BCCH . Function not clear in the present version of GSM (could be used for e. SCH . and finally terminating the call.For signalling exchanges. during call setup. for link monitoring. These include the RPE-LPC. The performance of each voice codec is different and they may be used under different conditions.g. although the AMR codec is now the most widely used. Traffic burst is stolen for a full signalling burst. Accordingly GSM codecs are a particularly important element in the overall system.Broadcast Network information. i.SDCCH in-band signalling. The BCCH is a point-to-multipoint channel (BSS-to-MS). A variety of different forms of audio codec or vocoder are available for general use. SACCHs .access requests.g. response to call announcement. for link monitoring. SDCCH .
Obviously the focus here is on GSM audio codecs or vocoders. Vocoder / codec basics Vocoders or speech codecs are used within many areas of voice communications. other newer speech codecs being preferred and offering far superior performance. Even where signals with many non-harmonically related signals are used it is possible for voice codecs to give very large levels of compression. VSELP codec: The VSELP or Vector Sum Excitation Linear Prediction codec. To meet the requirements of the codec system. The basic principle of the CELP codec has been developed and used as the basis of other voice codecs including ACELP. ACELP codec: The ACELP or Algebraic Code Excited Linear Prediction codec. The main principle behind the CELP codec is that is uses a principle known as "Analysis by Synthesis". the speech must be captured at a high enough sample rate and resolution to allow clear reproduction of the original sound. VSELP. It must then be compressed in such a way as to maintain the fidelity of the audio over a limited bit rate. As bandwidth is normally limited in any communications system. In this process. Audio codecs or vocoders can use a variety of techniques. In many ways this can be likened to a mathematical modelling of the human vocal tract. Once through the channel it can then be expanded to regenerate the audio in a fashion that is as close to the original as possible. One of the major drawbacks of the VSELP codec is its limited ability to code non-speech sounds.Voice codec technology has advanced by considerable degrees in recent years as a result of the increasing processing power available. As such the CELP codec methodology is now the most widely used speech coding algorithm. As a result this voice codec is not now as widely used. However the ACELP codec codebooks have a specific algebraic structure as indicated by the name. This has meant that the voice codecs used in the GSM system have large improvements since the first GSM phones were introduced. • • . error-prone wireless transmission channel. etc. it is necessary to compress the data to send it through the available channel. the encoding is performed by perceptually optimising the decoded signal in a closed loop system. To achieve this the spectral envelope of the signal is estimated using a filter technique. Accordingly CELP is now used as a generic term for a particular class of vocoders or speech codecs and not a particular codec. A variety of different codec methodologies are used for GSM codecs: • CELP: The CELP or Code Excited Linear Prediction codec is a vocoder algorithm that was originally proposed in 1985 and gave a significant improvement over other voice codecs of the day. This means that it performs poorly in the presence of noise. but the same principles apply to any form of codec. RCELP. The ACELP codec or vocoder algorithm is a development of the CELP model. If speech were digitised in a linear fashion it would require a high data rate that would occupy a very wide bandwidth. but many modern audio codecs use a technique known as linear prediction. One way in which this could be achieved is to compare a variety of generated bit streams and choose the one that produces the best sounding signal.
The half rate codec was introduced in the early years of GSM but gave a much inferior voice quality when compared to . To enable this facility to be used a half rate codec must be used.6 12. It became possible as the processing power that was available increased in mobile phones as a result of higher levels of processing power combined with their lower current consumption. Multi Pulse Excited LPC. The basic scheme is related to two previous speech codecs. but its performance is limited by the tonal noise produced by the system.. as technology developed further. The advantages of RELP are the relatively low complexity resulting from the use of baseband coding. Although some of the early audio codecs are not as widely used these days. The speech codec is based upon the regular pulse excitation LPC with long term prediction. Despite the work that was undertaken to provide the optimum performance. GSM Half Rate codec The GSM standard allows the splitting of a single full rate voice channel into two subchannels that can maintain separate calls. This new codec gave much better sound quality and was adopted by GSM. Residual Excited Linear Prediction and to the MPE-LPC.GSM audio codecs / vocoders A variety of GSM audio codecs / vocoders are supported. they are still described here as they form part of the GSM system.Linear Predictive Coder. Codec name Full rate EFR Half rate AMR Bit rate (kbps) 13 12. and have different levels of performance. these were incorporated into the system.4. the RPE-LPC codec was viewed as offering a poor level of voice quality. namely: RELP. As other full rate audio codecs became available.Enhanced Full Rate codec Later another vocoder called the Enhanced Full Rate (EFR) vocoder was added in response to the poor quality perceived by the users of the original RPE-LPC codec. GSM EFR .2 5. The MPE-LPC is more complex but provides a better level of performance. The RPELPC codec provided a compromise between the two.2 . By doing this. Using the ACELP compression technology it gave a significant improvement in quality over the original LPC-RPE encoder. These have been introduced at different times. network operators can double the number of voice calls that can be handled by the network with very little additional investment. This form of voice codec was the first speech codec used with GSM and it chosen after tests were undertaken to compare it with other codec schemes of the day. balancing performance and complexity for the technology of the time.75 Compression technology RTE-LPC ACELP VSELP ACELP GSM Full Rate / RPE-LPC codec The RPE-LPC or Regular Pulse Excited .
2 AMR 7. GSM AMR Codec The AMR.15 4. This is achieved by reducing the source coding and increasing the channel coding. Although there is a reduction in voice clarity. However it gave advantages when demand was high and network capacity was at a premium. This allows the speech codec to operate in a manner that provides the optimum quality. Discontinuous transmission is employed so that when there is no speech activity the transmission is cut. This is added locally at the receiver. but in view of the perceived poor quality. Additionally to provide the feedback for the user that the connection is still present. Adaptive Multi-rate codec is now the most widely used GSM codec. The use of the AMR codec also requires that optimized link adaptation is used so that the optimum data rate is selected to meet the requirements of the current radio channel conditions including its signal to noise ratio and capacity. This includes a 100 bps data rate for a mode indicator which details whether the system believes the frames contain voice data or not.2 AMR 10.6 kbps. Mode AMR 12. The bit rates are based on frames that are 20 millisceonds long and contain 160 samples. However network operators are able to prioritise each station for either quality or capacity.90 AMR 5. The AMR codec has a total of eight rates: eight are available at full rate (FR).2 10. This gives a total of fourteen different modes. Improvement levels of between 4 and 6 dB may be experienced. even when no speech data is being transmitted.95 7. The GSM Half Rate codec uses a VSELP codec algorithm.90 5.75 Bit rate (kbps) 12.75 Full Rate (FR) / Half rate (HR) FR FR FR / HR FR / HR FR / HR FR / HR FR / HR FR / HR AMR codec data rates . It codes the data around 20 ms frames each carrying 112 bits to give a data rate of 5.15 AMR 4.95 AMR 7. Additionally Voice Activity Detection (VAD) is used to indicate when there is only background noise and no speech. The Half Rate codec system was introduced in the 1990s. while six are available at half rate (HR).other speech codecs.40 6. The AMR codec uses a variety of different techniques to provide the data compression. it was not widely used. The AMR codec was adopted by 3GPP in October 1988 and it is used for both GSM and circuit switched UMTS / WCDMA voice calls. a Comfort Noise Generator (CNG) is used to provide some background noise. The ACELP codec is used as the basis of the overall speech codec. but other techniques are used in addition to this. the network connection is more robust and the link is maintained without dropout.70 5. The AMR codec provides a variety of options for one of eight different bit rates as described in the table below.40 AMR 6.70 AMR 5.2 7.
Long Term Evolution which uses an all IP based system. Although with newer technologies such as LTE. although some of the GSM codecs that are in use today will be superseded. Requirements for GSM handover The process of handover or handoff within any cellular system is of great importance. Dropped calls are particularly annoying to users and if the number of dropped calls rises. For this the handover is controlled by the MSC. is that the system is split into many small cells to provide good frequency re-use and coverage. Inter-BTS Intra BSC handover: This for of GSM handover or GSM handoff occurs when the mobile moves out of the coverage area of one BTS but into another controlled by the same BSC. The process by which this occurs is known as handover or handoff. the mobile remains attached to the same base station transceiver. In this form of GSM handover. However as the mobile moves out of one cell to another it must be possible to retain the connection. Inter-MSC handover: This form of handover occurs when changing between networks. It is a critical process and if performed incorrectly handover can result in the loss of the call. a more involved form of handover has to be performed. customer dissatisfaction increases and they are likely to change to another network. but changes the channel or slot. The term handover is more widely used within Europe. EFR codec and the GSM half rate codec to the AMR codec which is now the most widely used and provides a variable rate that can be tailored to the individual conditions. handover and handoff are the same process. or other reasons. The two MSCs involved negotiate to control the handover. In this instance the BSC is able to perform the handover and it assigns a new channel and slot to the mobile. Accordingly GSM handover was an area to which particular attention was paid when developing the standard. whereas handoff tends to be use more in North America. the idea of a codec will still be used. handing over not only from one BTS to another but one BSC to another. • • • . Types of GSM handover Within the GSM system there are four types of handover that can be performed for GSM only systems: • Intra-BTS handover: This form of GSM handover occurs if it is required to change the frequency or slot being used by a mobile because of interference. Either way. Inter-BSC handover: When the mobile moves out of the range of cells controlled by one BSC. Starting with the original RTE-LPC speech codec and then moving through the Enhanced Full Rate.GSM codecs summary There has been a considerable improvement in the GSM audio codecs that have been in use. One of the key elements of a mobile phone or cellular telecommunications system. before releasing the old BTS from communicating with the mobile. codecs are still used to provide data compression and improved spectral efficiency.
GSM handover process Although there are several forms of GSM handover as detailed above. This is not the case because during the slots in which it is not communicating with the BTS. It informs the BTS and the mobile of the change. Time offset between synchronised old and new BTS: In some instances there may be a time offset between the old and new BTS. There are a number of possible scenarios that may occur dependent upon the level of synchronisation. As a result it has all the information it needs to be able to make a decision about whether it needs to hand the mobile over from one BTS to another. If the network decides that it is necessary for the mobile to hand over. There are a number of stages involved in undertaking a GSM handover from one cell or base station to another. When handovers of this nature are required. The mobile may optionally transmit four access bursts. it is . It also knows the availability of channels in the nearby cells. it assigns a new channel and time slot to the mobile. These are shorter than the standard bursts and thereby any effects of poor synchronisation do not cause overlap with other bursts. • Old and new BTSs synchronised: In this case the mobile is given details of the new physical channel in the neighbouring cell and handed directly over. i. the mobile transmits 64 access bursts on the new channel. Often the 2G GSM coverage will be better then the others and GSM is often used as the fallback. In addition to this. there is the need to handover from one technology to another. and similarly the receiver only receives for one slot in eight.e. However in this instance where synchronisation is already good. The network knows the quality of the link between the mobile and the BTS as well as the strength of local BTSs as reported back by the mobile. In this case. This enables the base station to determine and adjust the timing for the mobile so that it can suitably access the new BTS. as far as the mobile is concerned. In GSM which uses TDMA techniques the transmitter only transmits for one slot in eight. As a result the RF section of the mobile could be idle for 6 slots out of the total eight. when the mobile communicates with a particular BTS. these bursts are only used to provide a fine adjustment. • • Inter-system handover With the evolution of standards and the migration of GSM to other 2G technologies including to 3G UMTS / WCDMA as well as HSPA and then LTE. in an idle period. Non-synchronised handover: When a non-synchronised cell handover takes place. This enables the mobile to re-establish the connection through the new BTS with the correct timing. The mobile scans these and reports back the quality of the link to the BTS. one of the responses it makes is to send out a list of the radio channels of the beacon frequencies of neighbouring BTSs via the Broadcast Channel (BCCH). they are effectively seen as very similar. The mobile then retunes during the period it is not transmitting or receiving. the time offset is provided so that the mobile can make the adjustment. The GSM handover then takes place as a standard synchronised handover. In this way the mobile assists in the handover decision and as a result this form of GSM handover is known as Mobile Assisted Hand Over (MAHO). it scans the other radio channels looking for beacon frequencies that may be stronger or more suitable. A key element of the GSM handover is timing and synchronisation.
Having selected a suitable base station the handover takes place.considerably more complicated than a straightforward only GSM handover because they require two technically very different systems to handle the handover. Handover from GSM to UMTS / WCDMA: This form of handover is supported within GSM and a "neighbour list" was established to enable this occur easily. etc of the mobile for the new cell. gains timing synchronisation and then carries out non-synchronised intercell handover. As a result it is normally one of the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) used by operators to monitor performance. As the GSM / 2G network is normally more extensive than the 3G network. In this way they can reduce what is called "churn" where users change from one network to another. The most common form of intersystem handover is between GSM and UMTS / WCDMA. o Compressed mode handover: using this form of handover the mobile uses the gaps I transmission that occur to analyse the reception of local GSM base stations using the neighbour list to select suitable candidate base stations. The neighbour list will inform the mobile when this may happen. again without any time synchronisation having occurred. These handovers may be called intersystem handovers or inter-RAT handovers as the handover occurs between different radio access technologies. Here there are two different types: • UMTS / WCDMA to GSM handover: There are two further divisions of this category of handover: o Blind handover: This form of handover occurs when the base station hands off the mobile by passing it the details of the new cell to the mobile without linking to it and setting the timing. this type of handover does not normally occur when the mobile leaves a coverage area and must quickly find a new base station to maintain contact. Poor handover or handoff performance will normally result in dropped calls. Accordingly network operators develop and maintain their networks to ensure that an acceptable performance is achieved. The mobile first locates the broadcast channel of the new cell. • Summary GSM handover is one of the major elements in performance that users will notice. In this mode. the network selects what it believes to be the optimum GSM based station. . and users find this particularly annoying. The handover from GSM to UMTS occurs to provide an improvement in performance and can normally take place only when the conditions are right.
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