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Jeroen Wigard', Thomas Toftegaard Nielsen', Per Henrik Michaelsen', Sgren Skjaerris" and Preben Mogensen'
* Center for PersonKommunikation
Frederik Bajers Vej 7 - A6, DK-9220 Aalborg ast, Denmark
E-mail: jw @
** Danish GSM operator SONOFON, Skelagervej 1,9100 Aalborg, Denmark.
Abstract - Discontinuous transmission (DTX) is a operators usually evaluate the quality of the network by
feature which has been reported to give about 2,5 dB the fraction of the RXQUAL values, which is called bad-
gain in C/I performance. However in real live, RXQUAL. RXQUAL is the parameter in GSM, which
network operators, who switch on DTX, often represents the estimated quality, in terms of bit-enor-rate
experience a loss in performance. They measure the (BER) before decoding [2]. RXQUAL can take 8 discrete
performance by the RXQUAL distribution. RXQUAL values, each describing the average raw BER (over a
is a quality parameter in GSM, which directly related period of 0.48 sec.) before decoding. RXQUAL 7 is the
to the estimated BER before decoding. In non DTX worst quality (BER > 12,8%), while an RXQUAL value
mode the estimated BER is based on 100 bursts equal to 0 means that the BERc0.296. The values and the
within 0.48 sec, while in DTX mode the BER estimate corresponding BER can be seen in Table 1.
is based on only 12 bursts within the same period. Table 1 RXQUAL values and comspondhg BER.
One way of estimation the BER, and its inaccuracies,
has been studied in this paper. It is also explained why RXQUAL I BER ! Assumed value
the quality in a network, where DTX is turned on, 0 I c 0.2% i 0.14%
seems to decrease. Real live measurements and 1 0.2% -0.4% f 0.28%
simulation results are shown. 2 I 0.4% -0.8% f 0.57%
1 ~MTnODVCTIOM .. 3 I -
0.8% 1.6% 1.13%
The level of interference and the trunking efficiency -
1.6% 3.2% ! 2.26%
determine the capacity of a cellular radio system. The 3.2% -6.4% i 4.53%
trend is to go to lower reuses, which means that trunking -
6.4% 12.8% 'i 9.05%
efficiency is less of a problem as interference. An > 12.8% ! 18.1%
effective way of decreasing the interference and thus
increasing the quality/capacity is switching the Usually RXQUAL 6 and 7 are used as bad-RXQUAL
transmitter off when speech is not present. This is known when frequency hopping is used. In this article the
as discontinuous transmission (DTX). In a normal inaccuracies of DTX are studied and it is tried to give an
conversation, each person speaks, on average, for less explanation of the increase in bad RXQUAL values.
than 50% of the time.
Section 2 describes DTX in GSM, including the
Results from simulation of DTX mode has shown a linear measurement aspects. In section 3 the accuracy of one
proportionality between the DTX factor and the method of estimation of the BER is studied with the help
improvement in CIR, when combined with random of a link simulator. Section 4 and 5 contain respectively
frequency hopping (FH) [I]. This implies that a DTX the network simulation setup and results. In section 6
factor of 0.5 gives an interference reduction of some measurements from a live network can be found.
approximately 3 dB if disregarding the SACCH and noise
description frame - otherwise 2.5 dB. 2 DI~COIWIZWOIJ~ Tit&lr8HI88Iolr I H 6811

The gain from DTX is invariant to the network load and When a mobile station is not in DTX mode its sends and
location of the mobile stations, which is the case for receives 100 TDMA bursts per SACCH multiframe (0.48
power control. Therefore the interference reduction gain sec.), which can be used for estimation of the RXQUAL
from downlink DTX may be included in the frequency (4 idle bursts) [2]. When a mobile station is in DTX
planning with less caution than power control. mode, i.e. there is not being spoken, only 12 TDMA
Uplink DTX has like uplink power control also the bursts are sent in 480 msec. Figure 1 shows burst
second aim of conserve battery power in the mobile transmission in DTX mode.
station. Uplink DTX is widely used, whereas only a few
network operators use downlink DTX.
When network operators turn on DTX in their network,
the experience has not been very good. Network

Figure 2 shows one way of estimating the BER. A is the
O 5
4 b
frame, which has been transmitted through a radio
channel and which has deinterleaved, but not yet
decoded. If this frame is compared to the original
480 m s encoded frame (B), we get the actual BER before
Fiqure ISchematic time-power diagram of a SACCH decoding, called real BER. The estimated BER is found
multaame in DTX mode t31. by encoding the received frame after it has been decoded
and then comparing it to A, i.e. comparing A and C. C is
Speech detection is carried out at the transmitting end by the estimate of B . If all the errors in A can be corrected by
a voice activity defector (VAD), which distinguishes the decoder, C will be the same as B, so the estimated
between speech superimposed on environmental noise BER is the same as the real BER. However if there are
and noise without speech being present. The output of the still errors after the decoding, the estimated and real BER
VAD is used to control the transmitter switch. If the VAD might differ.
fails to detect every speech event, then the transmitted .........................................................................
speech will be degraded due to clipping. On the other i A
hand, if the VAD identifies noise as speech often, then B
the effectiveness of DTX is diminished. Both of these
result in degraded performance [4].
At the receiving end, the background acoustic noise
abruptly disappears whenever the radio transmitter is
switched off. Since switching can take place rapidly, it
has been found that this noise switching can be very
annoying. In very bad cases the noise modulation greatly
ideooder estimated BER i
reduces the intelligibility of the speech. This problem can A: transmitted erroneous frame aAer channel (456 bits)
be overcome by generating at the receiver a synthetic 8: original encoded frame (456 bits)
signal known as ‘comfort noise’ inserted at the receiver C: estimate of B (456 bits)
whenever the transmitter is switched off. If the comfort
Figure 1 The studied method of estimating the BER
noise characterizes are well matched to those of the
before decoding
transmitted noise, the gaps between talkspurts can be
filled in such a way that the listener does not notice the Other methods of estimating the BER and RXQUAL
switching during the conversation. Since the noise exist, but they are not being considered in this article.
constantly changes, the comfort noise generator should Since an RXQUAL value is calculated for every SACCH
be updated constantly [ 5 ] . multiframe, the BER is estimated over 100 TDMA bursts
From the 12 bursts, which are sent in DTX mode 4 are in case of not being in DTX mode and 12 TDMA bursts
the SACCH frame, which is being used signaling The 8 if in DTX mode. The first is called RXQUAL-FULL and
others contain the silence descriptor frame (SID frame) the second RXQUAL-SUB. In the power control and
refreshing the comfort noise characteristics. handover algorithm these two different quality measures
can be weighted differently.
Figure 3 and Figure 4 show the difference between the real
As mentioned in the previous section RXQUAL is the
BER and the estimated BER as function of the real BER
quality measure, which is being used in GSM. It is
respectively in case of being not in DTX mode and in
measured by mobile station for the downlink and by the
DTX mode. A GSM linksimulator has been used to
base station for the uplink. The estimated RXQUAL
generate the results. Each of the operations in the GSM
values can be averaged before they are used in the power
transmission path including a fading radio channel and
control and handover algorithm.
thermal noise (white Gaussian) is included. A typical
The estimation is done by evaluating the BER before urban channel (TU) [6] with speed of 50 k m h has been
decoding over a SACCH multiframe (0.48 sec) and then used with random hopping over 8 uncorrelated
maps the value over to an RXQUAL in the way, which frequencies. Every point in the DTX mode case is
was shown in Table 1. The way the BER is estimated is averaged over 12 bursts, while 100 bursts are used in the
not specified by the GSM Recommendations, but is free non DTX mode case.
to implement in any way, as long as the accuracy’s of [2]
are fulfilled.

lower, since some errors of B are also present in C, so
they are not detected.
iz 25 Sometimes however the error will be negative, especially
for a high real BER. This is due to the fact that the error
ti 2o
patterns become more random. No negative error can be
8Q l6 10
seen in the case of non DTX mode, since there the
averaging over 100 burst removes this, while when
? 5
a averaging over 12 burst, some negative values still exist.
m o This gives that the reported RXQUAL value can be better
2.5 than the actual situation. However if the real RXQUAL is
compared to the estimated RXQUAL (based on the
0.1 1 10 100 estimate BER), then it is found that only a small
R m l BER (%) percentage of the values differ. The difference is never
more than 1 RXQUAL value. When compared to the
Figure 3 Eiror of estbated BER as funclkm of the real specifications[2], this means that the specifications are
BER in case of not being in DlXmode. 100% fulfilled.
25 The network simulator ‘CAPACITY’ was used to find the
2 20 relation between RXQUAL-SUB and RXQUAL-FULL.
m ‘CAPACITY’ has been developed in order to measure
P 15
s both the performance and the capacity of a frequency
z 10 hopping GSM network. It is able to simulate the factors
. 5 that affect the performance of the GSM network, like
frequency hopping, DTX, and power control and returns
the quality experienced by each individual mobile station
b; 4
of every single frame (0.48 seconds) at a given system
-to load. The most important quality measures, which can be
0.1 1 10 100
extracted are the CII, BER, FER, RXQUAL, number of
R o l l BER (%)
blocked new calls and blocked handovers attempts.
Figure 4 Error of estimated BER as functbn of the real In the simulations, both Rayleigh and shadow fading are
BER in case of being in DTX mode. included. The log-normal fading is correlated over 110 m.
and has a standard deviation oa of 6 dB (for urban area).
It can be seen that the estimation error is highest for high For each SACCH multi frame, measurements are
real BER and for the DTX mode case compared to the performed on 100 bursts. For burst measurements, the
non DTX mode case, i.e. the variance in the DTX mode time resolution is set to 4.615 ms, corresponding to one
is higher than when DTX is not active. The reason for TDMA burst.
this is the lower number of bursts, which can be used for
the estimation. The power control algorithm in the simulator tries to
minimize the base station output power, while
The estimation error is not symmetric. The average maintaining a minimum quality and a minimum received
estimation error is positive. In the non DTX mode there signal level at the mobile station.
are no negative points at all, while also in DTX mode the
error is clearly more positive than negative. This means The mobile stations are initialized at a random place in
that the estimated BER is lower than the real BER. the network and they move with a constant speed in a
randomly chosen direction. In each simulation, at least
An explanation can be found when looking to Figure 2. 3000 mobile connections are simulated. The presented
As long as all errors in A are corrected in the decoder, no results are the results of downlink simulations.
estimation error will be made. However if there still are
errors after the decoder, this will introduce errors in C. The RXQUAL estimate in the simulator is 100%
These errors are not just errors on random places, since accurate, so no inaccuracies are introduced. To find the
the error patterns in B and C are quite correlated. If the relation between RXQUAL-FULL and RXQUAL-SUB
first 10 bits of B are corrupted and the decoder can only both values where estimated parallel. The RXQUAL-
correct 5 of them, then it is very likely that there are some FULL values then were used for the handover and power
errors in the first 10 bits in C. The estimated BER will be control algorithm, so the simulation was run without

Two different networks were simulated, a 113 and a 319 1
reused network. The network load in the simulations was fi~~%~=j)=Cfim=
j l m = f i f i m = G
respectively 23% and 68%. The simulation parameters i=O
can be seen in Table 2. where P(SUB=j) is the probability of a RXQUAL-SUB
Table 2 Summary of h e siinulationparameters in the value being j , P(FULL= i) the corresponding probability
dynamic simulations of a RXQUAL-FULL value to be equal to i and P(S[IB=j
_____ ~~

I FULL=i) is the probability of RXQUAL-SUB being j ,

Path loss L,= 35 log d while the RXQUAL-FULL value is equal to i. Figure 6
Shadow fading standard deviation 6dB
the estimated conditional probability of RXQUAL-SUB
Shadow fading correlation distance lleat110m
for different RXQUAL-FULL values (P(SUB=j I FULL=i
Call mean hold time 80 s (exponential distribution) )), which were found from the 113 reuse simulation
Mobile velocity 3 km/h results.
Cell radius 2km
A remarkable thing can be seen. The top of a certain
Max. effective B S output power 34 dBm
estimated probability distribution of the RXQUAL-SUB
Min. effective BS output power 4 dBm
does not necessarily lie at the value of the RXQUAL-
Antennas 90 ' sectorized
FULL value. For if there is looked at the estimated
Frequency hopping algorithm random hopping
conditional probability (P(SUB=j I FULL=4 )), then it
Handover based on quality, signal level
can be seen that its top lies at 5 , while also a value of 0 is
and interference
very likely to occur. In other words, when the actual
Power control both level and quality
value is equal to RXQUAL 4, then it will happen often
5 WlrTWORK 8IMlJLAFIOM Rlr8VLT8 that the reported RXQUAL-SUB value is equal to 5 or
Figure 5 shows the simulation results. The distribution of even 0.
RXQUAL-FULL and RXQUAL-SUB is shown for the
1/3 and 3/9 reused networks. It can be seen that, while the
network is exactly the same for SUB and FULL
RXQUAL values, the distribution changes. More
RXQUAL values equal to zero and more RXQUAL
values 5,6 and 7 occur, when DTX is turned on. The sum
of RXQUAL 6 and 7 rises in the 113 case from 8.2% to
1196, while in the 3/9 case the increase goes from 3.9% to
6.04.In other words the amount of bad RXQUAL values
can very well nearly double, while the quality is exactly
the same. The change is singely caused by the higher
variance of the RXQUAL-SUB. 0 1 2 3 4 6 a 1

80.00% 1
. 2 0 00%

Figure 6 The estimated conditional probability of
RXQUAL-SUBfor diffeerent RXQUAL-FULL values.

The fact that RXQUAL equal to zero often will occur is
caused by the fact that there are a lot of RXQUAL zero's
totally, so by the chance that the BER in the 12 burst is
very low, even though the average BER over 100 bursts
:: ia
corresponds to a higher RXQUAL value, is quite high.
The spread around the actual RXQUAL value is caused
20.00% 0.00% by the higher variance.
0 1 2 3 4 5 0 7
nxauu 6 MEA8URlrMlrNT8
Figure 7 shows the distribution of downlink RXQUAL
Figura 5 The SUB and FULL RXQUAL distriButkm from
CAPACITY for a 1/3and a 3Y9 reused netwotk. based on 12 bursts (SUB) and the RXQUAL based on
100 bursts (FULL) of two cells in the live Sonofon GSM
The distribution of RXQUAL-SUB values can be network in Denmark. No DTX was used in these cells,
calculated by: but in GSM both the RXQUAL-SUB and RXQUAL-
FULL are reported all the time so then can directly be
compared to each other. Power control was used.

7 CowcLasro~s
80.00% 18.00%

2 7DJOY 18.004: Z Network operators experience a loss in quality when they
a .....................................................
14.00% turn on DTX in the network, if they evaluate the network
12.00% by the sum of the worst RXQUAL values. In DTX mode
68 50.00% .................................................. 10.Owc E a RXQUAL value is based on the estimated BER over 12
’1 40.00% ....................................
*.Oox ’f!!
bursts (RXQUAL-SUB), where it is based on 100 bursts,
when in non DTX mode (RXQUAL-FULL).
1 90.00%
2,0696 2 In this paper is shown that this is not caused by the BER
20.00% o,oo96 estimation, but by the higher variance of the RXQUAL-
0 1 2 9 4 5 6 7 SUB values compared to the RXQUAL -FULL values.
An estimation method has been studied and it was shown
~ i g u r e7 The downlink SUB and FULL RXQUAL that, though the actual estimated BER is on average a bit
distribution of two cells in a live network. lower than the actual BER, the accuracy was very good.
Network simulations showed that the higher variance
If compared to the results in Figure 5 it can be seen that causes the fact that the RXQUAL-SUB values are more
the absolute distributions are a bit different. This is due to spread to the lower and higher values, if compared to the
the fact that the networks differ in frequency plan, RXQUAL-FULL values. So while the network actually
environment, power control and handover settings and so gets better with DTX, it can not be seen by looking at the
on. As in the simulations it can be noticed that more bad RXQUAL values, since they are made worse by DTX.
RXQUAL values equal to zero occur and more RXQUAL
values 5,6 and 7, when DTX is turned on. ACKNOWLEDGMENT
A network operator often will think that the network has We would like to thank Nokia Telecommunications
become worse since the RXQ UAL-bad percentage (the Finland and Sonofon Denmark for co-sponsoring the
percentage RXQUAL values 6 and 7) has increased. I n presented work.
cell 1 it increases from 1.15% to 1.81%. while the LSTILRAWJRS
increase in cell 2 goes from 0.95% to 1.45%. Ail this
while the network is exactly the same. [I] Johansen I. and Vejlgaard B., Capacity Analysis of a
Frequency Hopping GSM System. M.Sc.E,E. Thesis
This is caused by the variance in reported values becomes Report, Aalborg University, June 1995.
higher in DTX mode, since only 12 burst are used instead
of 100. [2] GSM Recommendations 05.08, Radio Subsystem Link
Control, ETSI, 1994.
(00% ,”.................................................. ~~ ..................................................... 131 European Radiocommunications Office (ERO), Final
Document for the ER0 Workshop on Traffic Loading
and Efficient Spectrum Use, 1998.
ETSI Section 6.12, Comfort Noise Aspect for Full Rate
Speech Traffic Channels, January 1993.
Asha Mehrotra, GSM System Engineering, Artech
House, Boston, 1997.
GSM Recommendations 05.05, Radio Transmission and
Reception, March 1995.

Figure 0 The estimated cond7tional pmbabillity of

RXQUAL-SUBfor difetent RXQUAL-FULL values.
Figure 8 shows the conditional probabilities for the SUB
values. Just as in the simulation results it can be seen that
the probability of having a RXQUAL SUB values equal
to zero occurs relatively often. Also can be seen that the
RXQUAL-SUB values are spread out around the actual