3) Basics of GSM

The first generations of cellular phones were analog, but the current generation is digital, using packet radio. Digital transmission has several advantages over analog for mobile communication. First, voice, data and fax, can be integrated in to a single system. Second, as better speech compression algorithms are discovered, less bandwidth will be needed per channel. Third, error correcting codes can be used to improve transmission quality. Finally, digital signals can be encrypted for security. Although it might have been nice if the whole world had adopted the same digital standard, such is not the case. The US system, IS-54, and the Japanese system, JDC, have been designed to be compatible with each country’s existing analog system, so each AMPS channel could be used either for analog or digital communication. In contrast the European digital system, GSM (global system for mobile communication) has been designed from scratch as a fully digital system, without any compromises for the sake of backward compatibility. GSM is currently in use in over 100 countries, inside and outside Europe, and thus serves as an example of digital cellular radio.GSM was originally designed for use in the 900 MHz band. Later, frequencies were allocated at 1800 MHz, and the second system, closely patterned on GSM, was setup there. The later is called DCS 1800, but it is essentially GSM. A GSM system has up to a maximum of 200 full duplex channels per cell. Each cell consists of a downlink frequency (from base station to mobile station) and uplink frequency (from mobile station to base station). Each frequency band is 200 KHz wide.

From the beginning, the planners of GSM wanted ISDN compatibility in terms of the services offered and the control signaling used. However, radio transmission limitations, in terms of 29

The GSM network can be divided into three broad parts. such as X. teleservices.bandwidth and cost. ISDN. Packet Switched Public Data Networks. GSM users can send and receive data. Using the ITU-T definitions. and an acknowledgement of receipt is provided to the sender. as described in ITU-T recommendation T.25 or X. a modem is not required between the user and GSM network. not found in older analog systems. they include several forms of call forward (such as call forwarding when the mobile subscriber is unreachable by the network). the main part of which is the Mobile services Switching Center (MSC). Other data services include Group 3 facsimile.Supplementary services are provided on top of teleservices or bearer services. speech is digitally encoded and transmitted through the GSM network as a digital stream. SMS can also be used in a cellbroadcast mode. do not allow the standard ISDN B-channel bit rate of 64 kbps to be practically achieved. A variety of data services is offered. ARCHITECTURE OF THE GSM NETWORK A GSM network is composed of several functional entities. A unique feature of GSM. The Network Subsystem. which is supported by use of an appropriate fax adaptor. The most basic teleservice supported by GSM is telephony. and Circuit Switched Public Data Networks using a variety of access methods and protocols. Messages can also be stored in the SIM card for later retrieval . The Base Station Subsystem controls the radio link with the Mobile Station. whose functions and interfaces are specified. For point-to-point SMS. The Mobile Station is carried by the subscriber. Since GSM is a digital network. In the current (Phase I) specifications. where the nearest emergency-service provider is notified by dialing three digits (similar to 911). Figure 1 shows the layout of a generic GSM network. SMS is a bidirectional service for short alphanumeric (up to 160 bytes) messages. and supplementary services. to users on POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service). performs the switching of calls 30 . for example when roaming in another country. although an audio modem is required inside the GSM network to interwork with POTS. Messages are transported in a store-and-forward fashion. a message can be sent to another subscriber to the service. at rates up to 9600 bps.32. telecommunication services can be divided into bearer services. and call barring of outgoing or incoming calls. is the Short Message Service (SMS). As with all other communications. for sending messages such as traffic updates or news updates. There is also an emergency service.30.

which oversees the proper operation and setup of the network. The Base Station Subsystem communicates with the Mobile services Switching Center across the A interface. and between mobile and fixed network users. The SIM provides personal mobility. the user is able to receive calls at that terminal.between the mobile users. The Mobile Station and the Base Station Subsystem communicate across the Um interface. By inserting the SIM card into another GSM terminal. The MSC also handles the mobility management operations. Not shown is the Operations and Maintenance Center. The mobile equipment is uniquely identified by the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). make calls from that terminal. so that the user can have access to subscribed services irrespective of a specific terminal. and receive other subscribed services. also known as the air interface or radio link. General architecture of a GSM network MOBILE STATION The mobile station (MS) consists of the mobile equipment (the terminal) and a smart card called the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). The SIM card contains the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) used to 30 .

These services are provided in conjunction with several functional entities. The Home Location Register (HLR) and Visitor Location Register (VLR). 30 . and call routing to a roaming subscriber. together with the MSC. and additionally provides all the functionality needed to handle a mobile subscriber. portability. handovers. These communicate across the standardized Abis interface. provide the call-routing and roaming capabilities of GSM. authentication. as described below. there will potentially be a large number of BTSs deployed. thus the requirements for a BTS are ruggedness. NETWORK SUBSYSTEM The central component of the Network Subsystem is the Mobile services Switching Center (MSC). which together form the Network Subsystem. and minimum cost. The SIM card may be protected against unauthorized use by a password or personal identity number. frequency hopping. It acts like a normal switching node of the PSTN or ISDN. The Base Transceiver Station houses the radio transceivers that define a cell and handles the radio-link protocols with the Mobile Station. It handles radio-channel setup. a secret key for authentication. and other information. and handovers. such as registration. In a large urban area.identify the subscriber to the system. The BSC is the connection between the mobile station and the Mobile service Switching Center (MSC). reliability. allowing operation between components made by different suppliers. The IMEI and the IMSI are independent. thereby allowing personal mobility. The Base Station Controller manages the radio resources for one or more BTSs. Signaling between functional entities in the Network Subsystem uses Signaling System Number 7 (SS7). the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) and the Base Station Controller (BSC). used for trunk signaling in ISDN and widely used in current public networks. The MSC provides the connection to the fixed networks (such as the PSTN or ISDN). BASE STATION SUBSYSTEM The Base Station Subsystem is composed of two parts. location updating.

but growth considerations are prompting carriers to consider multiple HLR topologies. The actual routing procedure will be described later. The HLR handles SS7 transactions with both Mobile Switching Centers (MSCs) and VLR nodes. There is logically one HLR per GSM network. HLR subscriber information includes the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI). The HLR also initiates transactions with VLRs to complete incoming calls and to update subscriber data. although it may be implemented as a distributed database. service subscription information. . which either request information from the HLR or update the information contained within the HLR. 30 . The location of the mobile is typically in the form of the signaling address of the VLR associated with the mobile station.HOME LOCATION REGISTER (HLR) A Home Location Register (HLR) is a database that contains semi-permanent mobile subscriber information for a wireless carriers’ entire subscriber base. Traditional wireless network design is based on the utilization of a single Home Location Register (HLR) for each wireless network. location information (the identity of the currently serving Visitor Location Register (VLR) to enable the routing of mobile-terminated calls). service restrictions and supplementary services information.

for each mobile currently located in the geographical area controlled by the VLR.VISITOR LOCATION REGISTER (VLR) A Visitor Location Register (VLR) is a database which contains temporary information concerning the mobile subscribers that are currently located in a given MSC serving area. Note that the MSC contains no information about particular mobile stations --. which is used for authentication and encryption over the radio channel. SS7 messages are used to obtain information about the subscriber from the HLR. and to create a temporary record for the subscriber in the VLR. There is usually one VLR per MSC. The Visitor Location Register (VLR) contains selected administrative information from the HLR.this information is stored in the location registers. all manufacturers of switching equipment to date implement the VLR together with the MSC. so that the geographical area controlled by the MSC corresponds to that controlled by the VLR. necessary for call control and provision of the subscribed services. but whose Home Location Register (HLR) is elsewhere. thus simplifying the signaling required. The Equipment Identity Register (EIR) is a database that contains a list of all valid mobile equipment on the network. An IMEI is marked as invalid if it has been reported stolen or is not type approved. Although each functional entity can be implemented as an independent unit. This requirement might be prompted by a service subscription 29 . The other two registers are used for authentication and security purposes. where each mobile station is identified by its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). it will eventually become necessary to add a second HLR to their network. When a mobile subscriber roams away from his home location and into a remote location. ADDING A SECOND HLR TO THE GSM NETWORK As a GSM wireless carrier’s subscriber base grows. The Authentication Center (AuC) is a protected database that stores a copy of the secret key stored in each subscriber’s SIM card.

Previous to this time. Global Title Translation (GTT) tables will contain single translation records that translate an entire range of IMSIs numbers into an HLR address. MSC Routing Information Requests are routed to the appropriate HLR based on the dialed MSISDN and not the IMSI. It might possibly be prompted by a need to increase the overall network reliability. Typically. Privacy of communication. Even in the U.S. a total of only 40 10 KHz channels were available around 27MHz. as shown in the example. the MSISDN numbers can not easily be arranged in groups to reside within a single HLR and therefore. As the following example shows. the bandwidth assignation for CB radio was very limited and rapidly saturated. Much more complicated SS7 message routing Global Title Translations are required for Routing Information Request transactions between the MSCs distributed over the entire wireless carrier serving area and the two or more HLRs.. Unlike the IMSI numbers. when new subscribers are brought into service. Data independent transmission. the MSC routing tables quickly grow much more extensive than the STP tables. the second HLR will be populated with blocks of IMSI numbers that are allocated when new MSE equipment is ordered. this grouping of IMSI numbers within a single HLR simplifies the routing translations that are required within the SS7 network for VLR to HLR Location Update Request transactions. MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS The use of mobile radio-telephones has seen an enormous boost in the 1980s and 1990s. As the example illustrates. 30 . Even if some individual records are moved between the HLRs.record storage capacity issue. the treatment of IMSIs as blocks results in a significant simplification of the Global Translation tables. the MSC must contain an MSISDN to HLR address association record for every mobile subscriber homed on each of the MSCs. However. or perhaps an SS7 message processing performance issue. The use of digital mobile telephones has a number of advantages over CB radio: • • • Access to national and international telephone system. The network administration becomes increasingly complex and prone to error. citizen band (CB) radio had served a limited market.

Each region is termed a cell. These cells are often represented in diagrams as hexagons. Mobile communication work by limiting transmitter powers.• An infinitely extendable number of channels. Mobile communications are usually allocated bands in the 50MHz to 1GHz band. The primary problems associated with mobile communication at these frequencies are: • • Maintaining transmission in the fading circumstances of mobile communication. other transmitters can operate independently. At these frequencies the effects of scattering and shadowing are significant. Lower frequencies would improve this performance. Outside this region. Figure: Use of cells to provide geographical coverage for mobile phone service 29 . but HF bandwidth is not available for this purpose. The extensive investigation of propagation characteristics required prior to installation. This restricts the range of communication to a small region.

arranged in 7 groups of 3. the American advanced mobile phone service (AMPS) makes use of a 40MHz channel in the 800 – 900MHz band. a number of channels are available. Within a single cell. and the user is passed on to a transmitter from the new cell. the user communicates with a transmitter within the cell. These bands are split into 666 two-way channels. The nominally hexagonal pattern contains 7 cells. a central one and its 6 30 . These channels are subdivided into 21 sets of channels. These channels are (usually) separated by frequency. For example. it is assigned an idle channel within the current cell by the mobile-services switching centre (MSC).Figure: Frequency re-use in cells Within each cell. This band is split into a 20MHz transmit and 20MHz receive bandwidth. Each cell is equipped with cell-site(s) that transmit/receive to/from the mobile within the cell. each having a bandwidth of 30 KHz. As the mobile approaches a cell boundary. He/she uses the channel within the cell until he/she reaches the boundary. Then a mobile initiates a call. He/she is then allocated a new idle channel within the next cell. the signal strength fades.

In a well planned system. Each cell is assigned a different group in such a way that at least two cells lie between it and the next block using that set. In addition. the density of cells would reflect the user density. The aims of the GSM system were: • • • • • • Good speech quality Low terminal cost Low service cost International roaming Ability to support hand-held portables A range of new services and facilities (ISDN!) The heart of the mobile telephone network is the MSC. Its task is to acknowledge the paging of the user. although is a major technical problem. With a total of 666 channels. return the call. so this seems unlikely. is completely hidden to the user. broadcast his/her dialed request. Currently. etc. AMPS is a first generation mobile phone system. Full GSM will have 200KHz physical channels offering 270Kb/s. It uses analogue modulation. it is possible to assign three sets of 31 channels per cell. ).nearest neighbours. The services planned for the GSM are similar to those for ISDN (e. However. one physical channel is split between 8 users. second generation systems are being introduced. 31 . The great strength of this type of network is the ease with which more channels may be introduced. charge advice. assign him/her a channel. Then the same number of channels is available in a smaller area.g. the MSC is responsible for charging the call. In addition it automatically monitors the signal strength of both transmitter and receiver. known as hand-off. increasing the total number of channels per unit area. This latter process. allowing use of the same mobile phone anywhere in the world. each having use of 13Kb/s (the rest is used for channel overhead). The pan-European standard is known as GSM (Groupe Special Mobile). call forwarding. there are currently three digital standards in use. These are digital in nature. One aim of the second generation mobile systems was to try and develop one global standard. It is one of six incompatible first generation systems that exist around the world. Currently. and allocates new channels as required. and is now available in the UK. As demand rises. one simply reduces the cell size.

is necessary if the system is to work properly. This variation is due to the varying interference of scattered radiation – fading. Figure: Hand-off between cells The principle problem with mobile communication is the variation in signal strength as the communicating parties move. is not available in mobile communication where transmitter power is limited. 30 . Fading causes rapid variation in signal strength. Some of the effects that need to be considered are: • Free space loss. The normal solution to fading. At UHF and VHF frequencies. This significantly increases in urban environments. Propagation planning. Studies have indicated that a relationship is more often followed than a law.The decision making ability of the MSC relies to a great extent on modern digital technology. It is the maturity of this technology that has permitted the rapid growth of mobile communications. The installation of a mobile telephone system requires a large initial effort in determining the propagation ehavior in the area covered by the network. increasing the transmitter power. the effects of obstructions is significant. by a mixture of observation and computer simulation.

GSM will be allocated the entire 2x25 MHz bandwidth. the CEPT had the foresight to reserve the top 10 MHz of each band for the GSM network that was still being developed. Variations of 18dB between summer and winter have been observed in forested areas. Streets have a significant waveguide effect. • Effect of tunnels. 29 . • Effects of foliage. Variations of up to 20dB have been measured in urban environments as a result of street direction. which manages the international allocation of radio spectrum (among many other functions). allocated the bands 890-915 MHz for the uplink (mobile station to base station) and 935-960 MHz for the downlink (base station to mobile station) for mobile networks in Europe.• Effect of street orientation. Eventually. RADIO LINK ASPECTS The International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Propagation in rural areas is significantly effected by the presence of leaves. Tunnels can introduce signal attenuation of up to 30dB according to the tunnel length and frequency. Since this range was already being used in the early 1980s by the analog systems of the day.

or approx. One physical channel is one burst period per TDMA frame. using a TDMA scheme. Eight burst periods are grouped into a TDMA frame (120/26 ms. The fundamental unit of time in this TDMA scheme is called a burst period and it lasts 15/26 ms (or approx. Each of these carrier frequencies is then divided in time. which are allocated to a mobile station. The FDMA part involves the division by frequency of the (maximum) 25 MHz bandwidth into 124 carrier frequencies spaced 200 kHz apart. All these definitions are cyclic. which are used by mobile stations in idle mode 29 .577 ms). Channels are defined by the number and position of their corresponding burst periods. 0. The method chosen by GSM is a combination of Time. Channels can be divided into dedicated channels. One or more carrier frequencies are assigned to each base station. 4.and Frequency-Division Multiple Access (TDMA/FDMA).615 ms).MULTIPLE ACCESS AND CHANNEL STRUCTURE Since radio spectrum is a limited resource shared by all users. which forms the basic unit for the definition of logical channels. a method must be devised to divide up the bandwidth among as many users as possible. and common channels. and the entire pattern repeats approximately every 3 hours.

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