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5.0 GPRS AIR INTERFACE


5.1 Multiplexing [14], [15]
The term multiplexing refers to the combining together of a number of separate signals to share a communication medium. GSM primarily uses Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) for multiplexing; however Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) is also used in the network level. 5.1.1 FDMA This frequency division multiplexing is simultaneous transmission of multiple signals over a shared medium, by modulating the signals into separate frequency bands. These signals are then combined, transmitted, and then demultiplexed using frequency passing or rejecting filters. It is extensively used in transmission of radio and television signals (terrestrial, satellite and cable). It was also used as a primary multiplexing method in early analog mobile phone systems such as NAMPS (Narrowband Analog Mobile Phone Service) and TACS (Total Access Communication System). 5.1.2 TDMA This is basically an extension of the FDMA technology, with timesharing Component built into it. Being inherently digital in nature, it works by dividing a single radio frequency into a certain number of time slots and allocating slots to multiple signals. GSM chose this technology, as it is a far more efficient method of having multiple simultaneous calls, as compared to FDMA, which is rather wasteful of bandwidth.

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5.1.3 Realization GSM is a digital system, and both data and speech is transmitted in form of zeros and ones (bits). When this binary code is to be transmitted over the air by an electromagnetic radio wave, sequences of bits are represented by different amplitudes or phases. The way of how bit sequences are represented by the radio wave is called modulation method. For example a phase modulator, the transmitting antenna will send pulses with different phases of the radio wave. Each phase corresponds to a bit sequence, according to the modulation scheme. The speech service in GSM uses a binary phase modulator called GMSK (Gaussian Minimum Shift Keying). Two phases correspond to 0 and 1 respectively, i.e. a single bit is transmitted in each pulse figure (5.1). In a development of GPRS, called Enhanced GPRS (EGPRS), a second modulation scheme has been introduced. This modulation is called 8-PSK (Phase Shift Keying) and uses phase modulation with eight different phases figure (5.1). It is then possible to transmit three bits in each pulse, which will increase data rates. The drawback is that the different phases will be closer to one another, making it harder for the receiver to distinguish between them. Therefore 8-PSK will only work better if link quality is good.

Fig. (5.1) principle sketch of the GMSK (left) and 8-PSK (right) modulation schemes

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Digitized speech that is to be transmitted is divided into segments of 20 ms call speech frames. In the same way, data packets are segmented into blocks. Both speech frames and blocks consist of 456 bits. To detect and correct errors that occur during transmission data is coded using different coding schemes. Adding redundancy bits to each block or speech frame gives the ability to restore information if some bits are received erroneously. Different coding schemes has different code rates. The code rate says how many of the transmitted bits that are real information bits. For example code rate 0.5 means that half of the transmitted bits are redundancy bits used to recover errors. Code rate 1 means that data is not coded at all. The higher code rate we use, the faster data can be transmitted. But if a too high code rate is used, erroneously received data will not be possible to correct and the transmitted bits will be useless. Speech data in GSM is transmitted using a coding scheme with code rate 0.5. Packet data in GPRS has four different coding schemes with code rates between 0.5 and 1. In EGPRS additionally six different coding schemes are defined for the 8-PSK modulation scheme. 5.1.4 Frequency hopping The frequency hopping capability is optionally used by the network operator on all or part of its network. The main advantage of this feature is to reduces the effects of fading. This is because fading is frequency dependent, and if fading is occurring at one frequency, it most likely will not be occurring at the other frequencies, and only a small amount of data will be lost. The principle of slow frequency hopping is that every mobile transmits its time slots according to a sequence of frequencies that it derives from an algorithm. The frequency hopping occurs between time slots and, therefore, a
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mobile station transmits (or receives) on a fixed frequency during one time slot ( 577 s) and then must hop before the time slot on the next TDMA frame. Due to the time needed for monitoring other base stations the time allowed for hopping is approximately 1 ms, according to the receiver implementation. The receive and transmit frequencies are always duplex frequencies.

5.2 Multiple Access and TimeSlot Structure [16]


On the physical layer, GSM uses a combination of FDMA and TDMA for multiple access. Two frequency bands 45 MHz apart have been reserved for GSM operation: 890-915MHz for transmission from the mobile station, i.e., uplink, and 935-960 MHz for transmission from the BTS, i.e., downlink (figure 5.2). Each of these bands of 25 MHz width is divided into 124 single carrier channels of 200 kHz width. A certain number of these frequency channels, the so-called cell allocation, is allocated to a BTS, i.e., to a cell.

Fig. (5.2) GSM carrier frequencies, TDMA frames


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In the GPRS radio link, the existing GSM structure is used, making it easier for operators to offer GRPS services. Each frequency is further divided through TDMA into eight timeslots, which form a TDMA frame. Each timeslot lasts 0.5769 ms and is able to transfer 156.25 bits (both data and control). The recurrence of one particular timeslot defines a Packet Data channel (PDCH). Depending on the type of data transferred, a variety of logical channels are defined, which carry either data traffic or traffic for channel control, transmission control or other signaling purposes. The major difference between GPRS and GSM concerning the radio interface is the way radio resources are allocated. In GSM, when a call is established, a channel is permanently allocated for the entire period. In other words, one timeslot is reserved for the whole duration of the call, even when there is no activity on the channel. This results in a significant waste of radio resources in the case of bursty traffic. In GPRS the radio channels, i.e. the timeslots, are allocated on a demand basis. This means that when a MS is not using a timeslot that has been allocated to it in the past, this timeslot can be reallocated to another MS. The minimum allocation unit is a radio block, i.e. four timeslots in four consecutive TDMA frames (figure 5.3).

Figure (5.3) Radio channels

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5.3 Frame Hierarchy[17]


A diagrammatic representation of all the time frame structures is in figure (5.4). The longest recurrent time period of the structure is called hyperframe and has duration of 3 h 28 min 53 s 760 ms (or 12 533,76 s). One hyperframe is subdivided in 2048 superframes, which have duration of 6,12 seconds. The superframe is the least common multiple of the time frame structures. The superframe is itself subdivided in multiframes. Three types of multiframes exist in the system: 26-multiframe (51 per superframe) with duration of 120 ms, comprising 26 TDMA frames. This multiframeis used to carry TCH and FACCH. 51-multiframe (26 per superframe) with duration of 235,4 ms (3060/13 ms), comprising 51 TDMA frames. This multiframe is used to carry BCCH, CCCH and SDCCH, or PBCCH and PCCCH.

52-multiframe (25.5 per superframe) with a duration of 240 ms, comprising 52 TDMA frames. This multiframe is used to carry PBCCH, PCCCH, PACCH, PDTCH, and PTCCH. The 52-multiframe can be seen as two 26-multiframes, with TDMA frames numbered from 0 to 51.

Figure (5.4) Frame hierarchy

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5.4 Burst Structure [14]


A burst is a period of RF carrier, which is modulated by a data source. It therefore represents the physical content of a timeslot. Each TDMA timeslot of GSM contains approximately 156.25 bits (binary digits). One should note that this number of bits is actually calculated by dividing the total bits transferred by the number of timeslots, as it is not possible to transmit 1/4th of a bit as a unit. These bits together form a structured message element called a packet. There are primarily five different kinds of packet structures, and these transmissions are called packet bursts. These five burst structures are: Access Bursts Synchronization Bursts Frequency Correction Bursts Normal Bursts Dummy Bursts (sometimes not regarded as a burst)

Each burst has four fields in it, as shown below (figure 5.5):
Tail Bit Tail Guard Bit Period

Data bits

Figure (5.5) Burst Structure

The first field is the Tail Bit (TB). The length of this is 3 bits, and it is at the start and end of every burst. However, in the beginning of the access burst, its length is 8 bits, rather than 3 bits. These bits are always binary (0), and are used for signifying the start and end of every burst structure. In between the two Tail Bit fields, there is the data field which contains the actual data or signaling information. At the end of every burst, after the Tail Bit, is a field known as the Guard Period (GP). This is of 8.25 bits length,

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except in the access burst, where it is 68.25 bits long. The field of the Guard Period is to allow for changes in transmission times, thus allowing the timing information to change as the Mobile Station moves physically. Let us look at the structure and function of these bursts in more detail: 5.4.1 Access Burst The structure of the access burst is as shown below (figure 5.6):
Encrypted bits 36 GP 68.25

TB 8

Synchronization sequence 41

TB 3

Figure (5.6) Access Burst

The access burst is used by the Mobile Station to make contact with the Base Terminal Station at the start of certain events, like establishing a call or performing a location update. The long guard period of 68.25 bits is used so that there is minimal interference with other Mobile Stations. There are 77 bits of information transmitted, (which consist of 41 synchronization bits and 36 data bits). The transmission time of a packet burst is constantly monitored and the timing information is continuously updated so as to account for the propagation delay between the two communicating pieces of equipment. 5.4.2 Synchronization Burst The structure of the synchronization burst is as shown below (figure 5.7):

TB 3

Encrypted bits 39

Synchronization sequence 64

Encrypted bits 39

TB 3

GP 8.25

Figure (5.7) Synchronization Burst

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The synchronization burst is used by the BTS to synchronize itself with the MS. It transmits 142 bits of information which includes 78 bits giving the Mobile Stations information about their location in the network and the frequency that they are supposed to access the network on. The information transmitted gives the identity of the base station, the cell of the network, and the network zone. Apart from these bits, there is also a 64 bit synchronization sequence sent. 5.4.3 Frequency Correction Burst The structure of the frequency correction burst is as shown below (figure 5.8):

TB 3

Fixed bits 142

TB 3

GP 8.25

Figure (5.8) Frequency Correction Burst

The frequency correction burst transports 142 bits of information. This is basically transmitted periodically from the BTS to the MS to notify the equipment of adjustments in the frequency. It is essentially an empty frame, i.e. full of zero bits. Thus its data contents are not important. It however, sets the radio frequency for use, and synchronizes timing information. 5.4.4 Normal Burst The structure of the normal burst is as shown below (figure 5.9):
TB 3 Encrypted bits 57
SF 1 bit

Training sequence SF 26 1 bit

Encrypted bits 57

TB 3

GP 8.25

Figure (5.9) Normal Burst

The normal burst carries 142 bits of information, and it transmitted by both the BTS and the MS. This kind of burst is a very important one, as it
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carries the actual call data, as well as the signaling information. It has 2 sets of 57 bits of each, which carry the information needed for call setup, maintenance and call ending, apart from the audio information. There is also a training sequence, or midamble of 26 bits used for equalization, which is required for extracting the correct signal from the various reflections that are also received by the equipment, due to bouncing of signals in the natural environment. This is a continuous process, and the equalization bits help compensate for any problems found in the radio path, for e.g. by Rayleigh fading. There are also 2 stealing bits on either side of the training sequence bits. These bits are essentially stolen from the data bits, by the Fast Associated Channel. This happens when there is a handover from one base station to another, or when the Slow Associated Channel is unable to send information fast enough. This can also happen when there is a disruption in the RF transmission, so that extra control information is sent (thereby degrading quality of voice), so that the link can remain established and the two communicating equipments are synchronized. These bits work either in blank or burst mode, depending on whether they are stolen or not. 5.4.5 Dummy Burst The structure of the dummy burst is as shown below (figure 5.10):

TB 3

Training sequence 26

TB 3

GP 8.25

Figure (5.10) Dummy Burst

The dummy burst is transmitted when there are no other bursts to be transmitted. The reason that this burst is transmitted at all is so that there can
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be quality monitoring, in which the MS tests the signal power of the broadcast channel. This dummy burst contains 26 bits of a training sequence which contains the signaling for quality monitoring.

5.5 Physical Channels [18]


The physical channels used in GPRS for packet data traffic are known as Packet Data Channels (PDCHs). Logical PDCHs are mapped onto physical channels using a cyclically recurring multiframe structure. Six radio blocks, each containing 8 PDCHs, are mapped into one 26-multiframe, and two 26multiframes are assembled onto one GPRS 52-multiframe. Thus a 52-multiframe represents one physical GPRS channel consisting of twelve radio blocks and one idle block, each block comprising four radio bursts distributed on timeslots with the same timeslot number in consecutive TDMA frames. A cell that support GPRS may allocate one or more shared PDCHs which are taken from the common pole of physical channels available to the cell and otherwise used as traffic channels (TCHs). The allocation of TCHs and PDCHs is done dynamically according to the capacity-on-demand principles described below. Master-Slave concept: at least one PDCH (mapped on one physical time slot), acting as a master, accommodates packet common control channels (PCCCHs) which carry all necessary control signaling for initiating packet transfer as well as user data and dedicated signaling. The others, acting as slaves, are only used for user data transfer. Capacity on demand: in order allow GPRS service in cells where there are few (or no) GPRS users without the need for any permanently allocated
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resources, the concept of capacity on demand has been introduced. The operator can decide whether to dedicate some PDCHs for GPRS traffic. Load supervision is done in the MAC layer to monitor the load on the PDCHs, and the number of allocated PDCHs in a cell can be increased or decreased according to demand. Unused channels can be allocated as PDCHs to increase the overall QoS for GPRS. If other services with higher priority request resources, deallocation of PDCHs can take place. However, the existence of PDCHs does not imply the existence of PCCCH. When no PCCCH is allocated in a cell, all GPRS-attached MSs automatically camp on the existing GSM CCCH as they do in the idle state. When a PCCCH is allocated in a cell, all GPRS-attached MSs camp on it. The PCCCH can be allocated either as the result of the increased demand for packet transfer or whenever there are enough available physical channels in a cell. If the network released the PCCCH, the MSs return to the CCCH.

5.6 GPRS Logical Channels [23],[21]


The physical channel dedicated to the GPRS traffic is called the Packet Data Channel (PDCH) and several logical channels are mapped to each PDCH. It is generally carry two types of information: control signaling for establishing and maintaining a GPRS service, and user data traffic. Hence, GPRS logical channels can be classified as four groups (table 5.1): Packet Common Control Channels Packet Traffic Channels Packet Broadcast Control Channels Packet Dedicated Control Channels

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Table (5.1) GPRS logical channels [21] Group Channel Service Packet Traffic Channels Packet Broadcast Control Channel Packet Common Control Channels
PRACH PAGCH PPCH PNCH Signaling PBCCH Signaling PDTCH Data

Remarks
MS BS

BS MS

Random Access, MS BS Access Grant, BS MS Paging, BS MS Notification (multicast/group), BS MS

Packet Dedicated Control Channels

PACCH PTCCH

Signaling

Associated-PDTCH (e.g. power control info., ack) Timing Advance (adaptive frame synchr.) MS BS

5.6.1 PCCCH (packet common control channel) Its a set of logical channels used for common signaling between the mobile station and the base station. PPCH (Packet Paging Channel) is used to page a mobile before downlink packet transfer. The PPCH is used for paging both circuit-switched and GPRS services. PRACH (packet random access channel) is used only in uplink to initiate uplink transfer. PAGCH (packet access grant channel) is used in the packet transfer establishment phase to send resource assignment messages to a mobile prior to packet transfer. Additional resource assignment messages are also sent on a PACCH if the mobile is already involved in packet transfer.

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PNCH (packet notification channel) is used to send a point-tomultipoint multicast notification to a group of mobiles prior to point-to-multipoint multicast packet transfer. 5.6.2 PBCCH (packet broadcast control channel) PBCCH is used to broadcast packet data system information to all GPRS mobiles in a cell. The PBCCH might not be present for certain channel combinations, in which case the BCCH will be used to broadcast packet system information. 5.6.3 PTCH (packet traffic channel) PDTCH (packet data traffic channel) is allocated for data transfer. It is dedicated temporarily to one or a group of mobiles for multicast applications. One mobile may use multiple PDTCHs in parallel for packet data transfer during multislot operation. 5.6.4 PDCCH (Packet Dedicated Control Channels) Consists of the following sub-channels associated with it: PACCH (packet associated control channel) is used to convey signaling information related to a given mobile for example, power control, packet acknowledgments, or resource reassignments. One PACCH is associated with one or several PDTCHs concurrently assigned to a mobile. PTCCH (packet timing advance control channel) is used in the uplink for transmission of random access burst. It allows the timing advance required by the mobile in the packet transfer mode

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to be estimated. In the downlink, the PTCCH can be used to update the timing advance to multiple mobiles.

5.7 Mapping Logical Channels to Physical Channels [7]


The mapping of logical channels onto physical channels has two components: Mapping in frequency. Mapping in time. The mapping in frequency is based on the TDMA frame number and the frequencies allocated to the BTS and the mobile station. The mapping in time is based on the definition of complex multiframe structures on top of the TDMA frames. We have defined several logical channels for GPRS. These channels do not necessarily require separate physical resources. The logical channels are mapped over physical channels using the technique of multiframing. A multiframe structure for PDTCHs consisting of 52 TDMA frames that are together assigned functionality. Besides the 52-multiframe, which can be used by all logical GPRS channels, a 51-multiframe structure is defined, which used for PDCHs carrying only the logical channels PCCCH and PBCCH and no other logical channels. The diagram (figure 5.11) shows a single TDMA frame for GPRS consisting of eight timeslots (0 7) on the vertical axis. These frames repeat, as indicated by the example in timeslot 2 (TN 2 timeslot number 2). For GPRS we define a multiframe of 52 frames. Each timeslot 2 from frames 0-51 is combined to form the multiframe shown.

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Figure (5.11) Mapping of Logical Channels to Physical Channels

The multiframe is divided into 12 blocks Fig. (5.12), numbered 011; each made up of four TDMA frames. These blocks are sometimes referred to as radio blocks, and they are assigned certain logical channel functions.

Figure (5.12) the 52-multiframe structure with normal fullrate mapping: total period = 240 ms.

The 12-radio blocks account for 48 of the TDMA frames in the multiframe. Of the remaining four frames, two single-burst frames are used for the timing channel and two are kept idle for neighbor-cell BSIC decode and interference measurements for power control.
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5.7.1 GPRS-mode timing advance [7] The main difference between circuit-switched transmission and packetswitched transmission is that packet-switched transmission is not continuous. During circuit-switched operation, when the mobile is transmitting continuously, the BTS can easily derive the delay relative to previous timing values. This would be very difficult in packet-switched applications, since the mobile will be transmitting on assigned radio blocks only and the interval between two blocks could be significant. To avoid inter-timeslot interference and other possible impairments, GPRS deploys a new technique for achieving correct burst timing.The timing advance procedure is used to derive the correct value for timing advance that the MS has to use for the uplink transmission of radio blocks.

5.8 Channel Coding [20],[21]


Channel coding is used to protect the transmitted data packets against errors. The channel coding technique in GPRS (figure 5.13) is quite similar to the one employed in conventional GSM.

Payload

Add BCS

Add Precoded USF

Add Tail bits

Coding

Puncture

456 bits

Figure (5.13) GPRS Coding Procedure

5.8.1 Channel Coding of the RLC/MAC Layer The RLC/MAC data is transmitted in radio blocks, Both control blocks (with signaling information) and data blocks (with user data) use a structure with a MAC header of one octet, followed by RLC data. the MAC header structure differs between the uplink and downlink. The RLC data structure
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depends on the type of data in the blocks (control or user data). For user data the RLC data field containing the payload follows a two-octet RLC header.
Table (5.2) the size of radio block for coding schemes Coding scheme N (including MAC header) RLC Payload data block size CS-1 23 20 CS-2 33 30 CS-3 39 36 CS-4 53 50

The size of the radio block N depends on the coding scheme used when transmitting the block. The value of N corresponds to the number of bytes (octets) and differs between the different coding schemes according to table 5.2 above. A control block is always coded with CS-1 while data can be coded using any of the four coding schemes. Each radio block is assembled differently depending on the coding scheme used. However, regardless of coding scheme, each radio block must be made 456 bits long in the end in order to fit it into the GSM bursts. Before the application of channel coding, each radio block is assembled according to the table 5.3. The spear bits added are padding needed to adapt the radio block size to the channel coder. The USF(uplink state flag) is precoded with a block code in the CS-2, CS-3, and CS-4 case in order to detect any errors in it. The block check sequence (BCS) is a block code for the whole radio block used for error detection. The right most column shows the total number of bits per radio block before it is put in to the channel coder. CS-4 is a bit spatial since no channel coding is used at all, the bits are sent over the air interface with no protection.

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Table (5.3) structure of radio block prior to coding scheme Radio Spare Radioblock USF Prec BCS block bits Size excl. oded size added USF USF CS-1 CS-2 CS-3 CS-4 23*8 33*8 39*8 53*8 0 7 3 7 23*8+03=181 33*8+73=268 39*8+33=428 53*8+73=428 3 3 3 3 3 6 6 12 40 16 16 16

Tail

Total no of bits per radioblock 181+3+40+4 =288 268+6+16+4 =294 312+6+16+4 =338 428+12+16+ 0=456

4 4 4 0

The channel coder used in CS-1, CS-2 and CS-3 is the same convolution encoder as the one used for GSM signaling (e.g. SACCH, BCCH, FACCH etc). The channel coder doubles the number of bits in CS-1, CS-2, and CS-3 (rate 1/2) but leaves CS-4 uncoded. To bring down the number of bits to 456 as required, puncturing is used in CS-2 and CS-3 (see table 5.4). the resulting radio block is now ready for burst formatting.
Table (5.4) Channel coding of radio block, each ending up in 456 bit length Total no of bits Code rate Total no of bits Punctured No of bits per radioblock after coding bits to send CS-1 228 1/2 288*2=456 0 4560=456 CS-2 294 1/2 294*2=588 132 58832=456 CS-3 338 1/2 338*2=676 220 67920=456 CS-4 456 1 456*1=456 0 4560=456

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