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Advanced EPC

MBB enabling services and


improving user experience

Advanced EPC
MBB enabling services and improving user experience
1 Introduction ........................................................................................................................1
2 EPC standards timeline ........................................................................................................2
3 Challenges and opportunities for the Advanced EPC ............................................................3
4 Advanced EPC Key Features ................................................................................................4
4.1 Signaling congestion control ............................................................................................4
4.2 User plane congestion control ..........................................................................................4
4.3 Carried grade WiFi integration .........................................................................................5
4.4 Voice service for LTE users ...............................................................................................6
4.5 Video enhancement .........................................................................................................7
4.6 Proximity based services ..................................................................................................8
4.7 Group communication system enabler .............................................................................9
4.8 Machine type communications ........................................................................................9
4.9 Architecture enhancement for application interworking ................................................11
4.10 XML based access to PCRF .............................................................................................12
4.11 SGi traffic steering .........................................................................................................12
5 Conclusions .......................................................................................................................14
6 Annex: Abbreviation ..........................................................................................................15

1 Introduction
3GPP s 4G mobile system LTE/EPC has been developed by the mobile
industry in the last few years during 3GPP releases 8 and release 9 to meet
the continuously growing service requirements of MBB. The overall system
consists of the radio system LTE and the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). A
further evolution of the LTE radio system has been done in the time frame of
3GPP release 10 and is called LTE-Advanced. The corresponding overall
system has been selected as an ITU 4G technology option. It should be
noted that LTE denotes the radio system, but is also the official terminology
for marketing the overall mobile system of LTE and EPC.
During the following 3GPP releases on the network side the further evolution
of the EPC is targeting at enabling of more profitable services and improving
user experience, both bringing added value for the whole mobile market.
Service enabling has thus become an important topic after basic EPC
features have been specified during initial 3GPP releases. In this whitepaper
it focuses on the current phase of EPC, which is denoted as Advanced EPC.
It takes advantage of the excellent radio capability of LTE and LTEAdvanced.
The current phase of the Advanced EPC is facing the following challenges:
High penetration of smart phones with a variety of applications causing
traffic of virtually any pattern and volume.
Fast traffic growth with growth of revenues not keeping pace.
Increasing diversity of service types and their related Quality of Experience.
To address those challenges, the following areas of improvement have been
identified:
Enhancements that mitigate or prevent system overload.
Capacity boosting by WiFi integration and offloading.
Enhancements for enabling key services and other new business opportunities.
Introduction of new service enablers.
In this whitepaper it provides an overview on how the EPC timeline developed, considers the specific challenges and opportunities for the Advanced
EPC and describes the different key features of the Advanced EPC that are
intended to address the challenges and opportunities.

2 EPC standards timeline


The initial activities on the LTE/EPC system started already in 2004. The
radio access system and the related core network have been designed to
provide a new mobile system targeting at higher spectral efficiency, higher
peak data rates, shorter round trip times and frequency flexibility. This radio
access system is called Evolved UTRAN (E-UTRAN), and the core network
is the Evolved Packet Core (EPC). Both together form the Evolved Packet
System (EPS).
EPC is designed by 3GPP not only as the core network for the LTE/EUTRAN radio access system but as well for its predecessors GERAN and
UTRAN. The EPC is thus an evolution of the packet core that was designed
for GERAN/UTRAN. Main differences to the earlier packet core are the new
access interface adjusting for the specifics of the E-UTRAN/LTE radio
access, a simplified bearer management scheme solely relying on network
controlled bearer services and a split into control and user plane network
entities. EPC also contains capabilities for using Non-3GPP access technologies (e.g. WiFi) as access systems.
EPS is a pure packet system and, besides SMS, it does not provide any
telecom services for end users like circuit switched telephony. A separate IP
Multimedia Subsystem using the bearer services of the EPS provides
multimedia telephony for the end user. To enable initial EPS deployments
without an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS), 3GPP defined the Circuit
Switched Fallback feature (CSFB), which transfers the device from LTE to
GERAN or UTRAN for performing circuit switched calls, but enjoying for IP
based services the high bandwidth and low latency of E-UTRAN/LTE. For
deployments with EPS and IP Multimedia Subsystem 3GPP defined the
Single Radio Voice Call Continuity features (SRVCC) to enable a stepwise rollout of E-UTRAN/LTE coverage by continuing IP Multimedia Subsystem provided services as Circuit Switched services via GERAN/UTRAN
when a user leaves E-UTRAN/LTE coverage.

2007

2008

Release 8

2009

Release 9

LTE

EPC: basic

2010

Release 10

2011

2012

Release 11

LTE-Advanced

2013

2014

Release 12

2015

2016

2017

Release 13 and later on

Further LTE evolution on LTE-B/C

Advanced EPC: Service Enabling for MBB

Further EPC evolution

Figure 2a. EPC standards timeline

After the basic EPC features, i.e. providing high performance IP bearer
services for MBB, had been completed within 3GPP release 8 and release 9,
work started on enabling voice, multimedia and machine type communications services, like emergency call, CSFB/SRVCC enhancements, M2M
related features. The currently ongoing phase of advancing the EPC targets
at improving or creating business opportunities for operators by enhancing
existing or developing new EPC services and features. The timeline of the
Advanced EPC is shown in the figure 2a.

Challenges and opportunities for


the Advanced EPC

In the last few years the Telco industry experienced significant changes.
One significant trend is the move of Internet services from personal computers to mobile devices. This trend got accelerated especially with the explosive penetration of smart phone.
Another trend is that in many developed markets the penetration rate of
mobile subscribers is reaching some saturation. This increases the interest
of looking for new revenue opportunities and extending mobile services to
other potential markets (Enterprise, government, machine communications,
etc).
The whole mobile industry eco-system started to change when smart phone
begun to dominate the terminal market. One significant change is that
traditional telecom services like voice and message get more and more
challenged by the so-called Over-The-Top (OTT) applications using the
mobile system as a transparent bit-pipe. However, there is more and more
interest in offering better services to the users by making the mobile system
application-aware and providing added value, like QoS, for OTT applications.
The following activities have been identified for Advanced EPC to proactively
cope with the above trends and challenges:
Make the mobile system more robust and efficient, in order to manage the
increasing amount of connected devices, but also the increasing variance
of connection types, e.g. from M2M, and save OPEX and CAPEX.
Enlarging the system capacity, in order to meet the requirements from
huge traffic volume, which is still in a process of growing fast.
Support new services and further improve the Quality of Experience for
key services like voice and video.
Offer network capabilities to applications for better supporting the diversity
of Internet services and facilitating an expansion of the mobile ecosystem
towards including applications.
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4 Advanced EPC Key Features


4.1 Signaling congestion control
The origin of the investigation on signaling overload in the core network was
a specific case of a Radio Network Controller (RNC) restart leading to a
flood of UE registering with the network in a short time period. The affected
HLR could not answer all the requests, which made the situation even worse
since UEs retried the registration. Similar issues were identified for other
scenarios and other network entities.
3GPP has thus started to look at these issues with the setup of a study item
on Core Network Overload (CNO).
One of the issues being studied was the load handling for Diameter applications. Comparable to SS7, a new logical function is introduced, the Diameter
Load Manager. It influences the route selection when a congested node is
detected.
Another investigated issue is about the optimization for the reporting of user
location information. The basic idea of avoiding too much location report
traffic in the network is to adjust the granularity of the location reporting
according to the needs, e.g. by defining a specific area for which a report is
wanted.
A third issue is on the overload control for GTP-C interfaces. Different
approaches are evaluated for reducing the traffic towards loaded nodes
caused by too many GTP-C requests.

4.2 User plane congestion control


mobile network resources. Especially in RAN, user plane congestion occurs
more frequently and becomes a serious problem to the operators. Mechanisms are wanted, which reduce the occurrence of congestion and alleviate
congestion in a quick and smooth manner. 3GPP is studying this under User
Plane CONgestion management (UPCON).
Today application/user services with their different QoS needs can be
identified and treated by using separate bearers. However in many deployed
networks, services with different QoS requirements often share the same
bearer, i.e. the default bearer. In this case the RAN has no information on
differences among these services being conveyed in the shared bearer and
transfers all IP packets in a uniform way according to the allocated bearer
QoS. When congestion happens, RAN may need to decide on delaying or

discarding IP packets based on the bearer QoS. A shared bearer prevents


the RAN from taking efficient approaches for avoiding/alleviating congestion
specifically per application/user service. Marking the user data packets with
an identifier for their priority during congestion (the so called Flow Priority
Identifier,FPI ) is a solution that provides the RAN with extra information.
The PGW/GGSN marks the data packets with the Flow Priority Identifier
based on the subscription, application type and possibly other criteria.
According to this information the RAN can shape or discard the data traffic
specifically per priority of the application or user service.
Another way of RAN node congestion mitigation is notifying affected
applications, which may then try to adjust the service while maintaining the
Quality of Experience as good as possible. For example, a video application
could change its media codec or employ video compression. Other applications may trigger providing services based on load notifications, e.g. for
delivering push data depending to the network traffic status.

4.3 Carried grade WiFi integration


WiFi is more and more regarded as an important part of mobile operator
networks. It can be connected to the EPC via S2a, S2b and S2c interfaces.
But how to effectively utilize WLAN infrastructure using the so far standardized means is still a problem.
In Advanced EPC, the S2a path with GTP will be enhanced to support UEs
accessing EPC via WiFi with minimum changes for the UE IP stack. Further,
concurrent multiple connections need to be supported for WiFi access and
seamless handover between 3GPP and WiFi (considered under 3GPP
release 12 work item SaMOG) to reduce efforts for implementing carrier
grade WiFi support in UEs.
A huge number of WLAN Access Points are deployed all over the world.
From all those available WLAN Access Points most cannot be accessed by
mobile subscribers. Often it is because many are just providing private
services. As a consequence, useless access attempts consume large
quantity of UE battery power and impact the user experience. An overall
network discovery and selection mechanism considering PLMN selection
and Hotspot 2.0 ANQP (Access Network Query Protocol) elements enables
the UE to efficiently connect to the network via the most proper WLAN AP. A
cellular assisted WLAN discovery and selection mechanism will improve the
user experience when moving between 3GPP and WLAN without user
perception. To decrease the time required for the mobility with WLAN, a new
security architecture is designed to make the UE achieving substantially

faster access to WLAN.


Network controlled IP flow mobility further enables the UE to route IP traffic
simultaneously over 3GPP radio access and WLAN, and easily moving IP
traffics between the radio access technologies smoothly based on operators
policy.

4.4 Voice service for LTE users


LTE/EPC is a mobile system for providing mainly IP bearer services. Voice
services are however still important services and their support is considered a
crucial factor for the success of LTE/EPC deployments. Voice services are
provided either by deploying a subsystem for VoIP/VoIMS or by falling back to
GERAN/UTRAN enabled Circuit Switched (CS) domain. CS Fallback (CSFB)
and IMS/SRVCC (Signal Radio Voice Call Continuity) are the two key features
for enabling voice services with the EPS.
CSFB is considered the first step as it relies on fallback to legacy systems. It
has been launched commercially with the early deployment of LTE/EPC and
will continue to be supported in Advanced EPC at least for supporting roamers.
To further improve the user experience Huawei developed Ultra-Flash
CSFB (refer to figure 4a) as enhancements of the standardized CSFB. It
optimizes the call-setup time for CS fallback, which is accomplished by the
Advanced EPC network due to initiating call setup in parallel with the UE fall
back to GERAN/UTRAN access network. With those optimizations, it provides
an equivalent or even less call-setup time compared to a native 2G/3G CS call.

Sv
SGs
MSC

MME

Ultra - Flash CSFB


GERAN/UTRAN

LTE

Figure 4a: Ultra-Flash CSFB

IMS and SRVCC (including video SRVCC and its enhancements) are the
long term voice solutions for voice over LTE/EPC and are supposed to
support both voice (including HD voice) and video services in Advanced
EPC. With CSFB and IMS deployed, two voice service options are available
that may complement each other.

4.5 Video enhancement


Video traffic has emerged as the dominant traffic in today's Internet (Per
Huawei mLab report - H2 2012, streaming application will account for 40% to
60% of mobile usage in 2015, figure 4b). How to deliver such massive traffic
with the required QoE becomes critical to operators.
North America

West Europe
1.01%

0.96%

2.85%

4.36%

1.50%

2.08%

1.87%

13.31%

1.25%

18.77%

10.81%

58.20%

SouthEast Asia
0.34%
1.39%

8.44%

7.45%

0.92%

0.91%

Web browsing
Streaming
File transfer

9.06%
35.95%

47.83%
37.89%

55.62%

China
0.33%

0.19% 1.87%

1.73%

3.03%
27.66%

40.72%

1.71%

0.82% 0.60%

7.96%

4.07%

34.74%

4.67%

Latin America
2.22%

0.91%

IM
SNS
VOIP

43.97%

Email
Gaming

Figure 4b. Mobile usage forecast of 2015

Progressive download has been a popular mechanism for video service in


Internet. But it seems not working well in the cellular environment and proper
architecture enhancements are needed in order to support mobile streaming
services. In an industry-wide collaboration including multiple SDOs 3GPP
and partners developed the method DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming
over HTTP). However, it is running on the application level and thus provides limited tooling for operator control. A network control enhancement to
DASH [see figure 4c] is being discussed in 3GPP Release 12 to support
more business scenarios like network aware adaptation, precise QoS
control, etc.
Server

Client 1

Client 2

Advertisement
Client N

HTTP Adaptive
Proxy
HTTP Cache

High bit rate


Medium bit rate
Low bit rate

Figure 4c. DASH with network control

Another option is to take advantage of IP multicast technology which is


supposed to be a cost effective way of delivering common content traffic to a
group of users. The multicast technology can be applied to the cellular
system with certain customization. MBMS (and eMBMS) is a cellular
multicast technology for UMTS/LTE networks, which could be the base for
further work. 3GPP has started to work on on-demand MBMS for this
purpose. On-demand MBMS would allow operators to identify the common
video traffic (carried over DASH) or deliver different video traffic with
carrousel style, then shift the traffic from unicast mode to multicast mode.
This transportation mode switch should of course consider information like
user location, number of users accessing the same content, etc. to achieve
reasonable gains.

4.6 Proximity based services


Direct Device-to-Device discovery and data exchange services exist already
for a long time. Bluetooth and WiFi Direct (802.11) provide examples of such
service offerings. The 3GPP system introduces such functionality, named
Proximity Services, within its release 12.
The main driver for this is the interest to use the EPS for providing professional mobile radio services for public safety usage, like for police or
ambulance. Some additionally considered usage scenarios are offering
3GPP proximity services for commercial or consumer applications, such as
the discovery of other users belonging to the same application and who are
in proximity or to enable direct LTE or WiFi communication between users or
devices that are in proximity to each other. Proximity communications are
also considered as an option for offloading traffic from the network and thus
improving cost and resource efficiency.
3GPP proximity services include the discovery service and the communication service. Each may be used separately as an enabler for other, specifically application services. Proximity discovery and communication service
will be available as functionality of the E-UTRAN/LTE access system. Public
safety users or applications may use those services based on pre-configured
permissions also when there is no coverage or connectivity with the mobile
system. Consumer usage is only permitted with authorization by the mobile
system on a per usage basis.
Specifically for enabling Public Safety application services the 3GPP
proximity services need to provide relay functionality for extending radio
coverage in various scenarios.

4.7 Group communication system enabler


These enhancements are also driven by the interest of using the EPS for
providing Professional Mobile Radio (PMR) services. The adoption of the
3GPP system as a common global mobile broadband system is caused
specifcally by the interest in broadband features for group communications,
which are not offered by current PMR systems, like ETSI TETRA or US P25.
These current PMR systems provide group communications as narrow band
services. The interest in using advanced features and services that require
broadband support made 3GPP s EPS a good candidate for this. While
proximity services cover mainly the service support under conditions without
suitable radio coverage, the group communications system enablers
consider all other aspects needed for operating PMR services via an EPS. It
may be possible to use existing features, like EPS packet bearer services or
roaming, without specific modifications. Special considerations are on
efficient system resources usage. Especially for scenarios with many users
in the same area multicast data delivery may be needed and therefore the
usage of eMBMS or other enhancements need to be considered. Other
challenges that may require specific systems enablers are the strict timing
requirements from such mission critical services.

4.8 Machine type communications


Machine to Machine (M2M) communication is identified as one of the most
interesting chances for operators to generate new revenues specifically as
this business is in addition to providing services for the human being
population, whose growth already reached already saturation in some
markets. A specific characteristics and therefore challenge of M2M is the
often low ARPU per single device, which may be compensated by large
device populations under the same contract, given that commissioning,
operation and services can be managed in a cost efficient way. These are
the areas where specific system features intend to enable or improve such
business. Mobile M2M traffic worldwide is now doubling every year and the
proportion of 3G and 4G M2M devices will increase continuously.
M2M brings specific challenges to the network due to the potential massive
number of devices to be supported and the fact that those may act in a
coordinated manner. The basic capability for the mobile network is therefore
to efficiently maintain and manage the connectivity for a huge number of
M2M Devices. In addition, network robustness has to cope with situations

where a large number of M2M devices perform coordinated actions, e.g.


transfer data at the same point in time or change the network when nodes of
another network recover. Means for access control at different levels of the
mobile system have been already specified to cope with such or other
congestion situations to maintain normal service for other users. In addition,
for efficient handling of large number of connections a special feature for
device triggering was introduced by enhancing the existing SMS capability.
For the current phase of the Advanced EPC, the focus is more on improved
support for a large variety of M2M application scenarios. Specifically low
cost, low power consumption and efficient handling of small data transfers
have been identified as critical issues.
Further 3GPP features and services will be provided and offered to applications or service platforms as enablers for the new emerging M2M business.
Like the new future proof messaging service, which may be considered a
more powerful SMS service, it transfers efficiently data units of up to 1kB
size, independently from IP connectivity. Another example is the enhancement of 3GPP s discontinuous reception mechanisms that allow for
frequent data transfers with less system processing and are also suited to
reduce the device s battery power consumption. Further, a new device
sleep state mechanism may enable devices with infrequent communications
needs, e.g. tracking devices that report location every hour or day, to run
years without replacing the battery. As soon as the work load situation
allows for it, 3GPP may also continue to define a new monitoring framework
to provide M2M and other service platforms with a comprehensive status
overview about device, service and subscription conditions. This and other
interworking with platform or service enablement layers is becoming more
and more important for creating applications and services with added value.

10

4.9 Architecture enhancement for application


interworking
There is increasing interest in the mobile network to become aware of OTT
applications. This awareness would facilitate the providing of network
services in a more resource efficient way and also with better user experience. For instance, the network could optimize the radio resource scheduling for certain applications. For these requirements mechanisms already
exist like SAPP (Service Awareness & Privacy Policy), SIRIG (Service
Identification for improved Radio utilization In GERAN) or are under development like for User plane congestion control (UPCON) described above.
Also letting applications being aware of the network status (e.g. congestion)
may help to further improve the user experience. For example, a video
server could proactively adapt the codec if it gets a congestion prenotification, thereby avoiding any annoying video interruption. Such awareness for applications should be addressed in a general way. A proposed
framework is shown as below in figure 4d.

AIF: Application Interworking


Functionality

Service Layer
AS

AIF
PCRF
HSS
MME
UE

eNodeB

RAN

SGW/
PGW
EPC

Figure 4d: Application Interworking Framework for Advanced EPC

A new function called AIF is introduced between the service layer and the
mobile network to abstract the network capabilities in a systematic way and
thus unifying and opening the network capabilities towards application
service providers.

11

4.10 XML based access to PCRF


Nowadays mobile operators enable dedicated support for their own or 3rd
party applications via the Rx interface, which is based on Diameter protocol.
However, 3rd party application providers typically use XML based protocols
more frequently. Changing those applications to support Diameter, if
possible, would create additional efforts and is therefore no cost efficient
option. In order to resolve this issue, an XML based access from the AF to
the PCRF should be specified as a new XML based Rx variant or provided
by a protocol converter (referring to figure 4e). Both options may be needed
to support different deployment scenarios.

Diameter
based Rx
PCRF
MME

eNodeB

Converter
Gx (Diameter)

XML based Rx AF

SGW/PGW

Figure 4e. Options for XML based access to PCRF

4.11 SGi traffic steering


Currently a range of Value Added Service (VAS) enablers are deployed
between P-GW SGi interface and the edge router to the Internet Service
Provider. These VAS enablers may include traffic compression, video
optimization, web caching, HTTP header enrichment, Firewall, etc. These
enablers are important for providing services in a cost efficient and stable
way. Good VAS deployment will not only improve the user experience, but
may also create additional revenue from enhancing or processing data in
accordance with business relation.
There is however a need for an efficient routing of user data traffic to avoid
unnecessary traversing of individual VAS components, which are not
needed according to the policy applicable to the specific user data traffic.
Service Based Routing (SBR) has been added to the EPC by vendors to
fulfill this requirement of steering user data traffic selectively through VAS

12

enabler components based on user identity, mobile network information, and


service type. (Figure 4f)

VAS 1

VAS 2

VAS 3

SP Server
MME
UE

eNodeB

RAN

EPC

SGW/
PGW

SBR

Internet

Figure 4f: Basic SBR

In Advanced EPC, SBR can be further enhanced to provide dynamic


chaining of VAS enabler components with better agility and optimization by
adopting SDN based methods. In the SDN model, VAS enabler components
will be concatenated by a programmable switch which is under the control of
a centralized SDN controller (See figure 4g). The traffic routing policy is
implemented by the interaction of SDN controller and programmable switch
based on configuration or dynamic policy control.

VAS 1

VAS 2

SDN
Controller

VAS 3

SP Server

MME
UE

eNodeB

RAN

EPC

SGW/
PGW SBR

Switch

Internet

Figure 4g: SDN enabled SBR

13

5 Conclusions
LTE/LTE-Advanced and the Advanced EPC are continuously developing for
meeting new or extended challenges and expectations arising from the
mobile system usage penetrating virtually any area of life and work.
The Advanced EPC delivers new key features for enhancing efficiency and
business for already deployed MBB services and applications. But the
Advanced EPC is also opening for new usages by improving system
efficiency and cost position for scenarios that are not typically broad band,
e.g. massive usage of M2M with a small amount of data, or by offering
specific features from the mobile system towards applications or service
platforms for creation of a multitude of innovative services and applications.
A main aim is always maintaining stability and robustness of the mobile
system also with the growth of volume and variety of the traffic managed by
the mobile system.

14

6 Annex: Abbreviation
CNO

Core Network Overload

CSFB

CS Fallback

DASH

Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP

EPC

Evolved Packet Core

LTE

Long Term Evolution

M2M

Machine-to-Machine

MBMS

Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service

M2M

Machine to Machine communication

SAPP

Service Awareness & Privacy Policy

SBR

Service Based Routing

SDN

Software Defined Network

SIRIG

Service Identification for improved Radio utilization In GERAN

SRVCC

Single Radio Voice Call Continuity

UPCON

User Plane CONgestion management

VAS

Value Added Server

XML

eXtensible Markup Language

15

Copyright2013 Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd. All Rights Reserved.


The information contained in this document is for reference purpose only, and is subject to
change or withdrawal according to specific customer requirements and conditions.