3G Tutorials: Introduction to 3G

What is 3G?

3G is the third generation cellular system. Here we will discuss about UMTS (Universal Mobile Communication System) which is a 3G system.

Foundation of Cellular Concept

In 1972 Bell Labs registered a patent which was the foundation for 2nd generation and 3rd generation cellular technologies.

The Idea: Instead of base stations that cover large areas, each base station should cover a small area. This way the same frequency can be reused.

The patent can be found at the following link:

http://www.google.com/patents/about?id=7yI1AAAAEBAJ&dq=bell+labs+patent+for+cellular+antenna

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Frequency Reuse

UMTS Requirements

2nd Generation Mobile systems were mainly developed for Voice based services. Later some data services were added to that system. But 3G was developed taking the future into consideration. The main requirements for 3G are listed below:

  • Bit rate up to 2 Mbps.
  • Variable bit rate support.
  • Multi service support. Example: Browsing at the time of voice communication.
  • Delay requirements for delay sensitive real time traffic.
  • Quality requirements from 10% frame error rate to 10 to the power -6.
  • Inter-system Hand Over. Handover between 2nd and 3rd generation systems.
  • High spectrum efficiency.
  • Support of TDD and FDD mode.
  • Support of location based services.

3gpp Specifications

At the high level the 3gpp specifications are structured through different releases. The releases specify a version of system with some particular features. Following are the different releases of UMTS specifications are the most important new features implemented in that release.

Release Date Frozen New Features
99 March 2000 W-CDMA air interface
4 March 2001 Bearer independent CS Architecture
TS-SCDMA
5 June 2002 HSDPA
IMS
6 March 2005 HSUPA
7 September 2007 HSPA+
8 December 2008 Long Term Evolution
9 Enhanced eNodeB
10 Not Updated

The 3gpp specification has document number like: TS 25.331 V 6.22.0.

TS: Technical Specification

25: Series number

331: Specification Number

6: Release number

22: Technical Version Number

0: Editorial Version Number

List of 3gpp series number:

21 Requirements
22 Service aspects (“stage 1″)
23 Technical realization (“stage 2″)
24 Signalling protocols (“stage 3″) – user equipment to network
25 Radio aspects
26 CODECs
27 Data
28 Signalling protocols (“stage 3″) -(RSS-CN)
29 Signalling protocols (“stage 3″) – intra-fixed-network
30 Programme management
31 Subscriber Identity Module (SIM / USIM), IC Cards. Test specs.
32 OAM&P and Charging
33 Security aspects
34 UE and (U)SIM test specifications
35 Security algorithms
36 LTE (Evolved UTRA) and LTE-Advanced radio technology
37 Multiple radio access technology aspects

UMTS Architecture

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Core Network

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The Release 99 Core network contains the circuit switched domain and packet switched domain. The Core Network contains the following entities.

HLR: Home Location Register

The HLR is located in the user’s home system. It contains the user’s service profile.

AuC: Authentication Center

The AuC contains security related information.

EIR: Equipment Identity Register

EIR is an optional component. It contains information such as list of stolen mobiles.

MSC/VLR: Mobile switching center / Visitor location register

The MSC job is to switch the CS transactions and VLR job is to store a copy of the user’s service profile as well as more precise information about UE’s location within the service system.

GMSC: Gateway MSC

This is a switch and this connects the UMTS PLMN to the external CS networks.

SGSN: Serving GPRS Support Node

The SGSN job is similar to MSC/VLR but this is for PS traffic.

GGSN: Gateway GPRS Support Node

This is similar to GMSC but it serves for the PS traffic.

Radio Access Network

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UTRAN has two main nodes NodeB and RNC.

NodeB:

NodeB is a physical unit for radio transmission and reception with cells. NodeB may have one or more cells depending on sectoring. UE is connected to the NodeB through the Uu interface, which is a radio interface.

The main task of the NodeB is conversion of data to and from the Uu interface, including Foreword error correction (FEC), rate adaptation, W-CDMA spreading and dispreading. The NodeB also takes care of the Soft Handover in case of FDD.

RNC: (Radio Network Controller)

The RNC owns and controls the radio resources in its domain. It is an intermediate component between NodeB and the CN.

RNC has three main functions. The RNC can acquire three different names depending on the function it is performing.

CRNC: Controlling RNC

Each NodeB is controlled by a particular RNC. This RNC is called the Controlling RNC (CRNC) for the NodeB.

SRNC: Serving RNC

Each mobile or UE is controlled by a particular RNC. This RNC is called serving RNC. The SRNC exchanges signaling messages with the mobiles it serves, and act as a sole point of contact with the Core Network.

DRNC: Drift RNC

A drift RNC uses the Iur interface to carry UE specific signalling information between the NodeBa and the SRNC.

User Equipment

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The UE consists of two main parts, Mobile Equipment (ME) and Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC).

ME: Mobile Equipment

The ME consists of two parts, Terminal Equipment and Mobile Terminal.

Terminal Equipment is the point where all data streams start and end.

Mobile Terminal handles all 3G communication functions.

USIM (UICC)

USIM  is a smartcard that holds the subscriber identity, performs the security algorithm, and stores the authentication and encryption key and subscription information.

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  • Miguel

    Very good information, but it is not only theory, we could have a closer contact with the applied?
    Example: some software, existing equipment at nodes B, etc.. …

    Greetings

  • Miguel

    Very good information, but it is not only theory, we could have a closer contact with the applied?
    Example: some software, existing equipment at nodes B, etc.. …

    Greetings

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