Monday, March 3, 2014

LTE Overview

LTE (Long Term Evolution) or the E-UTRAN (Evolved Universal Terrestrial Access Network), introduced in 3GPP R8, is the access part of the Evolved Packet System (EPS). The main requirements for the new access network are high spectral efficiency, high peak data rates, short round trip time as well as flexibility in frequency and bandwidth.

GSM was developed to carry real time services, in a circuit switched manner (blue in figure 1), with data services only possible over a circuit switched modem connection, with very low data rates. The first step towards an IP based packet switched (green in figure 1) solution was taken with the evolution of GSM to GPRS, using the same air interface and access method, TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access).

To reach higher data rates in UMTS (Universal Mobile Terrestrial System) a new access technology WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) was developed. The access network in UMTS emulates a circuit switched connection for real time services and a packet switched connection for datacom services (black in figure 1). In UMTS the IP address is allocated to the UE when a datacom service is established and released when the service is released. Incoming datacom services are therefore still relying upon the circuit switched core for paging.

The Evolved Packet System (EPS) is purely IP based. Both real time services and datacom services will be carried by the IP protocol. The IP address is allocated when the mobile is switched on and released when switched off.
The new access solution, LTE, is based on OFDMA (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access) and in combination with higher order modulation (up to 64QAM), large bandwidths (up to 20 MHz) and spatial multiplexing in the downlink (up to 4x4) high data rates can be achieved. The highest theoretical peak data rate on the transport channel is 75 Mbpsin the uplink, and in the downlink, using spatial multiplexing, the rate can be as high as 300 Mbps.

The LTE access network is simply a network of base stations, evolved NodeB (eNB), generating a flat architecture (figure 2). There is no centralized intelligent controller, and the eNBs are normally inter-connected viathe X2-interface and towards the core network by the S1-interface (figure 2). The reason for distributing the intelligence amongst the base-stations in LTE is to speed up the connection set-up and reduce the time required for a handover. For an end-user the connection set-up time for a real time data session is in many cases crucial, especially in on-line gaming. The time for a handover is essential for real-time services where end-users tend to end calls if the handover takes too long.


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