Long Term Evolution (LTE)

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LTE (Long Term Evolution) is initiated by 3GPP to improve the mobile phone standard to cope with future technology evolutions and needs. 3GPP work on the Evolution of the 3G Mobile System started with the RAN Evolution Work Shop, 2 - 3 November 2004 in Toronto, Canada.

The main targets for this evolution are increased data rates, improved spectrum efficiency, improved coverage, reduced latency and packet-optimized system that support multiple Radio Access Technologies.

Architecture overview

The evolved architecture comprises E-UTRAN (Evolved UTRAN) on the access side and EPC (Evolved Packet Core) on the core side.
The figure below shows the evolved system architecture

In E-UTRAN, eNBs provide the E-UTRA user plane protocols (PDCP/RLC/MAC/PHY) and control plane (RRC) protocol which terminates towards the UE.

The eNBs are interconnected with each other by means of the X2 interface. The eNBs are connected by the S1 interface to the EPC (Evolved Packet Core). The eNB connects to the MME (Mobility Management Entity) by means of the S1-MME interface and to the Serving Gateway (S-GW) by means of the S1-U interface. The S1 interface supports a many-to-many relation between MMEs / Serving Gateways and eNBs. 

LTE Network Elements

eNB interfaces with the UE and hosts the PHYsical (PHY), Medium Access Control (MAC), Radio Link Control (RLC), and Packet Data Control Protocol (PDCP) layers. It also hosts Radio Resource Control (RRC) functionality corresponding to the control plane. It performs many functions including radio resource management, admission control, scheduling, enforcement of negotiated UL QoS, cell information broadcast, ciphering/deciphering of user and control plane data, and
compression/decompression of DL/UL user plane packet headers.

Mobility Management Entity
manages and stores UE context (for idle state: UE/user identities, UE mobility state, user security parameters). It generates temporary identities and allocates them to UEs. It checks the authorization whether the UE may camp on the TA or on the PLMN. It also authenticates the user.
Serving Gateway

The SGW routes and forwards user data packets, while also acting as the mobility anchor for the user plane during inter-eNB handovers and as the anchor for mobility between LTE and other 3GPP technologies (terminating S4 interface and relaying the traffic between 2G/3G systems and PDN GW).

Packet Data Network Gateway
The PDN GW provides connectivity to the UE to external packet data networks by being the point of exit and entry of traffic for the UE. A UE may have simultaneous connectivity with more than one PDN GW for accessing multiple PDNs. The PDN GW performs policy enforcement, packet filtering for each user, charging support, lawful Interception
and packet screening. 

LTE Interfaces
The following are LTE Interfaces : (Ref: TS 23.401 v 841)

  • S1-MME :- Reference point for the control plane protocol between E-UTRAN and MME.
  • S1-U:- Reference point between E-UTRAN and Serving GW for the per bearer user plane tunnelling and inter eNodeB path switching during handover.
  • S3:- It enables user and bearer information exchange for inter 3GPP access network mobility in idle and/or active state.
  • S4:- It provides related control and mobility support between GPRS Core and the 3GPP Anchor function of Serving GW. In addition, if Direct Tunnel is not established, it provides the user plane tunnelling.
  • S5:- It provides user plane tunnelling and tunnel management between Serving GW and PDN GW. It is used for Serving GW relocation due to UE mobility and if the Serving GW needs to connect to a non-collocated PDN GW for the required PDN connectivity.
  • S6a:- It enables transfer of subscription and authentication data for authenticating/authorizing user access to the evolved system (AAA interface) between MME and HSS.
  • Gx:- It provides transfer of (QoS) policy and charging rules from PCRF to Policy and Charging Enforcement Function (PCEF) in the PDN GW.
  • S8:- Inter-PLMN reference point providing user and control plane between the Serving GW in the VPLMN and the PDN GW in the HPLMN. S8 is the inter PLMN variant of S5.
  • S9:- It provides transfer of (QoS) policy and charging control information between the Home PCRF and the Visited PCRF in order to support local breakout function.
  • S10:- Reference point between MMEs for MME relocation and MME to MME information transfer.
  • S11:- Reference point between MME and Serving GW.
  • S12:- Reference point between UTRAN and Serving GW for user plane tunnelling when Direct Tunnel is established. It is based on the Iu-u/Gn-u reference point using the GTP-U protocol as defined between SGSN and UTRAN or respectively between SGSN and GGSN. Usage of S12 is an operator configuration option.
  • S13:- It enables UE identity check procedure between MME and EIR.
  • SGi:- It is the reference point between the PDN GW and the packet data network. Packet data network may be an operator external public or private packet data network or an intra operator packet data network, e.g. for provision of IMS services. This reference point corresponds to Gi for 3GPP accesses.
  • Rx:- The Rx reference point resides between the AF and the PCRF in the TS 23.203.
  • SBc:- Reference point between CBC and MME for warning message delivery and control functions.

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