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GSM Evolution Importance in Re-farming

900 MHz band

Vieira, R. D.1 , Paiva, R. C. D.1 , Hulkkonen, J.2 , Jarvela, R.2 , Iida, R. F.1 ,
Saily, M.2 , Tavares, F. M. L1 , Niemela, K.2

Nokia Technology Institute, Brazil1 Nokia Siemens Networks, Finland2

Email: {robson.domingos, rafael.paiva, renato.iida, fernando.tavares},
{jari.hulkkonen, rauli.jarvela, mikko.saily, kari.niemela}

AbstractRe-farming of 900 MHz band into HSPA has been

started and is likely to happen later with LTE. Typically operators
have less than 10 MHz block of 900 MHz spectrum and therefore
co-existence of two systems in that band is causing challenges.
One of the major issues is the high GSM voice traffic that will
remain in the GSM network. How to cope the same traffic
with significantly less bandwidth for GSM? Orthogonal SubChannel (OSC) is a new method to increase voice capacity
in the GSM system. OSC intends not only increase the GSM
voice capacity but enables very efficient usage of hardware and
spectrum resources. In this paper a detailed analysis on OSC
performance is made based on system level simulations. Aim
is to provide results that show how OSC can be used for refarming of the 900 MHz band into HSPA or LTE. Simulations
are carried in the GSM network evaluating capacity for different
bandwidths and site configurations. Released frequency spectrum
can be used for HSPA or LTE to provide good coverage for rural
area mobile broadband. Results show that OSC is an efficient
method to release resources for the new systems.

The GSM/EDGE cellular market has still experienced enormous subscriber growth during the past years, mainly in expanding markets such as China, India, and Latin America [1].
As the demand for the wireless network services increases,
the network operators and vendors are challenged to find
new ways to increase the system capacity given the limited
spectrum and enhance the network resources. Voice traffic
is still the most important service in GSM networks and is
still taking most of the resources in the GSM system. Hence,
there is continuous push to further improve voice capacity.
The requirement for increased voice capacity is not only to
accommodate the growing voice traffic, but also to make
room for new data services and to release spectrum for new
900 MHz band provides good coverage in GSM networks
and it is therefore the most important band for the GSM system. However, operators have typically very limited spectrums
at 900 MHz band, from only about 5 MHz to 10 MHz. Higher
frequency bands around 2 GHz are used in urban areas to offer
more capacity and offload capacity from 900 MHz band.
Mobile broadband can be brought to rural areas by utilizing
900 MHz band to new technologies like HSPA and LTE.
New technologies allow higher data rates and lower frequency
band allows wide coverage. Current HSPA requires 5 MHz of
bandwidth and it provides data rates up to 14.4 Mbps in the

downlink. HSPA evolution (HSPA+) enables donwlink data

rates up to 42 Mbps in R8 using multi-carrier, and 28 Mbps
in R7 (per 5 MHz carrier) by utilizing multiple input, multiple
output (MIMO) technologies and higher order modulation.
LTE is more flexible in spectrum utilization point of view
supporting various bandwidths in the range of 1.4 MHz 20 MHz. LTE offers data rates up to 150 Mbps and later on
4x4 LTE provides even 300 Mbps [2].
UMTS deployments at 900 MHz band have already started
e.g. in Europe. Performance differences between UMTS900
and UMTS2100 have been studied in [3]. It was shown
that UMTS900 can provide 2.5 times larger cell area than
UMTS2100. It was also evaluated that inter-system interference between GSM and UMTS is causing only small
performance degradation. Furthermore, it was shown that
2.2 MHz carrier separation is enough between the closest
GSM and UMTS carriers in case of coordinated deployment
(i.e., when GSM and UMTS are sharing the same site).
Therefore, UMTS900 is very attractive solution to provide
mobile broadband for rural areas, and furthermore, to improve
indoor coverage in urban areas.
HSPA is now the mostly used technology to built mobile
broadband coverage. Mass LTE deployments will start after
couple of years. In the cases when 900 MHz band is shared
between GSM and HSPA there is not much room for LTE.
Hence LTE could be deployed to co-exist with GSM at
1800 MHz band, which would be hot spot capacity solution
rather than rural area coverage solution.
From the GSM point of view, there is demand for very high
spectral efficiency when part of the spectrum is allocated to
HSPA or LTE. In the GSM system there has been continuous evolution towards higher and higher voice performance.
Adaptive multi-rate (AMR) [4] and single-antenna interference
cancellation (SAIC) [5] are the most efficient capacity improvement features that are already in use in the current high
capacity networks. Moreover, there are many radio resource
management features introduced that can be used to optimize
the network performance, like e.g. different frequency hopping
methods, optimized channel allocation algorithms, diversity
methods etc [6].
The latest voice capacity feature that is being introduced
for the GSM system is Orthogonal Sub-Channel (OSC), in
which two users are multiplexed in the same physical radio

978-1-4244-3574-6/10/$25.00 2010 IEEE

resource simultaneously [7]. It does not require any changes in

mobiles, but SAIC capable terminals are needed. In GERAN
3GPP Release 9 there is an ongoing work item called Voice
services over Adaptive Multiuser Orthogonal Sub-channel
(VAMOS) [8]. VAMOS includes OSC concept and some
methods to further improve OSC performance, like e.g. new
training sequences and two new VAMOS terminal types. It has
been shown in GERAN 3GPP that OSC and VAMOS are able
to more than double voice capacity in case of loose frequency
reuses [9]. In case of tight frequency reuse factors, only part
of the connections can be allocated to OSC channel due to
higher carrier-to-interference ratio (CIR) requirements.
Together with AMR, SAIC and OSC methods and optimized
radio resource allocation features GSM voice traffic can be
pushed to a smallest possible spectrum. The objective of this
paper is to provide results that show the performance of GSM
network when these features are used. Several scenarios are
studied by varying available GSM bandwidth and number of
transceivers (TRX) per cell. GSM system level simulations
are done in a homogeneous scenario with different frequency
plans. Results provide a good way to evaluate the potential
performance gains of the OSC concept in different re-farming
In section II a short description of important features used
for re-farming is presented. In Section III a description on
the simulation scenarios and explanation of quality indicators
used for analyzing each simulation is shown. In Section IV
simulation results are presented in order to show what kind
of gain is achieved when applying OSC. In Section V an
evaluation summary of the results is presented in addition to
possible research topics on GSM evolution.
The Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) speech codec is an optimized audio compression scheme for speech coding. The
AMR speech codecs support 8 different codec modes with
bit rates ranging from 4.75 kbps to 12.2 kbps. The higher-rate
codec mode is, the better is the speech quality in error free
The GSM speech channel raw bit rate is constant with
rates of 22.8 kbps for full-rate (FR) and 11.4 kbps half-rate
(HR). Hence, by varying the codec rate we can change the
channel-coding rate and adjust the transmission robustness.
The codec mode adaptation scheme is based on the CIR
estimation available at the receiver, thus selecting the most
adequate codec mode to the current interference conditions.
Single Antenna Interference Cancellation (SAIC) is an
interference cancellation technique which cancels the highest
interferer by means of signal processing without the use of
multiple antennas. Its requirements were specified in 3GPP
under the Downlink Advanced Receiver Performance (DARP)
Phase 1, while MS receiver diversity (MSRD) was later
introduced as DARP Phase 2 [10]. This technique is extremely

adequate to apply in mobile terminal since it is still a challenge

to have multiple antennas in a terminal, mainly in low cost
GSM terminals.
The actual implementation of SAIC is up to the mobile
station (MS) vendor and several algorithms can be found in the
literature. In [11] and [6] an overview of SAIC and capacity
gain of SAIC for speech traffic are presented, respectively.
Orthogonal Sub-Channel (OSC) is a feature proposed in
3GPP GERAN which doubles the voice capacity of GSM
channels [12]. Through this technique, two users share the
same physical radio resource simultaneously. Moreover, an orthogonal training sequence is assigned for each OSC user since
their signal detections depend on that. Hence, with OSC two
new channel modes are created, namely AMR double full-rate
(AMR DFR) and AMR double half-rate (AMR DHR), which
double the hardware capacity of the legacy channel modes
AMR full-rate (AMR DFR) and AMR half-rate (AMR DHR)
In UL transmission, each OSC user transmits independent
signal and the BTS should, then, be able to separate each
signal by using the orthogonal training sequences assigned for
each sub-channel. On the other hand, in DL transmission, a
QPSK constellation is used to transmit both users as shown in
Figure 1, where the most significant bit is related to the data for
user in sub-channel 0 while the least significant bit is related to
sub-channel 1. The modified QPSK constellation transmits the
OSC sub-channels in in-phase and quadrature components of
the signal. In the end, a single composite signal consisting of
two orthogonal signals are sent over one radio channel which
may be decoded by each MS as an ordinary GMSK. In practice
the frequency selectivity of the multi-path fading radio channel
causes inter-symbol interference and interference between the
two sub-channels, for this reason, it is desirable that a MS in a
OSC channel is using a interference rejection technique such
as SAIC [6].

Fig. 1.

8PSK constellation symbols used on OSC.


Simulation scenarios for this paper were created based on
the assumption that total available spectrum is 10 MHz. It is
considered that the spectrum is originally fully occupied by the
GSM network, and a gradual re-farming of GSM spectrum to

Frequency Band
Cell Radius
Number of TCH TRX
BCCH Frequency Reuse
TCH Frequency Reuse
Frequency Hopping
Number of TCH Frequencies
Fast Fading Type
MS Speed
Network Sync Mode

Simulation scenario
900 MHz
500 m
5, 7, 8.6 and 10 MHz
2, 3, 4, 5 and 6
12, 22, 30 and 37
Typical Urban
3 Km/h


Channel modes


a new technology is applied. The GSM bandwidth for each

test case is 5, 7, 8.6 and 10 MHz, in which there would be
25, 35, 43 and 50 GSM frequencies respectively. This choice
of frequency bands was based on the assumption that there
is a shared portion with LTE or another technology, although
only GSM is simulated.
A detailed description on common Network configuration is
shown in Table I, where it is possible to notice that the number
of GSM frequencies is varied, as well as the number of TRX.
Broadcast control channel (BCCH) is simulated and it was
considered that it would occupy 12 frequencies, therefore the
number of traffic channel (TCH) frequencies was calculated
based on the number of available spectrum after BCCH is
allocated. Additionally, the number of TRX has been modified
for each test case, therefore leading to an analysis on the
required hardware for each spectrum bandwidth in each test
Additionally, effective reuse concept is used in the analysis
throughout the paper, which describes how often the same
frequency is reused in a network with 1/1 reuse. Effective
reuse Re of a given scenario is given by
Re =


the percentage of users with Frame Erasure Rate (FER) higher

than 3%. Network capacity was then calculated in Erlangs per
sector as being the maximum load in which BQC and BCR
are lower then 5% and 2% respectively.
Figure 2 presents Erlangs achieved when the users are using
the AMR FR and HR channels without SAIC receivers for
different bandwidth sizes and number of TRX, where the TRX
number in the figure is related to the TRXs in the hopping
layer, i.e. 2 TRXs means 1 BCCH TRX plus 2 TCH TRXs.
The AMR FR simulations are limited by hardware, i.e., the
bandwidth is increased, but the capacity remains unchanged.
In real networks, the capacity will only increase by increasing
the number of TRXs, or enabling some specific features that
could increase the hardware capacity such as AMR HR or
The AMR HR simulation curves reveal significant capacity
gains mainly for environments with high frequency reuse and
limited by hardware. For instance, in 10 MHz and 2 TRXs
configuration the AMR HR capacity gain, when compared
with AMR FR, is approximately 130%. The small gain observed in scenarios with low effective reuse is expected since
those scenarios are limited by interference. It is important
to remember that AMR HR channels are only used in good
channel conditions in order to achieve a good speech quality.


where Nfreq is the total number of frequencies and NTRXavg

is the average number of TRX per sector [13].
The only codec used was the AMR-590, since it is a good
indicator of the achievable performance for the simulated
cases. Simulation test cases included usage of AMR FR,
AMR HR and AMR DHR channel modes as well as SAIC
and non-SAIC receivers. Table II shows characteristics of each
test case.
The network capacity assessment was made based on Blocking Rate (BCR) and Bad Quality Call rate (BQC), which is

Fig. 2.

Voice capacity comparison between FR and HR channel modes.

Additionally, Figure 2 shows that HR channel mode could

be used as an efficient way for saving hardware resources. As
it can be observed in this figure, by using HR it is possible
to reduce TRX number from 6 to 3, and still have 13-14%
capacity gain over FR channel mode. It is also possible to
observe that for bandwidths bigger than 7 MHz, FR using
5 TRXs offers almost the same voice capacity of HR using

2 TRXs. In the examples shown above enabling the AMR HR,

the spectrum is better used since more users can be allocated
in the same amount of spectrum. Furthermore, some spectrum
can be saved for the low frequency reuse scenarios.
Since most of AMR HR curves presented in Figure 2 were
limited by interference, a new set of AMR HR simulations
enabling the SAIC receiver were done (Figure 3). It is possible
to notice that with SAIC receiver, high AMR HR capacity
gains are obtained even for small bandwidth cases and high
number of TRXs, which are scenarios with low frequency
reuse and, therefore, high interference level. The highest
observed gains were for 5 MHz with 5 and 4 TRXs, with
167% and 155% gain respectively.
Additionally, it can also be observed that the combination
og AMR HR and SAIC receivers makes many scenarios to be
limited by blocked calls. As an example it can be observed that
scenarios with 6 and 5 TRXs have no difference in capacity
for 7, 8.6 and 10MHz, which indicates that they are limited
by hardware. This result shows that SAIC is very efficient
to solve interference problems, thus can provide significant
capacity gains in interference limited networks.
Furthermore, it seems that the combination of AMR HR
and SAIC receiver is an important step for re-farming of GSM
networks since the network could operate in lower frequency
reuse or a high interference scenario and, thus, allowing to
release some GSM spectrum for another technology. As an
example, if there is a network using 10 MHz and 6 TRXs,
when using SAIC it can easily decrease the bandwidth to
7 MHz using 6 TRXs keeping the same voice capacity, or
decrease it to 5 MHz with 5 TRXs and have only 20%
reduction in voice capacity.

Fig. 3.

Voice capacity comparison between HR with and without SAIC.

As showed in previous results the AMR HR with SAIC

receivers networks are blocked limited even for 6 TRX. Hence,
the network capacity can not be increased by increasing the
number of TRX. Nowadays, the operators intend to reduce the
networks cost which means reducing, for example, the number
of TRX. The OSC feature comes with idea of increasing the
network capacity without need of increasing the number of
TRX. The network capacity when the AMR HR, OSC (AMR
DHR) and SAIC receivers are combined is shown in Figure 4.
In all simulation cases using OSC it is possible to observe
that when the bandwidth is increased also the the capacity
is increased, while the number of TRXs remains the same.
This means that networks became interference limited instead
of blocking limited when deploying OSC. Maximum network
capacity was obtained with AMR DHR, which has increased
capacity by almost 30% in 10 MHz and 6 TRXs configuration.
Additionally, an important advantage comes with AMR
DHR, since it makes it possible to decrease the number of
required TRXs for a given required load. Therefore, OSC
implementation may bring cost savings in network implementation as well as in network operation, since when there is less
TRXs it may be possible also to save energy. Figure 4 shows
that a network with 7 MHz and 6 TRXs can save 1 TRXs
using OSC, which will lead to a capacity increase of 7%, or it
can use 4 OSC TRXs and experience a capacity loss of 13%.
Besides, in 10 MHz configuration, 4 TRXs using OSC has the
same capacity as 6 TRXs. For the 5 TRXs reference case, it
is possible to observe that using OSC and saving 1 TRX, it is
possible to have a 22% capacity gain with 10 MHz bandwidth.
The results have shown that the combination between features for improving hardware efficiency, i.e. AMR HR and
AMR DHR, and interference efficiency, i.e. SAIC, can really
improve the spectrum and hardware usage which lead us to
save spectrum and cost with radios. For 5 MHz bandwidth
best results have shown 107% improvement over FR results
without SAIC. Additionally, much more then the FR maximum
achieved capacity of 44 erlangs, which is provided with at least
7 MHz, can be delivered with 5 MHz spectrum when OSC is
used. In that case there is 66.2% gain of OSC with 5 MHz
over FR with 7-10 MHz. These kind of results is crucial for
operators which are planning re-farming in their networks.
Finally, it is possible to determine some relationships between effective frequency reuse and gains obtained with the
studied features as shown in Figure 5, were HR gain is
comparison between AMR FR and AMR HR, SAIC gain is
showing SAIC gains in over AMR HR, and OSC gain is
presenting OSC gains over AMR HR with SAIC. It is possible
to notice that features used for increasing hardware capacity
such as HR and OSC have often small gains when effective
frequency reuse is low. Both have shown small gains for reuse
lower than 5, which can be explained since those features
require high C/I ratios for keeping a good quality. On the
other hand, SAIC has shown good results when effective reuse
is low, i.e. in interference limited scenarios, although there
were no gains in scenarios with high reuse. This is due to the
fact that SAIC doesnt improve hardware capacity, but is a

Fig. 4.

Voice capacity comparison between HR and DHR.

technique for improving interference management.

is important to get the full benefit from hardware capabilities

obtained with HR. OSC has shown to be a good technique for
efficient hardware utilization. It was shown in the simulations
that it is able to increase network capabilities, as well as to
reduce hardware requirements, i.e. number of TRX, once a
given voice capacity is required. This means that investment
costs are reduced in implementation as well as operational
costs, since energy saving can be obtained with lower number
of TRX.
Overall simulation results have shown that really large
gains with OSC are obtained when combining HR speech
channels and DARP phase 1 receiver capability. This leads
to the conclusion that for further gains using OSC technique
it would be needed to include features for interference management, e.g. Dynamic Frequency and Channel Assignment
(DFCA) [14], or interference cancellation, e.g. new advanced
receiver techniques, such as DARP Phase 2. New receivers are
already under discussion on VAMOS workgroup, which are
currently called in standardization forum as VAMOS Phase 2
receiver [9].
Future studies should include the effects of new interference
improvement features jointly with OSC. Additionally, it would
be important to have simulations jointly performed for GSM
and LTE or UMTS networks, thus providing deeper understanding on expected evolution as technology migrates to 3/4G

Fig. 5.

Capacity gains for each effective reuse factors.


This work has presented some system level simulations
which shows importance of latest voice evolution for refarming in the 900MHz band. It has shown how HR, SAIC
and OSC can be jointly used for saving both spectrum and
hardware resources while keeping a given required network
Voice capacity improvement was shown first with application of HR over GSM networks. This has shown that
capacity can be significantly increased with HR, but although
hardware capability is doubled, networks became limited by
interference, which has limited the achievable gains. Further
improvements in networks are obtained with usage of interference cancellation techniques such as SAIC (or DARP phase
1) receivers. Results have shown that this kind of technique

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