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UTRAN interfaces and protocol structure

Figure 5-4 shows the general protocol model for UTRAN interfaces, i.e. Iub, Iur, Iu-CS, and Iu-
PS. The structure consists of two horizontal layers: the Radio Network Layer and the Transport
Network Layer.

The Radio Network Layer is concerned with user data and control information. The Transport
Network Layer is concerned with the transport technologies used for the UTRAN interfaces. The
two layers are logically independent of each other. This makes it possible to change the Transport
Network Layer without affecting Radio Network Layer, if required. In Release 99, the Transport
Network Layer is based on ATM. In Release 5, IP is used.

Figure 5-4 Generic protocol model for UTRAN interfaces.

The user plane includes the user data between the UE and the network and the data bearers. The
user data consists of data streams characterized by frame protocols specific to a UTRAN
The control plane includes the application protocols and the signaling bearers, which
transport the control information. The application protocols used at different UTRAN
interfaces are:

Iu-CS: Radio access network application protocol (RANAP)


Iub: Node B application protocol (NBAP)

Iur: Radio network system application protocol (RNSAP)

The transport network control plane includes the access link control application protocol
(ALCAP). ALCAP is used to set up transport bearers to carry user and control plane information.
It is not visible to the Radio Network Layer.

Several alternatives are available for the Physical Layer implementation within UTRAN.
The specified options in 3GPP release at Iu interfaces are:

Layer 1 synchronized option, i.e., PDH/SDH/SONET.

Layer 1 IP nonsynchronized option, i.e., Ethernet or any other suitable point-to-point or

point-to-multipoint technique.

Iu-CS interface protocol structure. In UMTS, the interface between RAN and CN is Iu. Iu-CS
is the interface specified between the RAN and the 3G MSC. The Iu-PS interface is defined
between the RAN and the 3G SGSN. In order to have uniformity, 3GPP specifies a single
protocol at Radio Network Layer for the Iu-CS and the Iu-PS interfaces. The radio access
network application protocol (RANAP) is the Radio Network Layer protocol for the Iu interface.
The RANAP peer entities reside in 3G MSC/SGSN and the SRNC. The RANAP functions are
specified in 3GPP TS 25.413 in detail. In summary, RANAP procedures support the following
key functions.

Radio access bearer (RAB) management including RAB setup, modification, and release

Iu connection management

Facilitate general UTRAN procedures from the core network, e.g., paging requests from the
CN to UE

Services to upper layers including the transportation of upper layer nonstratum protocols (i.e.,
call control, session management, and mobility management) messages between the UE and CN
Overload and error handling

SRNS relocation

UE location reporting

Trace invocation for a specified UE

Security functions including ciphering and integrity checks

RANAP uses services provided by the Transport Network Layer to transfer RANAP messages
across the Iu interfaces. Figure 5-5 shows the Transport Network Layer protocol stack. The
transport layer ensures error free message transfer between two RANAP entities. The Service
Connection and Control Part (SCCP) offers both connectionless and connection-oriented
services. Each active UE is assigned a separate logical link in case of connection-oriented service
between two RANAP entities. The SCCP utilizes services provided by the lower layers to
transport messages between two entities. Layer 3 Broadband Message Transfer Part (MTP3b)
provides message routing, discrimination, and distribution. It also provides link management
functions including load sharing between linksets. The SSCF maps the requirements of above
layers to the requirements of SSCOP. The SSCOP provides the mechanism for the establishment
and release of connections and the reliable exchange of signaling information between the
signaling entities. In cases where the IP transport option is chosen, the services are provided by
M3UA, SCTP, and IP. AAL5 is used to adapt the upper layer protocol to the requirements of the
lower ATM cells.

The radio network layerIu user plane protocols carry the user data over the bearers that are
set up by the Transport Network Layer.
Figure 5-5 Iu-CS interface protocol structure.

The frame protocol in the Iu interface supports both CS and PS domain user data traffic.

As described in the previous section, the purpose of the transport network control plane is to
set up, maintain, and release bearers to transport the data via the user plane. The AAL2 signaling
protocol capability set 1 (ALCAP), which is described in ITU-T specification Q.2630.1, is used.
ALCAP is a Layer 3 protocol. Its responsibility is to set up and manage ATM Adaptation Layer 2
(AAL2) connections.

In the user plane, ATM Adaptation Layer 2 (AAL2) is used as the user data bearer. AAL2 has
been specifically designed to transport short-length packets.

Iu-PS interface protocol structure. The Iu-PS interface is specified between the RAN and the
3G SGSN (Figure 5-6). As described in the previous section, 3GPP specifies a single protocol at
the Radio Network Layer for the Iu-CS and the Iu-PS interfaces, i.e., RANAP for the control
plane and Iu for the user plane. Both of these are defined in the previous section.
No transport network control protocol is needed. Unlike GPRS, where the GTP tunnel ends at
the SGSN, the GTP tunnel in UMTS extends up to RNC. The tunnel ID and IP address, which is
required to establish a tunnel, is included in the upper layer protocols.

Like GPRS, GTP-U uses UDP/IP. AAL5 is used to carry the packet-switched user traffic over
the Iu-PS interface.

Figure 5-6 Iu-PS interface protocol structure.

Iur interface protocol structure. Iur is the interface between the RNCs (Figure 5-7). One of the
RNCs assumes the controlling role and is termed the serving RNC (SRNC); the other RNC is
termed the drifting RNC (DRNC).

The Radio Subsystem Application Part (RNSAP) is a Radio Network Layer protocol used at
the Iur interface. RNSAP includes procedures for network control signaling between two RNC

Radio link management and reconfiguration

Radio link supervision

Common control channel (CCCH) signaling transfer


Relocation execution

RNSAP uses the services of the Transport Layer for reliable transfer of signaling messages in
both connectionless and connection-oriented modes. The SCCP allows a separate independent
logical connection with individual UE. If the ATM transport option is chosen between two
RNCs, the SCCP uses MTP3-B, SSCF-NNI, and SSCOP services for networking and routing of
messages. In cases where the IP transport option is chosen, these services are provided by the
M3UA, SCTP, and IP.

Figure 5-7 Iur interface protocol structure.

Iub interface protocol structure. Iub is the interface between the Node B and the RNC (Figure
The Node B application protocol (NBAP) is a Radio Network Layer control plane protocol at
the Iub interface. NBAP includes the procedures to manage the logical resources at Node B.
NBAP procedures support the following functions:

Cell configuration management

Radio link management and supervision

Common transport channel management

System information management

Configuration verification/alignment

Measurement of common and dedicated resources

System network protocols

Access and nonaccess stratum protocols. The Access Stratum (AS) is defined as the group of
protocols (all layers) embedded in the UTRAN and between the edge nodes (UE and RNC). The
Nonaccess Stratum (NAS) is defined as the group of protocols between the UE and the CN.
These protocols are carried transparently through the UTRAN. Figures 5-9 and 5-10 show the
Access Stratum and Nonaccess Stratum protocol boundaries in the control and user planes,
Figure 5-8 Iub interface protocol structure.
Figure 5-9 Control plane protocols.

Figure 5-10 User plane protocols.

RAN protocols (Access Stratum) are described in the previous section. The protocols
belonging to the Nonaccess stratum group are:
CS domain

Call control management (CC)

Mobility management (MM)

PS domain

Session management (SM)

GPRS mobility management (GMM)

The call control management protocol contains the functions and procedures for call
establishment, monitoring, and release for circuit-switched voice and multimedia calls.The
mobility management protocol includes procedures for UE mobility and authentication. As
shown in Figure 5-9, the CC protocol uses the connection service provided by the MM sublayer.
The MM sublayer in turn uses the connection services provided by the Radio Resource
Connection (RRC) Layer. The RRC handles the control plane signaling of Layer 3 between the
UE and UTRAN. It establishes, maintains, and releases the signaling connection and radio
bearers for UE on request from the upper layer. The RNC uses the relay functionality to map the
CC messages into RANAP for forward transmission to core network.

Like the CC protocol, the session management protocol is used to activate, modify, and delete
PDP contexts. The prerequisite to a SM context for a UE is the existence of a GMM context. The
GMM includes the functions and procedures for the UE mobility and authentication procedure in
the PS domain.