Published on Aug 15, 2016
Roke Manor Research is a leading provider of mobile telecommunications technology for both terminals and base stations. We add value to our clients' projects by reducing time-to-market and lowering production costs, and provide lasting benefits through building long-term relationships and working in partnership with our customers.
We have played an active role in cellular communications technology since the 1980's, working initially in GSM and more recently in the definition and development of 3G (UMTS). Roke Manor Research has over 200 engineers with experience in designing hardware and software for 3G terminals and base stations and is currently developing technology for 4G and beyond. We are uniquely positioned to provide 2G, 3G and 4G expertise to our customers.
The role of Roke Manor Research engineers in standardisation bodies (e.g. ETSI and 3GPP) provides us with intimate knowledge of all the 2G and 3G standards (GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS FDD (WCDMA) and TD-SCDMA standards). Our engineers are currently contributing to the evolution of 3G standards and can provide up-to-the-minute implementation advice to customers.
Cellular System Architecture
Increases in demand and the poor quality of existing service led mobile service providers to research ways to improve the quality of service and to support more users in their systems. Because the amount of frequency spectrum available for mobile cellular use was limited, efficient use of the required frequencies was needed for mobile cellular coverage. In modern cellular telephony, rural and urban regions are divided into areas according to specific provisioning guidelines.
Deployment parameters, such as amount of cell-splitting and cell sizes, are determined by engineers experienced in cellular system architecture. Provisioning for each region is planned according to an engineering plan that includes cells, clusters, frequency reuse, and handovers.
A cell is the basic geographic unit of a cellular system. The term cellular comes from the honeycomb shape of the areas into which a coverage region is divided. Cells are base stations transmitting over small geographic areas that are represented as hexagons. Each cell size varies depending on the landscape. Because of constraints imposed by natural terrain and man-made structures, the true shape of cells is not a perfect hexagon.
Because only a small number of radio channel frequencies were available for mobile systems, engineers had to find a way to reuse radio channels to carry more than one conversation at a time. The solution the industry adopted was called frequency planning or frequency reuse. Frequency reuse was implemented by restructuring the mobile telephone system architecture into the cellular concept.
The concept of frequency reuse is based on assigning to each cell a group of radio channels used within a small geographic area. Cells are assigned a group of channels that is completely different from neighboring cells. The coverage area of cells is called the footprint. This footprint is limited by a boundary so that the same group of channels can be used in different cells that are far enough away from each other so that their frequencies do not interfere.
Unfortunately, economic considerations made the concept of creating full systems with many small areas impractical. To overcome this difficulty, system operators developed the idea of cell splitting. As a service area becomes full of users, this approach is used to split a single area into smaller ones. In this way, urban centers can be split into as many areas as necessary to provide acceptable service levels in heavy-traffic regions, while larger, less expensive cells can be used to cover remote rural regions.
The final obstacle in the development of the cellular network involved the problem created when a mobile subscriber traveled from one cell to another during a call. As adjacent areas do not use the same radio channels, a call must either be dropped or transferred from one radio channel to another when a user crosses the line between adjacent cells. Because dropping the call is unacceptable, the process of handoff was created.
Handoff occurs when the mobile telephone network automatically transfers a call from radio channel to radio channel as a mobile crosses adjacent cell. During a call, two parties are on one voice channel. When the mobile unit moves out of the coverage area of a given cell site, the reception becomes weak. At this point, the cell site in use requests a handoff. The system switches the call to a stronger-frequency channel in a new site without interrupting the call or alerting the user. The call continues as long as the user is talking, and the user does not notice the handoff at all.