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3GPP and Telecommunication Technologies

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- 5G Architecture and The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) 

3GPP covers telecommunication technologies including RAN, core transport networks and service capabilities. 3GPP has provided complete system specifications for 5G network architecture which is much more service oriented than previous generations. 

Services are provided via a common framework to network functions that are permitted to make use of these services. Modularity, reusability and self-containment of network functions are additional design considerations for a 5G network architecture described by the 3GPP specifications.

For decades, 3GPP has maintained detailed mechanisms through standards which have enabled billions of worldwide users to access mobile communications. Comprised of seven different international telecommunications standard development organizations, 3GPP coordinates the establishment of technologies, radio access networks, core network and service capabilities, as well as non-radio access and interworking protocols for non-3GPP networks. 3GPP has a defined set of releases for the new versions of the standards, each containing new functionality.

3GPP is the industry organization that defines the global specifications for 3G UMTS (including HSPA), 4G LTE, and 5G technologies. 3GPP is driving many essential inventions across all aspects of 5G design, from the air interface to the service layer. Other 3GPP 5G members range from infrastructure vendors and component/device manufacturers to mobile network operators and vertical service providers.


- 3GPP 3GPP Specification Release Numbers

The 3GPP standards undergo continual change. To ensure that there is an organised release of new functionality, new releases of the standards occur at planned times. 

For the new 3GPP releases, there is a schedule of releases which contained set introductions of new functionality and this represents the work of the various Technical Specifications Groups and Working Groups. 

The first 3GPP releases were termed Phase 1 and Phase 2. After this the releases were given the year of the anticipated releases, but after Release 99, they reverted to specific release numbers. Release 4 was also known as 3GPP Release 2000.


- 3GPP Release Topics

3GPP Phase 1 reflected the first introduction of GSM. Work on GSM was the main focus through until Release 98. 

3GPP Release 99 was the first release of the UMTS / WCDMA standard, and work on this proceeded with the introduction of HSDPA, the HSUPA to form HSPA. 

3GPP Release 8 saw the first introduction of LTE and this was steadily updated with enhancements of LTE with LTE-A and improvements to many areas. 

Moving on, 3GPP Release 14, Release 15, and Release 16 will include the 5G technologies. Initially 3GPP Release 14 will include elements that build towards 5G, the next two including the actual specifications for it.

- Mobile Phone Standards

A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s. 

Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and IS-95 were the two most prevalent 2G mobile communication technologies in 2007. In 3G, the most prevalent technology was UMTS with CDMA-2000 in close contention. 

All radio access technologies have to solve the same problems: to divide the finite RF spectrum among multiple users as efficiently as possible. GSM uses TDMA and FDMA for user and cell separation. UMTS, IS-95 and CDMA-2000 use CDMA. WiMAX and LTE use OFDM.

5G uses 5G NR air interface alongside OFDM principles. 5G also uses wider bandwidth technologies such as sub-6 GHz and mmWave. Like 4G LTE, 5G OFDM operates based on the same mobile networking principles.


Fundamentals of Communications Access Technologies

Access methods are multiplexing techniques that provide communications services to multiple users in a single-bandwidth wired or wireless medium. Communications channels, whether they’re wireless spectrum segments or cable connections, are expensive. Communications services providers must engage multiple paid users over limited resources to make a profit. 

Access methods allow many users to share these limited channels to provide the economy of scale necessary for a successful communications business. There are five basic access or multiplexing methods: frequency division multiple access (FDMA), time division multiple access (TDMA), code division multiple access (CDMA), orthogonal frequency division multiple access (OFDMA), and space-division multiple access (SDMA) .

  • Time-division multiple access (TDMA) provides multiuser access by chopping up the channel into sequential time slices. Each user of the channel takes turns to transmit and receive signals. In reality, only one person is actually using the channel at a specific moment. This is analogous to time-sharing on a large computer server.
  • Frequency-division multiple access (FDMA) provides multiuser access by separating the used frequencies. This is used in GSM to separate cells, which then use TDMA to separate users within the cell.
  • Code-division multiple access (CDMA) This uses a digital modulation called spread spectrum which spreads the voice data over a very wide channel in pseudorandom fashion using a user or cell specific pseudorandom code. The receiver undoes the randomization to collect the bits together and produce the original data. As the codes are pseudorandom and selected in such a way as to cause minimal interference to one another, multiple users can talk at the same time and multiple cells can share the same frequency. This causes an added signal noise forcing all users to use more power, which in exchange decreases cell range and battery life.
  • Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA) uses bundling of multiple small frequency bands that are orthogonal to one another to provide for separation of users. The users are multiplexed in the frequency domain by allocating specific sub-bands to individual users. This is often enhanced by also performing TDMA and changing the allocation periodically so that different users get different sub-bands at different times.
  • Space-division multiple access (SDMA) uses physical separation methods that permit the sharing of wireless channels. For instance, a single channel may be used simultaneously if the users are spaced far enough from one another to avoid interference. Known as frequency reuse, the method is widely used in cellular radio systems. Cell sites are spaced from one another to minimize interference. In addition to spacing, directional antennas are used to avoid interference. Most cell sites use three antennas to create 120° sectors that allow frequency sharing. New technologies like smart antennas or adaptive arrays use dynamic beamforming to shrink signals into narrow beams that can be focused on specific users, excluding all others.

In theory, CDMA, TDMA and FDMA have exactly the same spectral efficiency but practically, each has its own challenges – power control in the case of CDMA, timing in the case of TDMA, and frequency generation/filtering in the case of FDMA.



[More to come ...]

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