Universal Mobile Telecommunications System - Technology - Radio Access Network

Radio Access Network

UMTS also specifies the Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network (UTRAN), which is composed of multiple base stations, possibly using different terrestrial air interface standards and frequency bands.

UMTS and GSM/EDGE can share a Core Network (CN), making UTRAN an alternative radio access network to GERAN (GSM/EDGE RAN), and allowing (mostly) transparent switching between the RANs according to available coverage and service needs. Because of that, UMTS's and GSM/EDGE's radio access networks are sometimes collectively referred to as UTRAN/GERAN.

UMTS networks are often combined with GSM/EDGE, the latter of which is also a part of IMT-2000.

The UE (User Equipment) interface of the RAN (Radio Access Network) primarily consists of RRC (Radio Resource Control), RLC (Radio Link Control) and MAC (Media Access Control) protocols. RRC protocol handles connection establishment, measurements, radio bearer services, security and handover decisions. RLC protocol primarily divides into three Modes—Transparent Mode (TM), Unacknowledge Mode (UM), Acknowledge Mode (AM). The functionality of AM entity resembles TCP operation whereas UM operation resembles UDP operation. In TM mode, data will be sent to lower layers without adding any header to SDU of higher layers. MAC handles the scheduling of data on air interface depending on higher layer (RRC) configured parameters.

The set of properties related to data transmission is called Radio Bearer (RB). This set of properties decides the maximum allowed data in a TTI (Transmission Time Interval). RB includes RLC information and RB mapping. RB mapping decides the mapping between RB<->logical channel<->transport channel. Signaling messages are sent on Signaling Radio Bearers (SRBs) and data packets (either CS or PS) are sent on data RBs. RRC and NAS messages go on SRBs.

Security includes two procedures: integrity and ciphering. Integrity validates the resource of messages and also makes sure that no one (third/unknown party) on the radio interface has modified the messages. Ciphering ensures that no one listens to your data on the air interface. Both integrity and ciphering are applied for SRBs whereas only ciphering is applied for data RBs.

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