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The Wireless Network Evolution

First-generation wireless networks were targeted primarily at voice and data communications occurring at low data rates. Recently, we have seen the evolution of second- and third-generation wireless systems that incorporate the features provided by broadband. In addition to supporting mobility, broadband also aims to support multimedia traffic, with quality of service (QoS) assurance. We have also seen the presence of different air interface technologies, and the need for interoperability has increasingly been recognized by the research community.
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Wireless communications have become very pervasive. The number of mobile phones and wireless Internet users has increased significantly in recent years. Traditionally, first-generation wireless networks were targeted primarily at voice and data communications occurring at low data rates.

Recently, we have seen the evolution of second- and third-generation wireless systems that incorporate the features provided by broadband. In addition to supporting mobility, broadband also aims to support multimedia traffic, with quality of service (QoS) assurance. We have also seen the presence of different air interface technologies, and the need for interoperability has increasingly been recognized by the research community.

Wireless networks include local, metropolitan, wide, and global areas. In this chapter, we will cover the evolution of such networks, their basic principles of operation, and their architectures.

1.1 Evolution of Mobile Cellular Networks

1.1.1 First-Generation Mobile Systems

The first generation of analog cellular systems included the Advanced Mobile Telephone System (AMPS)1 which was made available in 1983. A total of 40MHz of spectrum was allocated from the 800MHz band by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for AMPS. It was first deployed in Chicago, with a service area of 2100 square miles2. AMPS offered 832 channels, with a data rate of 10 kbps. Although omnidirectional antennas were used in the earlier AMPS implementation, it was realized that using directional antennas would yield better cell reuse. In fact, the smallest reuse factor that would fulfill the 18db signal-to-interference ratio (SIR) using 120-degree directional antennas was found to be 7. Hence, a 7-cell reuse pattern was adopted for AMPS. Transmissions from the base stations to mobiles occur over the forward channel using frequencies between 869-894 MHz. The reverse channel is used for transmissions from mobiles to base station, using frequencies between 824-849 MHz.

In Europe, TACS (Total Access Communications System) was introduced with 1000 channels and a data rate of 8 kbps. AMPS and TACS use the frequency modulation (FM) technique for radio transmission. Traffic is multiplexed onto an FDMA (frequency division multiple access) system. In Scandinavian countries, the Nordic Mobile Telephone is used.

1.1.2 Second-Generation Mobile Systems

Compared to first-generation systems, second-generation (2G) systems use digital multiple access technology, such as TDMA (time division multiple access) and CDMA (code division multiple access). Global System for Mobile Communications, or GSM3, uses TDMA technology to support multiple users.

Examples of second-generation systems are GSM, Cordless Telephone (CT2), Personal Access Communications Systems (PACS), and Digital European Cordless Telephone (DECT4). A new design was introduced into the mobile switching center of second-generation systems. In particular, the use of base station controllers (BSCs) lightens the load placed on the MSC (mobile switching center) found in first-generation systems. This design allows the interface between the MSC and BSC to be standardized. Hence, considerable attention was devoted to interoperability and standardization in second-generation systems so that carrier could employ different manufacturers for the MSC and BSCs.

In addition to enhancements in MSC design, the mobile-assisted handoff mechanism was introduced. By sensing signals received from adjacent base stations, a mobile unit can trigger a handoff by performing explicit signalling with the network.

Second generation protocols use digital encoding and include GSM, D-AMPS (TDMA) and CDMA (IS-95). 2G networks are in current use around the world. The protocols behind 2G networks support voice and some limited data communications, such as Fax and short messaging service (SMS), and most 2G protocols offer different levels of encryption, and security. While first-generation systems support primarily voice traffic, second-generation systems support voice, paging, data, and fax services.

1.1.3 2.5G Mobile Systems

The move into the 2.5G world will begin with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). GPRS is a radio technology for GSM networks that adds packet-switching protocols, shorter setup time for ISP connections, and the possibility to charge by the amount of data sent, rather than connection time. Packet switching is a technique whereby the information (voice or data) to be sent is broken up into packets, of at most a few Kbytes each, which are then routed by the network between different destinations based on addressing data within each packet. Use of network resources is optimized as the resources are needed only during the handling of each packet.

The next generation of data heading towards third generation and personal multimedia environments builds on GPRS and is known as Enhanced Data rate for GSM Evolution (EDGE). EDGE will also be a significant contributor in 2.5G. It will allow GSM operators to use existing GSM radio bands to offer wireless multimedia IP-based services and applications at theoretical maximum speeds of 384 kbps with a bit-rate of 48 kbps per timeslot and up to 69.2 kbps per timeslot in good radio conditions. EDGE will let operators function without a 3G license and compete with 3G networks offering similar data services. Implementing EDGE will be relatively painless and will require relatively small changes to network hardware and software as it uses the same TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) frame structure, logic channel and 200 kHz carrier bandwidth as today's GSM networks. As EDGE progresses to coexistence with 3G WCDMA, data rates of up to ATM-like speeds of 2 Mbps could be available.

GPRS will support flexible data transmission rates as well as continuous connection to the network. GPRS is the most significant step towards 3G.

1.1.4 Third-Generation Mobile Systems

Third-generation mobile systems are faced with several challenging technical issues, such as the provision of seamless services across both wired and wireless networks and universal mobility. In Europe, there are three evolving networks under investigation: (a) UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems), (b) MBS (Mobile Broadband Systems), and (c) WLAN (Wireless Local Area Networks).

The use of hierarchical cell structures is proposed for IMT2000. The overlaying of cell structures allows different rates of mobility to be serviced and handled by different cells. Advanced multiple access techniques are also being investigated, and two promising proposals have evolved, one based on wideband CDMA and another that uses a hybrid TDMA/CDMA/FDMA approach.

Figure 1.1. The architecture of a cellular wireless network based on ATM.

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