Sunday, October 10, 2010


As the LTE deployments are nearing it is becoming increasingly important to bring in smooth handover support between 3G/2G and LTE networks.  The networks are on expansion and are becoming complex. In amidst of all, different solutions for same problem is making life a bit more difficult. 

While we have a initial solution in place for migrating from 3G to LTE without changing much in the existing 3G network, it has been noticed that the service providers are now thrusting for a more smoother solution. Identifying few pockets of areas service providers are now willing to upgrade their exiting 3G network to be compliant with Release 8. I pity the SGSN for the burden it has to take to not only perform the existing functions but should also start processing LTE related calls. 

If the SGSN is migrated to Rel 8, then it has to support two new interfaces. S3 and S4. S3 is between MME and SGSN analogous to Gn interface. But S4 is totally new interface to SGSN analogous to S11 interface. The question is whether a S4 interface is needed at all. When a UE moves from 4G to 3G, SGSN requests for Context Information from MME over S3 interface. If the interface is Gn then protocol would have been GTPv1 which doest create any trouble for SGSN. As S3 is GTPv2 based, SGSN should implement the new protocol. So far so good. Anyway UE is in 3G network, SGSN has pulled the UE information from MME over S3, then what is the need for S4 interface. SGSN can as well simply go and talk to GGSN. Instead of this 3GPP has decide to route the SGSN to SGW over S4 interface. This is mainly done to remove the GGSN node as such. 

We know that LTE APNs are configured in PGW.  The idea is to reach the same APN in the PGW when UE is either connected from 4G or 3G or 2G. Which means in 3G and 2G it will become the responsibility of SGSN to talk to PGW through SGW. This will simply need no GGSN at all for LTE APNs and more over everything is Rel 8 compliant. The compliance will ensure smoother handovers and continuous data flow. So when a UE directly switches on in 3G network, SGSN will contact SGW for the establishing a session. When there is a handover involved again, SGSN will contact MME over S3 and SGW over S4. Ultimately for 4G APNs there wont be a need for GGSN and PGW to co-exist. Another important thing here will be support for IPv4IPv6 PDN types. This PDN type is not supported in 3G and is a feature of LTE. To ensure that this PDN type is supported over 3G the SGSNs should be Rel 8 compliant. 

Hence, SGSNs are overloaded.