Elements of a GPRS network

GPRS(General Packet Radio Service) represents an evolution of the GSM standard, allowing data transmission in packet mode and providing higher throughputs as compared with the circuit-switched mode. This evolution is usually presented under the designation of 2.5G to point out that it is a transition technology between 2G and 3G.

The GPRS network architecture reuses the GSM network nodes such as MSC/VLR, HLR, and BSS. New network nodes have been introduced for the transport of packet data. These nodes are the gateway GPRS support nodes (GGSN) and serving GPRS support nodes (SGSN). The subnetwork formed by the SGSNs and the GGSNs is called the GPRS core network. In order to reuse the GSM nodes, new interfaces have been defined between the GSM network nodes and the different elements of the GPRS core network.

GPRS network has the folloiwng interfaces

• SGSN. The SGSN is the node that is serving the MS; it is responsible for GMM. It delivers packets to the MSs and communicates with the HLR to obtain the GPRS subscriber profile. It manages the registration of the new mobile subscribers in order to keep a record of their LA for routing purposes. The SGSN can be connected to one or several BSSs.

• GGSN. The GGSN provides interworking with external packet data networks (PDNs). It may be linked to one or several data networks. It is connected with SGSNs via an IP-based GPRS backbone network. The GGSN is a router that forwards incoming packets from the external PDN to the SGSN of the addressed MS. It also forwards outgoing packets to the external PDN. The PDN is the external fixed data network to which is connected the GPRS network. An example of a PDN is the Internet network.

• HLR. The HLR is a database that contains, among other things, packet domain subscription data and routing information.

• Mobile switching center/visitor location register (MSC/VLR). The MSC coordinates the setting up of calls to and from GSM users and manages GSM mobility. The MSC is not directly involved in the GPRS network. It forwards circuit-switched paging for the GPRS-attached MSs to the SGSN when the Gs interface is present.

• BSS. The BSS ensures the radio connection between the mobile and the network. It is responsible for radio access management. The BSS is composed of two elements: the BTS and the BSC. The BTS integrates all the radio transmission and radio reception boards. The BSC is responsible for the management of the radio channels. The BSC has switching capabilities that are used for circuit-switched calls and can also be used for GPRS traffic.

• EIR. The EIR is a database that contains terminal identities.

One of the main GPRS characteristics is that a physical connection is established in uplink only when the MS needs to send continuous data to the network, and in downlink only when the network needs to send continuous data to the MS. This physical connection is released in one direction as soon as the sending entity has no more data to send. Different allocation schemes for radio resource (RR) management have been defined in order to multiplex several MSs on the same physical channel.


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