Generic Access Network

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A T-Mobile UMA-enabled handset registered on a 802.11g network. The red bars denote the WiFi signal strength, while the phone still also sees itself as on the T-Mobile network, as shown by the alpha tag.
The same UMA-enabled handset, this time just on the GSM network. A normal signal strength indicator is in use, as well as the lack of a SSID name.

Unlicensed Mobile Access or UMA, is the commercial name of the 3GPP Generic Access Network, or GAN standard. GAN is a telecommunication system that extends mobile voice, data and IP Multimedia Subsystem/Session Initiation Protocol (IMS/SIP) applications over IP access networks.

The most common application of GAN is in a dual-mode handset service where subscribers can seamlessly roam and handover between wireless LANs and wide area networks using a GSM/Wi-Fi dual-mode mobile phone. GAN enables the convergence of mobile, fixed and Internet telephony, sometimes called Fixed Mobile Convergence.

The local network may be based on private unlicensed spectrum technologies like 802.11, while the wide network is alternatively GSM/GPRS or UMTS mobile services. On the cellular network, the mobile handset communicates over the air with a base station, through a base station controller, to servers in the core network of the carrier.

Under the GAN system, when the handset detects a wireless LAN, it establishes a secure IP connection through a gateway to a server called a GAN Controller (GANC) on the carrier's network. The GANC presents to the mobile core network as a standard cellular base station. The handset communicates with the GANC over the secure connection using existing GSM/UMTS protocols. Thus, when a mobile moves from a GSM to an 802.11 network, it appears to the core network as if it is simply on a different base station.


[edit] History

UMA was developed by a group of operator and vendor companies. The initial specifications were published on 2 September 2004. The companies then contributed the specifications to the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) as part of 3GPP work item "Generic Access to A/Gb interfaces". On 8 April 2005, 3GPP approved specifications for Generic Access to A/Gb interfaces for 3GPP Release 6. TS 43.318 and TS 44.318, and renamed the system to GAN. But the term GAN is little known outside the 3GPP community, and the term UMA is more common in marketing.

[edit] Modes of operation

The original Release 6 GAN specification supported a 2G (A/Gb) connection from the GANC into the mobile core network (MSC/GSN). Today all commercial GAN dual-mode handset deployments are based on a 2G connection and all GAN enabled device are dual-mode 2G/Wi-Fi. The specification, though, defined support for multimode handset operation. Therefore, 3G/2G/Wi-Fi handsets are supported in the standard. The first 3G/UMA devices were announced in the second half of 2008.

A typical UMA/GAN handset will have four modes of operation:

  • GERAN-only: uses only cellular networks
  • GERAN-preferred: uses cellular networks if available, otherwise the 802.11 radio
  • GAN-preferred: uses a 802.11 connection if an access point is in range, otherwise the cellular network
  • GAN-only: uses only the 802.11 connection

In all cases, the handset scans for GSM cells when it first turns on, to determine its location area. This allows the carrier to route the call to the nearest GANC, set the correct rate plan, and comply with existing roaming agreements.

At the end of 2007, the GAN specification was enhanced to support 3G (Iu) interfaces from the GANC to the mobile core network (MSC/GSN). This native 3G interface can be used for dual-mode handset as well as 3G femtocell service delivery. The GAN release 8 documentation describes these new capabilities.

[edit] Advantages

For carriers:

  • Instead of erecting expensive base stations to cover every nook and cranny of a neighborhood to fill dead zones, GAN allows carriers to add coverage using low cost 802.11 access points. Subscribers at home have very good coverage.
  • In addition, GAN relieves congestion on the GSM or UMTS spectrum by removing common types of calls and routing them to the operator via the relatively low cost Internet
  • GAN makes sense for network operators that also offer Internet services. Operators can leverage sales of one to promote the other, and can bill both to each customer.
  • Some other operators also run networks of 802.11 hotspots, such as T-Mobile. They can leverage these hotspots to create more capacity and provide better coverage in populous areas.
  • Subscribers, not the network, pay directly for much of the service. They pay for a connection to the Internet, effectively paying the expensive part of routing calls from their location.

For subscribers:

  • Subscribers do not rely on their operator's ability to roll out towers and coverage, allowing them to fix some types of coverage dead zones (such as in the home or office) themselves.
  • The cheaper rates for 802.11 use, coupled with better coverage at home, make more affordable and practical the use of cellphones instead of land lines.
  • Using IP over 802.11 eliminates expensive charges when roaming outside of a carrier's network.
  • GAN is currently the only commercial technology available that combines GSM and 802.11 into a service that uses a single number, a single handset, a single set of services and a single phone directory for all calls.

[edit] Disadvantages

  • Subscribers must upgrade to Wi-Fi/UMA enabled handsets to take advantage of the service.
  • Increasingly, consumers are taking advantage of unlimited or otherwise high-volume data tariffs to make VoIP calls via SIP, as with Skype. With GAN, this type of usage will more likely be charged on a per-minute or unit basis as with voice calls, which may increase the cost of mobile calls made over IP.

[edit] Service deployments

The first service launch was BT with BT Fusion in the autumn of 2005. The service is based on pre-3GPP GAN standard technology. Initially, BT Fusion used UMA over Bluetooth with phones from Motorola; since Jan 2007, it has used UMA over 802.11 with phones from Nokia, Motorola and Samsung and is branded as a "Wi-Fi mobile service". BT has since discontinued the service.

On August 28, 2006, TeliaSonera was the first to launch a 802.11 based UMA service called “Home Free”. The service started in Denmark and later expanded to Sweden and Norway.

On September 25, 2006 Orange announced its “unik” service ( “unique ” in the UK). The announcement, the largest to date, covers more than 60m of Orange’s mobile subscribers in the UK, France, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands.

On June 6 2007 Finnish virtual operator Saunalahti announced plans to begin UMA services on week 24 with the Nokia 6136 UMA phone. Announcement in finnish

Cincinnati Bell announced the first UMA deployment in the United StatesJune 18, 2007. The service, called CB Home Run, allows users to transfer seamlessly from the Cincinnati Bell cellular network to a home wireless network or to Cincinnati Bell's WiFi HotSpots.

This was followed shortly by T-Mobile on June 27, 2007. T-Mobile's service allows users to seamlessly transfer from the T-Mobile cellular network to a home wireless network or T-Mobile HotSpot.

NOTE: Do not confuse Unlimited HotSpot Calling (T-Mobile's UMA service) with their 'Hotspot@Home' landline-substitution service. Even after the recent name change, the two services are easy to confuse with one another. See Analog Terminal Adaptor below FFI.

In Canada, both Fido and Rogers Wireless launched UMA plans under the names UNO and Rogers Home Calling Zone (later rebranded Talkspot), respectively, on May 6, 2008.

[edit] UMA/GAN Beyond Dual-mode

While UMA is nearly always associated with dual-mode GSM/Wi-Fi services, it is actually a ‘generic’ access network technology that provides a generic method for extending the services and applications in an operator’s mobile core (voice, data, IMS) over IP and the public Internet.

GAN defines a secure, managed connection from the mobile core (GANC) to different devices/access points over IP.

Femtocells - The GAN standard is currently used to provide a secure, managed, standardized interface from a femtocell to the mobile core network. Recently Kineto, NEC and Motorola issued a joint proposal to the 3GPP work group studying femtocells (also known as ‘Home Node B’s or HNB) to propose GAN as the basis for that standard.

Analog Terminal Adaptor – Recently T-Mobile US launched a fixed-line VoIP service called @Home. Similar to Vonage, consumers can port their fixed phone number to T-Mobile. Then T-Mobile associates that number with an ATA (analog terminal adaptor). The consumer plugs the ATA into a home broadband network and begins receiving calls to the fixed number over the IP access network. There are a number of UMA-enabled terminal adaptors available today.

Softmobile - Consumers have started to use telephony interfaces on their PCs. Applications like Skype offer a low cost, convenient way to access telephony services while traveling. Now mobile operators can offer a similar service with a UMA-enabled softmobile client. Developed by Vitendo, the client provides a mirror interface to a subscriber’s existing mobile service. For the mobile operator, services can now be extended to a PC/laptop, and they can give consumers another way to use their mobile service.

[edit] Similar technologies

GAN/UMA is not the first system to allow the use of unlicensed spectrum to connect handsets to a GSM network. The GIP/IWP standard for DECT provides similar functionality, but requires a more direct connection to the GSM network from the base station. While dual-mode DECT/GSM phones have appeared, these have generally been functionally cordless phones with a GSM handset built-in (or vice versa, depending on your point of view), rather than phones implementing DECT/GIP, due to the lack of suitable infrastructure to hook DECT base-stations supporting GIP to GSM networks on an ad-hoc basis.[1]

GAN/UMA's ability to use the Internet to provide the "last mile" connection to the GSM network solves the major issue that DECT/GIP has faced. Had GIP emerged as a practical standard, the low power usage of DECT technology when idle would have been an advantage compared to GAN.

There is nothing preventing an operator from deploying micro- and pico-cells that use towers that connect with the home network over the Internet. Several companies have developed so-called Femtocell systems that do precisely that, broadcasting a "real" GSM or UMTS signal, bypassing the need for special handsets that require 802.11 technology. In theory, such systems are more universal, and again require lower power than 802.11, but their legality will vary depending on the jurisdiction, and will require the cooperation of the operator.

[edit] Devices

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ DECT Web DECT/GSM DUAL MODE and the advent of the ONEPHONE SERVICE

[edit] External links

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