LTE Roaming Architecture
A network run by one operator in one country is known as a Public Land Mobile Network (PLMN) and when a subscribed user uses his operator's PLMN then it is said Home-PLMN but roaming allows users to move outside their home network and using the resources from other operator's network. This other network is called Visited-PLMN.
A roaming user is connected to the E-UTRAN, MME and S-GW of the visited LTE network. However, LTE/SAE allows the P-GW of either the visited or the home network to be used, as shown in below:
The home network's P-GW allows the user to access the home operator's services even while in a visited network. A P-GW in the visited network allows a "local breakout" to the Internet in the visited network.
The interface between the serving and PDN gateways is known as S5/S8. This has two slightly different implementations, namely S5 if the two devices are in the same network, and S8 if they are in different networks. For mobiles that are not roaming, the serving and PDN gateways can be integrated into a single device, so that the S5/S8 interface vanishes altogether.
LTE Roaming Charging
The complexities of the new charging mechanisms required to support 4G roaming are much more abundant than in a 3G environment. Few words about both pre-paid and post-paid charging for LTE roaming is given below:
- Prepaid Charging The CAMEL standard, which enables prepaid services in 3G, is not supported in LTE; therefore, prepaid customer information must be routed back to the home network as opposed to being handled by the local visited network. As a result, operators must rely on new accounting flows to access prepaid customer data, such as through their P-Gateways in both IMS and non-IMS environments or via their CSCF in an IMS environment.
- Postpaid Charging - Postpaid data-usage charging works the same in LTE as it does in 3G, using versions TAP 3.11 or 3.12. With local breakout of IMS services, TAP 3.12 is required.
Operators do not have the same amount of visibility into subscriber activities as they do in home-routing scenarios in case of local breakout scenarios because subscriber-data sessions are kept within the visited network; therefore, in order for the home operator to capture real-time information on both pre- and postpaid customers, it must establish a Diameter interface between charging systems and the visited network's P-Gateway.
In case of local breakout of ims services scenario, the visited network creates call detail records (CDRs) from the S-Gateway(s), however, these CDRs do not contain all of the information required to create a TAP 3.12 mobile session or messaging event record for the service usage. As a result, operators must correlate the core data network CDRs with the IMS CDRs to create TAP records.
LTE Numbering & Addressing
An LTE network area is divided into three different types of geographical areas explained below:
|S.N.||Area and Description|
|1||The MME pool areas |
This is an area through which the mobile can move without a change of serving MME. Every MME pool area is controlled by one or more MMEs on the network.
|2||The S-GW service areas|
This is an area served by one or more serving gateways S-GW, through which the mobile can move without a change of serving gateway.
|3||The Tracking areas|
The MME pool areas and the S-GW service areas are both made from smaller, non-overlapping units known as tracking areas (TAs). They are similar to the location and routing areas from UMTS and GSM and will be used to track the locations of mobiles that are on standby mode.
Thus an LTE network will comprise of many MME pool areas, many S-GW service areas and lots of tracking areas.
The Network IDs
The network itself will be identified using Public Land Mobile Network Identity (PLMN-ID) which will have a three digit mobile country code (MCC) and a two or three digit mobile network code (MNC). For example, the Mobile Country Code for the UK is 234, while Vodafone's UK network uses a Mobile Network Code of 15.
The MME IDs
Each MME has three main identities. An MME code (MMEC) uniquely identifies the MME within all the pool areas. A group of MMEs is assigned an MME Group Identity (MMEGI) which works along with MMEC to make MME identifier (MMEI). A MMEI uniquely identifies the MME within a particular network.
If we combile PLMN-ID with the MMEI then we arrive at a Globally Unique MME Identifier (GUMMEI), which identifies an MME anywhere in the world:
The Tracking Area IDs
Each tracking area has two main identities. The tracking area code (TAC) identifies a tracking area within a particular network and if we combining this with the PLMN-ID then we arrive at a Globally Unique Tracking Area Identity (TAI).
The Cell IDs
Each cell in the network has three types of identity. The E-UTRAN cell identity (ECI) identifies a cell within a particular network, while the E-UTRAN cell global identifier (ECGI) identifies a cell anywhere in the world.
The physical cell identity, which is a number from 0 to 503 and it distinguishes a cell from its immediate neighbours.
The Mobile Equipment ID
The international mobile equipment identity (IMEI) is a unique identity for the mobile equipment and the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) is a unique identity for the UICC and the USIM.
The M temporary mobile subscriber identity (M-TMSI) identifies a mobile to its serving MME. Adding the MME code in M-TMSI results in a S temporary mobile subscriber identity (S-TMSI), which identifies the mobile within an MME pool area.
Finally adding the MME group identity and the PLMN identity with S-TMSI results in the Globally Unique Temporary Identity (GUTI).