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I have been working in engineering 3G networks for a while and believe it or not;

CPICH power designing is a very fundamental tool we typically use every day to
enhance network performance, coverage, and increase its capacity.
In WCDMA networks Primary CPICH defines the existence of the cell and its
coverage area. CPICH is a fixed rate (30 Kbps) pilot channel which is used by the
mobile to select/reselect the cell, measure received level and quality (RSCP and
EcNo) and evaluate need for handover (3GPP TS 25.211). When you design CPICH
power in the network you ideally need to satisfy coverage requirement of the cell to
maintain best service performance using minimum possible CPICH. The optimal
design of CPICH power requires overcoming several engineering challenges. This
includes coverage-capacity tradeoff, ensuring adequate soft/softer handover
performance, control the amount of interference in the network, balancing the load
among neighbor cells
While setting the CPICH the first challenge we meet is a coverage-capacity tradeoff;
this tradeoff rises such that the higher the CPICH power the better the coverage,
while the lower the CPICH power allows more power to be used by traffic channels.
For example increasing the CPICH power from 2 watt to 4 watt typically doubles the
signal strength received by the users and increases the cell coverage area to double
(ideally! Its typically less), but on the other hand it decreases the available power to
be utilized by traffic channel surprisingly from 80% to 60%. It worth mentioning that
allowing more power to traffic channels not only enhances system capacity, but also
improves throughput of HSDPA users as it improves higher order modulation usage,
and allows scheduling more simultaneous users.

Figure 1 The decrease of Power Capacity available for Traffic Channels with
increasing the CPICH power from 2W to 4W

Another factor to consider while designing the CPICH power is the performance of
Soft/Softer handover which solely depends on coverage overlap between cells and
power utilization of each cell. When designing CPICH we must ensure that optimal
coverage overlap between neighbor cells is achieved. There is a tradeoff in designing
such overlap as increasing the soft handover enhances the performance of the
service due to the so called macro diversity gain. On the other hand it adds overhead
on processing and power utilization as redundant radio links are used to serve the
same users. Also, CPICH power design enables controlling of interference in the
network. The simple rule of thumb here is that when a cell is not added to the Active
cell (i.e. is not in soft handover) it interfere with other cells and increases pilot
pollution. Thus, designing CPICH power should ensure adequate overlap between
cells and minimize the possibility of unnecessary cell coverage overlap because it
causes interference.
Finally, CPICH design enabled us to balance load among cells. Increasing the CPICH
power on one cell results in capturing traffic from its neighbors and hence reduces
neighbor cells load. Alternatively, Decreasing the CPICH power on one cell, results in
offloading this cell by allowing handsets on the cell edge to handover to the other
neighboring cells.
Thats all for the moment, we have discussed the CPICH power design in 3G and
whats CPICH in the first place. We identified the major challenges that typically face
us when design CPICH power including coverage-capacity tradeoff, designing for
best soft handover performance, and utilizing CPICH to balance load among
neighboring cells. In my part 2 of this post, Ill cover typical methods used in
designing CPICH in practice and discuss CPICH designing based on innovative geolocation of user measurements. Stay tuned!
we have discussed the CPICH power design in 3G and defined CPICH in the first
place. We discussed as well the major challenges that typically face us when design
CPICH power including coverage-capacity tradeoff, designing for best soft handover
performance, and utilizing CPICH to balance load among neighboring cells. CPICH
power cannot be set to as low as 0 dBm or as high as 60 dBm! There is a rule of
thumb that every amateur 3G Optimization Engineer knows that CPICH power value
range from 8% to 20% of the maximum power of the cell. The range is sometimes
debatable between engineers, and some vendor sets rigid and unjustified rules, but


-all in all- the range differs not so much from 8% to 20% rule. Usually when
engineering CPICH power, we adopt three main simple methods to choose the
suitable CPICH power values: Uniform CPICH power, Manual Assignment of CPICH
power, and Gain based approach. Each of these methods has its pros and cons as
we are going to detail.
In uniform CPICH power design, we set the CPICH power of all the cells in the
network to the same value. The first question that comes to your mind then: where is
the engineering in that? Ok you are right, but be patient we still have some
engineering sense to do this. The idea is that we usually want to make things simple
and we still have some engineering sense as detailed hereafter. Usually we love the
idea of 8% of maximum power of the cell because this is the minimum and it provides
the highest possible capacity. The question then; does this minimum provides least
required coverage to place a call? We can answer this question easily by setting the
CPICH power (P_CPICH) using the formula: P_CPICH = Target
Minimum_Service_Level + Max_Path_loss. For example, if the Target
Minimum_Service_Level is -95 dBm and the Max_Path_loss (you can get it from any
pathloss model) is 130 dB, then we are targeting CPICH power around 35 dBm. In
case the Maximum power of the cell is 30W, this CPICH power will a good choice
because it achieves the required target level and still falls in the allowed range to set
the CPICH power. Remember that if the CPICH power is not in this magical range
then you have to tune a little bit your chosen CPICH power value to fit in the range. Ill
let you guess what you have to do then.
The uniform CPICH power model is fairly simple, and widely used in practice.
However, it apparently neglects other challenges we discussed in previous post. With
uniform CPICH power setting we cannot control interference in the network, enhance
soft handover performance and reduce its overhead, or even ensure load balancing
among neighboring cells. Typically, this uniform setting is done in initial phase in the
network deployment before the network management team hires someone who
magically improves network performance by tuning software parameters. This
superman, widely known as the Radio Optimization Engineer usually uses manual
assignment of the CPICH power to achieve the promised goals of CPICH design. He
uses his intuition, measurements, and customer complaints to tune the CPICH power


on a cell by cell basis. When network physical design looks perfect a better way of
CPICH power tuning is adopted to meet the coverage-capacity tradeoff.
Finally, in networks with very good inter-site distance a gain based approach is
utilized. The idea is as simple as we decrease the CPICH power for highly loaded
cells and decrease it for less loaded cell. For example, if the optimization engineer
desires that the network power load is controlled at 80% he then might think that he
sets CPICH power to 33 dBm if the traffic power load is around 60% and to 36 dBm
whenever the traffic power load of the cells drops down to 40%. The gain based
approach is quite intuitive for the network optimizer and it significantly enhances
network power utilization for highly loaded network provided that the network is well
designed physically. It outperforms the uniform solution as well in the sense that it
achieves a load balancing strategy. However, this approach cannot be used generally
for any network and cannot guarantee adequate performance especially that it
doesnt take into account soft/softer handover gain and overhead.
To conclude our discussion, we explored three methods that are used in network
CPICH power design in practice. The uniform CPICH power design choice is simple
and quick, the design based on Engineers intuition requires good judgment and
intuition from the Optimizer, and the gain based approach achieves load balancing in
a well designed network. All these approaches cannot address all the challenges we
discussed in previous post and I consider them best effort approaches to have the
network up and running but they are not optimal in any engineering sense.
In my third and final post on the CPICH design topic, Ill discuss CPICH power deign
based on geo-location of users measurement which I will show from real field results
and live network performance measurements that it meets great deal of our
challenges using simple yet effective algorithm. Stay tuned!