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A Critical Review of Position Fixing Techniques for

Mobile Communications
B. Prabhakar1, S. Balaji1, K.V.Murali Mohan2, D.Krishna Reddy3
Dept. of ECM, KL University, Vijayawada
Dept. of ECE, HITS, Hyderabad
Dept. of ECE, Chaithanya Bharathi Institute of Technology, Hyderabad, A.P., India.

Abstract —Mobile Station (MS) positioning plays vital Japan and E-112 in Europe are enabled for both landline and
role in Location Based Services (LBS) of 3G mobile users. Enhanced 911, a location technology advanced
communications. Accurate MS positioning leads to exact by the FCC that enables cellular phones to process 911 calls
relevance to the services provided by LBS. For position and enable emergency services to locate geographic location
fixing of MS, no single technique is superior, different of the caller. The accuracy required to E-911 services for
techniques are used in different environments and for terminal/network based mobile positioning techniques is
different services. This paper reviews various mobile shown in Table 1. Mobility management is an important sub
positioning techniques. layer in signaling layer of GSM network. It looks after the
location updating and handoff mechanism. Handoff comes
Keywords: LBS, Mobile positioning, and RSS into the picture when user crossing the cell boundary during a
call. The MS location information can also be used for
distribution of radio resources dynamically to improve
coverage and capacity of the cellular systems (Yamamoto et
The wireless mobile market is witnessing unprecedented al., 2001). It also helps in reducing co-channel interference,
growth fueled by technology revolution. The mobile network enhances frequency reuse and avoids unnecessary handoffs
field is moving towards to integrate both voice and position (Rappaport et al., 1996). In the context of security, location
data services. LBS is one such integrate service which brings reporting and its mapping is essential in providing a defense
great convenience and new allied services to subscribers and against emerging national threats as well as handling
gained popularity because of its commercial potential. The conventional emergencies. Positioning systems will offer
mandatory requirement of E-911 of FCC, U.S. has prompted greater crime-fighting capabilities for law enforcement
the growth of LBS. Due to complexity of mobile environment, personnel. Remote MS positioning is useful in vehicle
positioning MS accurately is a challenge. In present highly tracking, which is being exploited in fleet management. LBS
competitive scenario, invariably the success, accuracy and become an integral component in Automatic Fleet
economics of a LBS is dependent on the type of position Management Systems (AFMS), Intelligent Transposition
finding techniques used. Positioning techniques are classified System (ITS) and Automatic Vehicle Locator (AVL) by
based on the role played by MS and BS in determining the providing remote tracking facilities and offers turn-by-turn
location and also parameters used to find the position. These driving directions. An interesting ITS application is electronic
techniques should be highly reliable, accurate and fast. The road pricing (ERP) which exist in Germany.
various positioning methods used in major cellular systems are
critically discussed in this paper.
II. NEED OF MS POSITION Based on where position calculation is conducted, MS
positioning techniques are categorized (Sarikaya, 2002) as,
Location of the mobile user is fundamental to LBS. In the network based technique, handset based technique or hybrid
age of significant mobile communication competition, technique. In network based technique the parameters used for
operators seek new ways to create special features and computing location are measured at Base Station (BS) and
increase profits. One of the best way to deliver highly
transferred to a central facility for location determination
personalized services based on location. LBS delivers
(James et.al, 1998). Handset based technique requires handset
geographical information surrounding the MS for the variety
modifications such as installation of GPS chipset in the MS.
of user needs such as delivery of spatial data for routing
Hybrid techniques are the combination of network based and
guidance (Kolodziej and Hjelm, 2006). MS position is not
handset based techniques. Positioning methods implemented
only useful for LBS but also for other services as shown (Fig.
in major cellular systems are tabled (Table 2). All these
1). Services like E-911 in U.S, E-108/E-104 in India, E-110 in
methods are based on triangulation or trilateration techniques.
The data required to find MS location are angle of arrival of The direction finding systems estimate position by measuring
the signal, transit time of the signal from BS to MS and angle at which the signal arrives at the BS. A line drawn from
received signal strength or combination of these. BS to MS is called as line of bearing (LoB) and is also known
as radial line from BS to the MS. Intersection of two LoBs
drawn from two different BSs defines a unique position of MS
(Fig. 5). This technique requires no time synchronization and
It is simple and cheapest method to find MS position (Fig. 2). needs only two BSs. The difficulties in this method are
When MS is in soft handover, radio network controller (RNC) estimation of angles which require complex antenna system
decides appropriate cell id based on handoff history and signal such as installation of directional antennas or phased array
strength (Jay, 2004). Cell id is stored in network and MS. The antennas at BSs. This also suffers from Non Line of Sight
error may be as large as network cell size radius R (Jagoe, (NLoS) propagation.
2003). To improve accuracy, measuring signal Round Trip
Time (RTT) is utilized (Jay, 2004). Even though it is not that V) TIME DIFFERENCE OF ARRIVAL (TDOA)
much accurate, this technique is widely used because of its
ToA method generally fails to give required accuracy due to
simplicity and supports legacy terminals.
inaccurate estimation of time of arrival in mobile
environment. TDoA technique avoids this difficulty, by
(II) CELL OF ORIGIN WITH TIMING ADVANCE measuring relative time difference instead of estimating the
absolute time of the signal to reach MS from BS. TDoA is
In TDMA systems (GSM), the known transit time of the
most commonly used network-based solution. It computes the
signal is exploited for location estimation. Timing Advance
MS location by measuring the difference between the arrival
(TA) is an estimate of the distance from the MS to the serving
times of MS transmissions at individual BSs. LMU at BS
BTS (Fig. 3). TA is a 6-bit information (total 0-63 time slots
notes the time when signal from MS arrived at BS 1 and BS2
correspond to 0-233  s) each with a radius of 550m
(Mattsson, 2001). This difference of time is called TDoA
(resolution is one GSM bit, which has the duration of value. This TDoA is converted into distance difference
  3.69  sec round trip from BS to MS and back, between two BSs as foci to define a hyperboloid. Each TDoA
c measurement gives hyperboloid along which mobile may lie.
 550m , c velocity of light) (35km/63 = 550m) (Hjelm, The accuracy is affected by co-channel interference and
2 multipath even when there is an LOS path (Ibnkahla, 2005).
2003). TDMA cells know the time it takes for its signals to For this method minimum of three BSs are needed to get two
reach a mobile station. When no TA is available means 0 slot TDoA-measurements. The intersection of two hyperbolas
and last slot 63 indicates maximum TA. For example, if TA is pinpoint the MS position (Fig. 6). TDoA is a very precise
0, it means that MS is at a distance of 0 to 550 m from BS method, but requires BSs are to be in LOS with MS. For
(Mattsson, 2001). TA value is obtained on Random Access ensuring time synchronization, each BS have to be equipped
CHannel (RACH). In practice, the resolution of the TA may with GPS timing receiver. Moreover, the exact morphology of
be further degraded by multipath fading. the area has to be known. The equation of such hyperboloid is
written as (Krishna, 2002),
 
R 2 i , j  ( X i  x) 2  (Yi  y ) 2  ( Z i  z ) 2 
( X 
The simplest way for positioning in GSM is ToA method where
based on handover measurements at BSs (Al-Jazzar et al., j  x) 2  (Y j  y ) 2  ( Z j  z ) 2 (1)
2002). For estimating RTT, a known signal (bursts) is sent to (Xi, Yi, Z i) and (Xj, Yj, Zj) represent the coordinates of the i th
MS and received back by BS. Location Measurement Unit and jth BSs. (x,y,z) is MS location and Ri,j is distance equilent
(LMU) measures time for signal to travel to MS and back to of TDoA. The modified handset TDoA method proposed for
BS. When the BS receives the signals carrying time stamps the CDMA system utilizes the pilot tones transmitted by
from the MS it records time when it was received and sends it different BSs (Reza, 2000).
to a central server. The server gathers information from
multiple BSs and by comparing the time of arrivals and the VI) EOTD METHOD
BSs positions, calculates the position of the MS by
triangulation (Fig. 4). The intersection of two spheres is the It is based on BCCH timing measurements from different
circle, upon which the MS may be located. The accuracy of cells at target MS in GSM (Drane et al., 1998). MS calculates
this method varies according to the accurate positioning of difference between arrival times of signals from two different
surrounding BSs locations, propagation of signals and BSs called Observed Time Difference (OTD). This OTD is
synchronization of the clocks. Accuracy of is less and works constant to two BSs and gives a hyperbola. This means that
with legacy terminals MS (Tayal, 2005). For synchronization, two pairs of BSs (at least three BSs) are required for defining
each BS has to be equipped with GPS timing receiver. unique position. Time difference of arrivals is given as (James
et al., 1998)
 di , j  Ri  R j  control channel signals are present at MS for every 0.48s
Tdij    (2) (Garg and Wilkes, 1999). Also, these methods do not need any
 c  expensive upgrades. Hence, RSS based methods are simple
and economical for self-positioning of MS. The location is
Where d i,j is the two BSs separation distance, R i, Rj are the found from the RSS which gives the distance information. The
distances of MS to ith and jth BSs and c is the velocity of light. distances from three BSs are used in the circular triangulation
Resolution at which OTD measurements are reported is only for location. Distance calculation using received signal
554m and the required synchronisation of the BSs is not strength (w) is obtained as (Patil et al., 2005)
guaranteed. In EOTD, as the transmission frames from BSs
are not synchronized in GSM network, real time difference prj  kd j  4
(RTD), that is the difference between transmitted times of BSs K is a constant which takes into account of carrier frequency
is needed. Geometric time difference (GTD), difference of and transmitted power, d j is the distance between the MS
OTD and RTD, also gives hyperbola for positioning (Fig. 7)
(Mattsson, 2001). OTD measurements are sent via SMS to
and the j BS, j=1, 2, and 3.  is the path loss exponent. if
LMU which performs the location calculations. LMU is at K and  are known, propagation distance can be estimated
known distance from all BSs and calculates RTD. This
from Eq. 4. These methods suffer from several effects such as
method is less expensive than Disadvantage of this method is
multipath, diffraction, weak signals and BS unavailability.
that EOTD software is required both at LMU and MS. If the
Methods like Pattern recognition technique and Network
propagation distance between BS 1 and MS is d1 and
measurement report (NMR) also similar disadvantages.
propagation distance between BS 2 and the MS is d2, GTD is
calculated as
GTD12 = (d2- d1)/c, (3)
where c is the light velocity. Response time (approximately Each of the method has its own merits and demerits like
greater accuracy but limited in coverage (Table 3). Every
5s) depending on the network latency.
method may suffer due to multipath, diffraction and weak
signal condition. EOTD and assisted-GPS are reported to offer
better accuracies so these methods are of the probable
A-GPS technique uses both GPS satellites and mobile methods to LBS application. Hearability is a major limiting
network infrastructure to provide a reliable positional factor for both network-based and handset-based methods and
accuracy (50m for indoor and 15m for outdoor) (Darnell and adversely affects the deployment of a location schemes
Wilczoch, 2002). GPS receiver technology is matured enough (Ibnkahla, 2005). Accuracy and response time are foremost
to integrate with GSM technology for A-GPS method. This performance measures in positioning technologies (Issac et al.,
method requires both software and hardware modifications at 2002). Accuracy of positioning methods can be evaluated to
MS and network. Basic idea is to establish a GPS reference identify the suitable method for varying different
network, whose receivers have clear view of sky and operate environments and for different services. To measure
continuously. This reference network (location server) is positional accuracy Circular Error Probability (CEP),
connected to cellular network and continuously monitors GPS Geometric Dilution of Precision (GDOP), Mean Square Error
constellation status. Location server and handset interact each (MSE) and Cramer-Rao Lower Bound (CRLB) are used
other for positional information exchange. It saves lot of time (Liberti and Rappaport, 1999).
and battery life. On request from MS, data from GPS
reference network is transmitted to GPS receiver chipset V. CONCLUSIONS
embedded in MS through cellular network (Fig. 8). This
embedded receiver gets signals from available satellites and Mobile phones with positioning capabilities are rapidly
pseudorange measurements are given to position spreading around the globe because of its commercial and
determination entity (PDE) of MS. The major limitation of safety applications. Network based methods offer good
accuracy in dense urban environment but fails to offer same in
this technique is that up gradation of network in the form of
rural environment. On the other hand, hand set based methods
GPS reference network, additional location determination
provide privacy (user controlled) to the customer. Among the
units and modification of MS is necessary (Johan, 2002).
methods discussed, hyperbolic and A-GPS methods have real
time applications because of better accuracy. In TDMA
systems, hyperbolic techniques exploit the timing information
The range based model basically used the channel while A-GPS takes the advantage of hand to hand cooperation
characteristics to find the propagation distance. The range free of GSM and GPS. RSS based methods consider all induced
localization technique does not use the channel model for effects of mobile environment, making them reliable.
location calculation. Range based scheme is further classified Accuracy in turn depends on the location technologies used
according to measurements used for location estimation (time and on the network topology.
of arrival, angle of arrival and received signal strength
indication). Positioning based on RSS are feasible because
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MS Positioning

E - 911 Mobility Lawful LBS

management Interception

Fig. 1 Use of MS position for various services


Fig. 2 Cell of origin method Fig. 3 Cell of origin with timing advance method

Station 2 Base Station 3
Station 1
Base Station 2 1

Station 3

Base Station 1

Figure 4 Concept of ToA method Figure 5 Concept of AoA method

dLMU 3 dLMU 2

t1 dLMU 1 d2
(X1, Y1, Z1) (x2,y2)
Base Station 1 t2 Base Station 2
(x3,y3) d3
t3 (x,y,z) Base Station 3
Mobile Station (x,y)
(X2, Y2, Z2) MS
Base Station 2 d1
Hyperbola for GTD2
(X3, Y3, Z3)
for GTD1
Base Station 3
Fig. 6 Time difference of arrival method
Base Station 1

GPS Satellites Fig. 7 Enhanced observed time difference method

Reference network

Mobile network

Fig. 8 Concept of A-GPS method

Table 1 Accuracy requirement for E-911 service (FCC Docket, 1996)
Type of positioning 67% of calls with 95% of calls with
solutions accuracy accuracy
Terminal-based 50 m 150 m
Network-based 100 m 300 m

Table 2 Positioning methods implemented in major cellular systems

System Location technology

GSM Cell identity + time advance and ToA, EOTD A-GPS
IS-136 Cell identity and AoA, A-GPS
IS-95 Cell identity and Time Difference Of Arrival (TDOA)
Advanced Forward Link Trilateration
UMTS Cell identity + round trip time and AoA
EOTD, time difference of arrival (TDOA) andA-GPS

Table 3 Comparison of positioning methods (Mattsson, 2001)

Method Advantages Limitations
High availability
CoO Only need contact with BSs Low accuracy
No modifications needed
CoO with Handset/ Not all handsets support TA
Better accuracy than CoO
TA Network Low accuracy
ToA Network No changes needed in handsets Need of LMU at each BS
Expensive modifications, one LMU
TDoA Network No changes needed in handsets
at each BS
Needs changes both at network and
EOTD Hybrid Good accuracy
AoA Network Need only two BSs Complex antennas required at BS
High availability Not all handsets support
NMR Handset No changes needed Provides calculated guesses
Simple Less accurate
GPS with High accuracy Require LOS
MS No changes in network Expensive handset modification

A-GPS Hybrid High accuracy Expensive up grades needed

Handset Simple and cost effective Poor accuracy