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Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. Co-Channel Interference in Wireless Networks Effects and Methods of Measurement May

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc.

Co-Channel Interference in Wireless Networks

Effects and Methods of Measurement

May 2000

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. (DTI), a leading provider of wireless receivers used in

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc.

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. (DTI), a leading provider of wireless receivers used in network optimizations and drive test applications, offers the following information on co-channel interference as a means of both defining the issue and promoting a solution.

Information about DTI products can be found on the World Wide Web at www.dynatele.com.

What is Co-Channel Interference?

It is well known that one of the major limitations in cellular and PCS wireless telephone networks is the so-called co-channel interference. In the case of TDMA networks, such as GSM/GPRS or NADC (otherwise known as “IS-136”), the co-channel interference is mainly caused by the spectrum allocated for the system being reused multiple times (“frequency reuse”). The problem may be more or less severe, depending on the reuse factor, but in all cases, a signal received by a handset will contain not only the desired forward channel from the current cell, but also signals originating in more distant cells.

Figure 1-1 illustrates how two cells in an urban environment can interfere with each other, especially when frequency planning has not been optimized. This figure shows the data obtained during an actual drive test performed using DTI’s SeeGull-DX™ scanning receiver. The cellular system is the TDMA type. The upper trace represents the detected values of DVCC, whereas the lower trace gives the corresponding signal levels, in dBm. Notice the “gray area” between the cells where both values of DVCC are intermittently detected. This definitely decreases the effective size of each cell and affects shadowed areas inside the cells, potentially causing unnecessary hand-offs and even dropped calls. Note that the interference level never reaches low values, which are characteristic of rural and suburban environments, due to the same ubiquitous co-channel interference.

Figure 1-1:

Ch. 764, abbrev.

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Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. Why is Co-Channel Interference Bad? Co-channel interference, when not minimized,

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc.

Why is Co-Channel Interference Bad?

Co-channel interference, when not minimized, decreases the ratio of carrier to interference powers (C/I) at the periphery of cells, causing diminished system capacity, more frequent hand- offs, and dropped calls.

How is Co-Channel Interference Minimized?

The deleterious effect of co-channel interference is minimized by optimizing the frequency assignments of the base stations and their transmit powers and tilting the base-station antennae to limit the spread of the signals in the system. In other instances, a more substantial re-design of the cellular/PCS system may be needed, including changing the height of the cellular towers, as well as adding more cells.

If interference from a distant cell causes a degradation of the ability of the handset to receive the desired signal correctly, then identify the source of the co-channel interference and measure the relative strength of interference relative to the desired signal.

How is Co-Channel Interference Measured?

Co-channel interference is measured by decoding the so-called “color code” contained in the signals of every cell in the system, as well as by making measurements of the C/I ratio. When used during a drive test in a moving vehicle, the test system determines the signal strength and color code (called in the case of GSM/GPRS, “base station identification code,” or BSIC) for the desired signal, as well as the ratio of this signal’s strength to the total strength of all co-channel interfering signals at regular, frequent intervals on the vehicle path. In addition, at each measurement interval, the test system tries to decode the BSIC of one (dominating) co-channel interfering signal. The idea here is that if all determinations were correct, they would provide the identification of interfering signals for the entire area covered by the drive test.

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. There are several reasons why the described method of co-channel interference measurement

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc.

There are several reasons why the described method of co-channel interference measurement and identification has a severely limited utility.

By definition, the interfering co-channel signals are below the power level of the desired signal and the decoding of the color code of such signals is a difficult task. In the absence of any processing gain associated with the decoding of the color code, the only approach available for this is some variation of the joint decoding of the desired signal and interfering signal(s). There is a body of work describing such joint methods, but all share a common feature; to be useful, they have to be extremely complex in terms of the accuracy of the used channel models and exponentially increase in the number of required operations versus the accuracy of the models and the number of signals decoded. This common feature necessitates a truncation of the channel models in practical systems as well as limits, in practice, the number of jointly demodulated signals by two. It is not surprising that such systems have difficulty decoding color codes (BSIC in the case of GSM/GPRS), in most cases, especially in the presence of multipath, and on board in a moving vehicle. They work more reliably in a lab, although in a narrow range of relative power. The result is that the coverage of the interference information during a drive test is intermittent. The processing time of test instruments is long when they perform co-channel measurements and identification. Further, it restricts the completeness of the coverage.

Color codes, including the BSIC in the GSM/GPRS case, provide limited identification capability for establishing which distant cell is the source of interference because they are not unique to base stations and are repeated periodically, even when decoded.

As previously mentioned, practical systems provide only information on one interfering co- channel signal. In practice, it is desirable to identify multiple interfering signals and to measure their relative powers.

A “key-up” is another method of estimating the strength of co-channel interference. This is a painful process for telephone companies. This method requires an interruption in the cellular system operation. It is performed at night when all the frequency channels are shut down on all of the base stations in the area, except for the channels that are selected for the measurement. Individual path losses of every co-channel interferer to any cell can be measured.

Is There a Better Way?

Yes. DTI has developed a robust method of co-channel interference measurement based on exploiting signal components, which provide processing gain, as well as on the use of a signal- component database for signal identification. These and other efficient techniques, allow a reliable measurement of interfering signals with decreased processing time wasted on failed DVCC detections.

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc. What is DTI’s Approach to Co-Channel Interference Measurements? DTI achieves the goal

Dynamic Telecommunications, Inc.

What is DTI’s Approach to Co-Channel Interference Measurements?

DTI achieves the goal 1 of substituting the color code with a more reliable identification property of each co-channel “component” of the composite signal; namely, the time of arrival of a known part of a signal.

namely, the time of arrival of a known part of a signal. Figure 1-2: Co-Channel Information

Figure 1-2:

Co-Channel Information in a Drive Test Collection System

The test instrument is able to keep track of each identified co-channel component during the course of the drive test for the duration of its existence. It is able to decode the color code content of each component, at least once. When detected, the found color code information can be back annotated in the device database, which already contains all the determinations of the component, albeit with no accompanying color code up to this point. In this manner, the color code can be positively detected only once in the life of the component during the drive test. That limits the number of time-consuming detections and allows them to be performed at the points in space and time where the conditions are the most appropriate for such determinations. For example, when the test vehicle is nearest to the base station that sends the component, or where the dominating signal is temporarily shaded by an obstacle.

1 Patent is pending.