Patent 09014667 - Telecommunications network and method for time-based network access > Description
The present application is a national stage entry of PCT/EP2009/001214, filed on Feb. 19, 2009, and claims priority to European Patent Application EP 08003753.4, filed in the European Patent Office on Feb. 29, 2008, the entire contents of both of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The invention relates to the field of telecommunications. In particular, the invention relates a telecommunications network and a method of permitting access to said telecommunications network.
The past decades have seen an ever increasing demand for data capacity of telecommunications network. Telecommunications providers have adapted their networks to provide extended GSM services, like GPRS, and 3G services and are continuing to provide further services to meet the demands of their clients.
Telecommunications providers have made attempts to influence the behaviour of their clients in order to efficiently use network resources. As an example, mobile data subscriptions nowadays are usually offered using volume based billing, possibly in combination with a volume cap, thereby forcing clients to consider the amount of data to be transmitted over a network. However, the control of the client behaviour and/or terminal data transmission and, therefore, the use of the network resources is still limited.
There is a need in the art for an improved telecommunications network and method for regulating the use of network resources.
A telecommunications network configured for providing communication access to a plurality of terminals is proposed. Each terminal comprises a unique identifier for accessing the telecommunications network. The unique identifier is preferably associated with a subscription of the terminal, e.g. the identifier of a SIM (IMSI) that is available in the terminal. The telecommunications network comprises a register, an access request receiver and an access module. The register is configured for storing the unique identifier of at least one terminal in combination with at least one grant access time interval, or an equivalent thereof, during which access for the terminal is permitted. The access request receiver is configured for receiving the access request for accessing the telecommunications network from the terminal. The access request may contain the unique identifier or a temporary identifier. The access module is configured for denying access for the terminal if the access request is received outside the access time interval, or the equivalent thereof.
A register and a serving controlling entity for use in such a network are also proposed.
A computer-implemented method of controlling access to a telecommunications network is also proposed. The telecommunications network is configured for allowing access for a plurality of terminals, each terminal comprising a unique identifier for accessing the telecommunications network. The telecommunications network comprises a register configured for storing the unique identifier of at least one terminal in combination with at least one grant access time interval, or an equivalent thereof. An access request is received from the terminal for access to the telecommunications network. The access request may contain the unique identifier or a temporary identifier. In a further step, the grant access time interval for the terminal is verified, using the unique identifier. Access to the telecommunications network for said terminal is denied if the access request is received outside the time interval.
A computer program and a carrier for such a computer program comprising program code portions configured for executing the method are also proposed.
A terminal for use in the system and method is also proposed.
It should be appreciated that an equivalent of the grant access time interval includes a deny access time interval identifying a time interval during which an access request for access to the telecommunications network is to be denied.
The access request may be a circuit-switched access request, a packet-switched access request or a combined request.
The steps of accessing a telecommunications network are standardized in e.g. 3 GGP TS 23.060 (Release 7). It should be appreciated that the access to the telecommunications network can be denied at various access phases. The first phase of requesting network access typically involves a network attach procedure comprising several steps. Preferably, access to the telecommunications network is denied by denying network attach of the terminal. Denying at this phase provides for optimized saving of resources.
A further network access phase involves the establishment of a PDP context. Establishment of the PDP context may be denied. Although the preceding network attach already involved the use of network resources, prohibiting the establishment of a PDP context prevents effective use of the telecommunications network and hence saves resources. It should be noted that operator determined barring (ODB) as such for access to a telecommunications network is already described in 3GGP TS 23.015, V. 7.0.0. The barring possibility allows network operators to deny access to particular destinations for certain subscribers.
By providing the option of specifying one or more time intervals during which access to the telecommunications network is allowed for a particular terminal or group of terminals, the network operator planning and control of the use of network resources is facilitated. Denying or blocking access during time intervals can prove advantageous in various situations. In particular, some machine-to-machine (M2M) applications do not require the transfer of data to be immediate. If these applications are prevented from claiming one or more network resources during e.g. peak load hours, network resources can be saved. Such subscriptions may e.g. be offered at a lower subscription rate.
M2M applications typically involve hundreds or thousands of devices that only rarely require access to a telecommunications network. An example involves the electronic reading of e.g. electricity meters at the homes of a large customer base.
The embodiments of claims 2 and 13 provide for a suitable place in the telecommunications network for making available the combinations of terminal identifier(s) and associated time interval(s).
The embodiments of claims 3 and 14 provide for a dynamic time interval (and possibly a virtual or implicit time interval) during which access to the telecommunications network is allowed/prohibited. These embodiments contribute to the optimum use of network resources.
The embodiments of claims 4 and 15 provide for an improved use of network resources.
The embodiments of claims 5 and 16 provide for an improved use of network resources.
The embodiments of claims 6 and 17 provides the option to inform the terminal of the grant access time interval. Such information should only be transmitted to the terminal in question. Moreover, only allowing single authentication saves network resources and saves power for the terminals.
The embodiments of claims 7 and 18 ensure that the decision whether or not to allow access (either network attach or establishment of the PDP context) to the telecommunications network is embedded at a low level of the telecommunications network, e.g. at the SGSN, reducing network resource consumption. Other solutions, such as the implementation of grant access time rules in a RADIUS server, would require several network functions, mobility management and setting up a packet data protocol (PDP) context, and, thereby, unnecessarily consume network resources in case it would be determined that the terminal accessed the telecommunications network outside the grant access time interval.
The embodiments of claims 8 and 19 allow the transmission of information to the terminal. Such information may include information concerning the applicable grant access time interval. Possibly, the information may include control information for controlling terminal operation. The control information may e.g. control the terminal to log in during a time interval wherein the network load is expected to be low. An authentication procedure is preferably performed for this terminal.
The embodiments of claims 9 and 20 provide for higher level authentication, e.g. at a GGSN, during the grant access time interval.
Hereinafter, embodiments of the invention will be described in further detail. It should be appreciated, however, that these embodiments may not be construed as limiting the scope of protection for the present invention.\n\n\n
In the drawings:
The telecommunications network 1 comprises a radio access network 2 containing a base transceiver station 3 and a base station controller 4. The radio access network is connected to a mobile core network containing a serving controller entity 5, a register 6 and a gateway 7 providing access to a further network 8.
The serving controller entity 5 may be a serving GPRS support node (SGSN) or another entity. The SGSN 5 controls the connection between the telecommunications network 1 and the terminals A-D. It should be appreciated that the telecommunications network may contain a plurality of SGSNs, wherein each of the SGSNs is connected typically to base station controllers 3 in such a way that they can provide a packet service for terminals via several base stations 3.
The register 6 may be a home location register (HLR) or another register (such as a home subscriber server for IMS).
The gateway 7 may be a GPRS gateway support node (GGSN) to e.g. the internet. Other external networks include a corporate network or another network of the operator. The GGSN 7 is connected to the SGSN 5 via a core network.
Access for the terminals A-D to the telecommunications network 1 involves a number of access phases.
The first phase involves the phase during which a terminal A-D performs an attach to the telecommunications network 1. In this phase, various communication steps are performed, including authentication steps, as exemplified in 3GGP TS 23.060 (Release 7). The authentication steps perform a security function and involve exchange of an authentication triplet (for GPRS) or quintet (for UMTS).
In a subsequent phase, a packet data protocol (PDP) context may be established to carry traffic flows over the telecommunications network 1. A PDP context typically includes a radio access bearer provided between a terminal A and the SGSN 5 and switched packet data channels or tunnels provided between the SGSN 5 and the GGSN 7. A session between the terminal A and another party would then be carried on the established PDP context. A PDP context can carry more than one traffic flow, but all traffic flows within one particular PDP context are treated the same way as regards their transmission across the telecommunications network 1.
In operation, the terminal A may indicate after the network attach phase, in a message requesting to activate the PDP context in the network, an access point name (APN) for selection of a reference point to a certain external network 8. The SGSN 5 may send a PDP context creation request to the GGSN 7 selected e.g. according to the access point name given by the terminal A or to a default GGSN known by the SGSN 5. Subsequently, the PDP context is activated by allocating a PDP context data structure in the SGSN 5 that is used by the terminal A and the GGSN 7 serving the subscribers access point. The data structure contains an IP address of the terminal A, the IMSI of the terminal A and tunnel ID\'s at both the SGSN 5 and the GGSN 7. The tunnel ID is a number allocated by the GGSN 7 which identifies the data related to a particular PDP context.
Various features can be controlled by the SGSN 5 during a communication session. This control may be based on information associated with the subscription and stored in the HLR 6. The information may be retrieved from the HLR 6 to the SGSN 5 to allow control at the SGSN-level.
In particular, and with reference now to
In this example, for terminals A and B, access will be granted between 0800-1100 pm. For terminal C, access will be granted between 0000-0500 am. These time intervals are typically off-peak intervals for most days of the year. Batches of terminals may be defined and assigned a particular interval of the off-peak hours. For terminal D, a variable time interval x-y is scheduled, depending on the network load experienced by or expected for the telecommunications network 1. If the network load drops below or is expected to drop below a particular threshold, access is granted to the terminal D.
Of course, the time intervals may also relate to time slots during which access to the telecommunications network 1 is denied, i.e. access deny time intervals. Multiple time intervals may be assigned to a terminal.
In order to control the use of resources of the telecommunications network 1, the SGSN 5 contains several modules for performing the operations described below in further detail. It should be noted that one or more of these modules may be implemented as software modules running on a processor (not shown). The SGSN 5 further contains memory and storage (not shown) for performing these operations in a manner generally known to the skilled person.
The SGSN 5 comprises an access request receiver 20 configured for receiving an access request from the terminals A-D for access to the telecommunications network 1. The access request of a terminal contains the IMSI of the SIM available in this terminal.
The SGSN 5 has an access module 21 configured for denying access for a terminal to the telecommunications network 1 if the access request is received outside the grant access time interval(s) for that terminal (or within the access deny interval). The access denial may relate to the network attach or the establishment of the PDP context.
Moreover, the SGSN 5 comprises a data retrieval module 22. The data retrieval module 22 is configured for retrieving data from the HLR 6, in particular the applicable access grant time interval associated with the terminals A-D from which the access request was received. However, it should be appreciated that the SGSN 5 itself may be pre-configured with respect to particular terminals and therefore already comprise the grant access time interval(s) for these terminals. This may be particularly advantageous for stationary terminals.
The SGSN 5 also comprises a PDP context establishing module 23 and an authenticator 24.
SGSN 5 may also have a network load monitor 25 configured for monitoring the network load of the telecommunications network 1. Network load information may also be obtained from other sources, e.g. other SGSNs or the HLR of the telecommunications network 1. Network monitoring may be real time and/or be based on the expected network load using mathematical models and history data to obtain an appropriate load expectation.
The operation of the telecommunications network 1, and in particular the SGSN 5, will now be described with reference to
The grant access time interval may be communicated from the HLR 6 to the SGSN 5 in a variety of ways.
The attach request 30 is typically followed by an authentication check, step 31. The grant access time interval may be transmitted to the SGSN 5 with the authentication triplet or quintet.
The authentication procedure of the network attach phase is typically followed by a location update procedure. First an update location request 32 is transmitted from the SGSN 5 to the HLR 6. The grant access time interval may also be transmitted to the SGSN 5 in a subsequent Insert Subscriber Data message from HLR 6 (step 33). The network attach phase is finalized with an attach accept message to the terminal A (step 34).
After finalizing the network attach phase (which may comprise further steps than mentioned in the previous paragraphs), a PDP context is established. The terminal A requests establishment of the PDP context in an activate PDP context request 35.
Irrespective of the manner of obtaining the grant access time interval, the access module of SGSN 5 determines that the access request was received outside the grant access time interval. Consequently, a PDP context is not established (indicated by the cross in step 36). The terminal A is informed of the denial in step 37.
It is noted that the authenticator 24 of SGSN 5 may or may not have authenticated terminal A in the above situation. Authentication is required if the grant access time interval is transmitted from the HLR 6 to SGSN 5 in response to the update location message 32. However, authentication should not be completed if the grant access time interval is obtained in SGSN 5 with the authentication triplet/quintet. Authentication is preferred if the denial message 37 to the terminal A contains information concerning the grant access time interval.
The SGSN 5 comprises or obtains and maintains the data of the failed access request. This may e.g. be done by storing the time interval in combination with the IMSI of terminal A or by flagging the terminal A temporarily in combination with some time indication.
Another access request at a time outside the window 0800-1100 pm (step 38), again containing or followed by the IMSI of terminal A, may then be denied directly (step 39). Authentication will not be performed again.
The network load monitoring module 25 of SGSN 5 may monitor the network load of (a part of) the telecommunications network 1 or output an expected network load. The network load may be compared with a load threshold in order to evaluate the existence of a low network load situation at a particular time or time interval.
As mentioned above, the denial of access to the telecommunications network 1 is preferably performed during the network attach.
As mentioned before, SGSN 5 may itself comprise pre-configured information regarding the grant access time interval for terminal A. Alternatively, the SGSN uses authenticator 24 to authenticate terminal A and to provide terminal A with information regarding the grant access time interval in step 61.
It should be noted that the above described telecommunications network and system are especially suitable for saving resources. There may be other approaches to influence access behaviour of terminals but these are considered to waste more resources.
As an example, a network provider may allow access to the network at all times but charge a (very) high rate for data sent outside the off-peak time. This provides no incentive for the user to tear down the connection (i.e. the PDP context) to the network. It only provides an incentive to not send data during the expensive peak hour. However, an active PDP context still consumes a lot of resources in the mobile radio and core network as well as requiring an IP address. It also requires the terminal being attached to the network, meaning all kinds of mobility management features should be in place. Furthermore, this solution requires a more complicated billing system that allows charging higher rates at certain times.
Another example would include blocking access to the terminal during peak hours as a rule in a RADIUS server. However, network resources would already be consumed before access is blocked by the RADIUS server. The terminal is already allowed to attach to the network, meaning the SGSN would have retrieved information from the HLR, and is performing mobility management functions. Also, the terminal has been allowed to establish a PDP context. If the RADIUS server would reject the request for access to the external data network, the GGSN would not accept the PDP context, and the tunnel would be taken down. Attachment to the network will however continue if no additional measures were taken.'