(19)
(11)EP 3 183 932 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 14762026.4

(22)Date of filing:  12.09.2014
(51)Int. Cl.: 
H04W 72/12  (2009.01)
H04B 7/02  (2018.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/EP2014/069491
(87)International publication number:
WO 2016/037660 (17.03.2016 Gazette  2016/11)

(54)

METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR DETERMINING CLUSTERS OF ACCESS NODES

VERFAHREN UND VORRICHTUNG ZUR BESTIMMUNG VON ZUGANGSKNOTEN-CLUSTERN

PROCÉDÉ ET APPAREIL PERMETTANT DE DÉTERMINER DES GRAPPES DE NOEUDS D'ACCÈS


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(43)Date of publication of application:
28.06.2017 Bulletin 2017/26

(73)Proprietor: Huawei Technologies Co., Ltd.
Longgang District Shenzhen, Guangdong 518129 (CN)

(72)Inventors:
  • KELA, Petteri
    S-164 40 Kista (SE)
  • SALMI, Jussi
    S-164 40 Kista (SE)
  • KOUDOURIDIS, George
    S-164 40 Kista (SE)

(74)Representative: Gill Jennings & Every LLP 
SAH The Broadgate Tower 20 Primrose Street
London EC2A 2ES
London EC2A 2ES (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A1- 2 317 809
US-A1- 2014 161 054
EP-A2- 2 282 413
  
  • TOKYO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY ET AL: "Distributed Dynamic CoMP for LTE-Advanced (Revision from R1-093608)", 3GPP DRAFT; R1-094285 -- DISTRIBUTED DYNAMIC COMP FOR LTE ADVANCED (REVISED FROM R1-093608) (TOKYOTECH AND KDDI), 3RD GENERATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECT (3GPP), MOBILE COMPETENCE CENTRE ; 650, ROUTE DES LUCIOLES ; F-06921 SOPHIA-ANTIPOLIS CEDEX ; FRANCE, no. Miyazaki; 20091012, 12 October 2009 (2009-10-12), XP050388747, [retrieved on 2009-10-11]
  • I2R: "Clustering Methods for Base Station Cooperation in LTE-A", 3GPP DRAFT; R1-112456, 3RD GENERATION PARTNERSHIP PROJECT (3GPP), MOBILE COMPETENCE CENTRE ; 650, ROUTE DES LUCIOLES ; F-06921 SOPHIA-ANTIPOLIS CEDEX ; FRANCE, vol. RAN WG1, no. Athens, Greece; 20110822, 19 August 2011 (2011-08-19), XP050537839, [retrieved on 2011-08-19]
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0001] The aspects of the present disclosure relate generally to wireless communication systems and in particular to coordination of transmissions in a wireless network.

BACKGROUND



[0002] The proliferation of modern wireless communications devices, such as cell phones, smart phones, and tablet devices, has seen an attendant rise in demand for large multimedia data capabilities such as streaming video, TV, music, and internet access at the mobile device or user node, also referred to as the user equipment (UE). To support this ever increasing demand for higher data rates new communications techniques are being developed to take advantage of new capabilities incorporated in modern mobile devices and access nodes. These new capabilities include improvements such as placing multiple transmit and receive antennas at the access nodes and user equipment to increase spatial diversity through the use of multiple input multiple output (MIMO) techniques.

[0003] A user obtains wireless service by establishing a connection or radio link between their mobile device and an access node in the communication network. The connection or radio link may be considered established when the signals between the mobile device and the access node are of sufficient quality to transmit data with an acceptable or predetermined quality of service (QoS). For example one metric used to evaluate QoS is the block error rate (BLER). A network may set a fixed floor value, such as 10%, or may use a formula to adaptively adjust the acceptable BLER based on current network conditions. For purposes herein an access node is a collection of one or more antennas configured to provide service to a contiguous geographic area, and transmission and reception of the collection of antennas is controlled by a single physical layer mechanism. The antennas and physical layer mechanism may be collocated at a single location or base station or they may be distributed at a number of locations in order to provide adequate service throughout the desired coverage area. The physical layer may include a single processing device or it may include a number of processing devices distributed at various locations with all the processing devices communicatively coupled by a communication network to allow them to jointly coordinate transmission and reception of the collection of antennas. The area covered by an access node, where transmission conditions are good enough to maintain a connection between the mobile device and the access node, is referred to as the coverage area of the access node and may also be referred to as a cell.

[0004] In a typical wireless communication network a plurality of access nodes is distributed over a geographical area where the access nodes are positioned to provide mobile users, generally referred to herein as user nodes, with wireless communication services. This geographical area encompassing the combined coverage area of all the access nodes is referred to as the service area.

[0005] When an access node is servicing more than one user node, meaning the access node has multiple mobile devices or user nodes connected to it, the user nodes need to be able to separate information being sent to them from information being sent to other user nodes within the same cell. This can be done by separating the signals in time by sending information to each user node during a different time slot. Signals can also be separated using frequency, where information is sent to all the user nodes at the same time using a different frequency band for each user node. Diversity necessary to separate signals can also be obtained by spatial separation where signals are sent from antennas that a distance apart. Spatial separation of the antennas results in each user node experiencing a different complex gain from each antenna. This allows each user node to separate their signals using spatial filtering or other signal processing techniques. A group of user nodes that are all spatially enough separated to allow separation of their respective signals is referred to as a spatial multi-user group.

[0006] In a conventional cellular network, each access node services user nodes within its coverage area or cell. As a user node moves between cells, the user node is handed off from one access node to another access node. A user node may be assigned to a cell based on its geographical location or alternatively the assignment may be done based on signal strength. With this conventional approach, a user node at the edges of a cell may suffer from weak signals and inter-cell interference (ICI) resulting in a lower level of service. It is often the case that a user node in the cell edge region may be able to establish a viable radio connection with multiple access nodes servicing adjacent cells.

[0007] If signals between a user node in this cell edge region and multiple cell sites are coordinated, both the downlink (transmissions from the network to the user node) and uplink (transmissions from a user node to the network) can be significantly improved. This type of coordination of multiple access nodes is referred to as coordinated multipoint (CoMP) transmission/reception. CoMP can be as simple as interference avoidance or in more complex systems, multiple access nodes can transmit the same data to a single user node thereby improving transmission quality through spatial diversity.

[0008] For downlink transmission, two types of CoMP may be used; coordinated scheduling also referred to as Coordinated Beamforming (CBF); and Joint Processing/Joint Transmission (JP/JT). With coordinated scheduling or CBF, the transmission to a single user node is transmitted from the servicing access node, exactly as in the case of non-CoMP transmission. However, the scheduling, including any beamforming functionality, is dynamically coordinated between the access nodes in order to control and/or reduce the interference between different transmissions. For JP/JT, the data sent to a single user node is simultaneously transmitted from multiple antennas controlled by multiple access nodes servicing different cell areas. These multi-point transmissions are coordinated as if they were being sent by a single transmitter with geographically distributed antennas.

[0009] Groups of coordinated access nodes are referred to as CoMP sets or CoMP clusters and provide a potential for much higher performance than coordinated scheduling alone. However, this higher performance comes at the cost of increased backhaul requirements. Backhaul is a term used for communication between access nodes via a mechanism different than the radio link used by the user node.

[0010] Forming groups of CoMP clusters in large wireless network environments presents a number of problems. Computational resources available for scheduling in any given area being controlled are limited, so the size of the area controlled, or the control area, will also be limited. When the control area is small, such as a single cluster of access nodes, extensive interference can be introduced from adjacent control areas. There is also a problem of how to handle the edges of control areas, since users that remain near a control area edge for a prolonged time may experience reduced service.

[0011] Thus, there is a need for improved apparatus and methods for forming clusters of access nodes in order to provide improved communication services while keeping resource requirements low.

[0012] EP 2282413 A2, US 2014/0161054 A1, Tokyo Institute of Technology et al "Distributed Dynamic CoMP for LTE-Advanced" 3GPP Draft R1-094285, EP 2317809 A1, and 12R "Clustering Methods for Base Station Cooperation in LTE-A" 3GPP Draft Rl-112456 describe conventional approaches to clustering.

SUMMARY



[0013] It is an object of the present invention to provide methods and apparatus to improve performance of wireless communications. The improvement is obtained by determining clusters of access nodes within control areas in a service area made up of a plurality of access nodes. The methods and apparatus disclosed herein are useful in wireless communication systems serving multiple users nodes or mobile devices from multiple access nodes distributed throughout a service area. The clusters of access nodes are appropriate for CoMP scheduling allowing user nodes to be served more efficiently.

[0014] The foregoing and other objects are achieved by the features of the independent claims. Further implementation forms are apparent from the dependent claims, the description and the figures.

[0015] According to a first aspect of the present invention the above and further objects and advantages are obtained by an apparatus for determining clusters of access nodes, the apparatus comprising: a processing apparatus, wherein the processing apparatus is configured to: determine a first cluster based on a first metric, wherein the first cluster comprises one or more access nodes for serving at least a first user node; assign further user nodes to be served by the one or more access nodes of the first cluster based on a spatial separation of the further user nodes and a second metric; and
determine at least a further cluster (1408) by repeating the determining and assigning steps for further access nodes and user nodes until there are no more user nodes to be assigned.In a first possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect the processing apparatus is configured to determine a plurality of candidate clusters for the first cluster, wherein different candidate clusters from the plurality of candidate clusters include different access nodes, and to evaluate, for each candidate cluster in the plurality of candidate clusters, the first metric. The processing apparatus is configured to select, as the first cluster, a candidate cluster from the plurality of candidate clusters which provides a highest value for the first metric.

[0016] In a second possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to the first possible implementation form of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to, for each user node to be served by the access nodes of a respective candidate cluster, determine a candidate first metric, and determine the candidate first metric as the first metric of the respective candidate cluster which provides the highest value out of the candidate first metrics for the respective candidate cluster.

[0017] In a third possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to the first or second possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to evaluate the first metric for a candidate cluster in the plurality of candidate clusters based on a plurality of user nodes to be serviced by the candidate cluster.

[0018] In a fourth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through third possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to determine a link matrix, and determine the first cluster by selecting, based on the link matrix and the first metric, a first access node for the first cluster, and at least a further access node for the first cluster based on a distance or a signal quality between the first user node and the further access node. The link matrix comprises channel information for a plurality of radio links between user nodes to be served and a plurality of antennas, wherein the plurality of antennas is associated with the access nodes of the plurality of access nodes.

[0019] In a fifth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through fourth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to determine the first cluster based on a predetermined maximum number of access nodes to be associated with the first cluster.

[0020] In a sixth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through fifth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to determine the further cluster based on a third metric, wherein the third metric comprises the first metric, an interference and a leakage between the further cluster and the further user nodes assigned to the first cluster.

[0021] In a seventh possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through sixth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to evaluate the first metric based on a proportionally fair metric, a maximum throughput metric, a guaranteed throughput metric, or an equal throughput metric.

[0022] In an eighth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through seventh possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is further configured to remove one or more user nodes from the first cluster based on a signal to interference plus noise ratio estimate.

[0023] In a ninth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through eighth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the first metric comprises a proportionally fair metric and the processing apparatus is configured to evaluate the first metric by evaluating precoders using available access node resources.

[0024] In a tenth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through ninth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is further configured to determine a first one or more clusters of access nodes for a plurality of access nodes in a first control area. After a first control phase, the processing apparatus is configured to determine a second one or more clusters of access nodes for a plurality of access nodes in a second control area, wherein the control phase comprises a period of time during which the determined clusters of access nodes remains constant, and wherein a control area comprises a plurality of access nodes.

[0025] In an eleventh possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through tenth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is further configured to assign further user nodes to form a spatial multiuser group based on a second metric.

[0026] In a twelfth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to the any of the preceding first through eleventh possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is further configured to assign further user nodes based on a semi-orthogonal user selection principal or a signal to interference plus leakage plus noise ratio.

[0027] In an thirteenth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through seventh possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is configured to assign further user nodes to the first cluster based on semi-orthogonal user selection or a signal to leakage plus interference to noise ratio.

[0028] According to a thirteenth possible implementation form of the apparatus according to the first aspect as such or to any of the preceding first through twelfth possible implementation forms of the first aspect, the processing apparatus is further configured to assign each access node in the plurality of access nodes to a control area of a plurality of control areas, to determine a first control phase, wherein a control phase comprises a period of time during which the assignment of access nodes to control areas remains constant. The processing apparatus is further configured to, when changing from the first control phase to a following second control phase, reassign at least a subset of access nodes which were assigned during the first control phase to a first control area to a second control area of the plurality of control areas
and reassign at least a subset of access nodes which were assigned during the first control phase to a third control area of the plurality of control areas to the first control area.

[0029] According to a second aspect of the present invention the above and further objects and advantages are obtained by a method for determining clusters of access nodes, the method comprising: determining a first cluster based on a first metric, wherein the first cluster comprises one or more access nodes for serving at least a first user node; assigning further user nodes to be served by the one or more access nodes of the first cluster based on a spatial separation of the further user nodes and a second metric; and determining at least a further cluster by repeating the determining and assigning steps for further access nodes and user nodes until there are no more user nodes to be assigned.According to a third aspect of the present invention the above and further objects and advantages are obtained by a computer program comprising a program code for performing the method according to second aspect of the present invention when the computer program runs on a computer.

[0030] These and other aspects, implementation forms, and advantages of the exemplary embodiments will become apparent from the embodiments described below considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood, however, that the description and drawings are designed solely for purposes of illustration and not as a definition of the limits of the invention, for which reference should be made to the appended claims. Additional aspects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in the description that follows, and in part will be obvious from the description, or may be learned by practice of the invention. Moreover, the aspects and advantages of the invention may be realized and obtained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS



[0031] In the following detailed portion of the present disclosure, the invention will be explained in more detail with reference to the example embodiments shown in the drawings, in which:

Figure 1 illustrates a block diagram of an exemplary communication network for practicing embodiments of the present invention;

Figure 2 illustrates an exemplary pattern for shifting control areas between control phases in a wireless communication network incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments;

Figure 3 illustrates an exemplary pattern for shifting control areas employing six control areas during each control phase in accordance with aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 4 illustrates a round-robin scheduling technique incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 5 illustrates an exemplary algorithm for adaptively forming control areas in accordance with aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 6 illustrates an exemplary service area with lagging access nodes incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 7 illustrates an exemplary control area pattern incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 8 illustrates an exemplary partitioning of a service area in accordance with aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 9 illustrates an exemplary service area partitioning with varying size control areas in accordance with aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 10 illustrates partitioning of a service area using a hybrid approach in accordance with aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 11 illustrates a block diagram of an exemplary computing apparatus appropriate for implementing aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 12 illustrates a flowchart of an exemplary embodiment of a method for shifting control areas in a wireless communication system incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 13 illustrates a pictorial illustration of cluster formation within control areas incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.

Figure 14 illustrates a flowchart of an exemplary embodiment of a method for forming clusters of access nodes incorporating aspects of the disclosed embodiments.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DISCLOSED EMBODIMENTS



[0032] Referring now to Figure 1 there can be seen an illustration of a service area 100 of a communication network appropriate for practicing embodiments of the present disclosure. For the purposes of the disclosure herein, the communication network will generally be referred to as a wireless communication network.

[0033] The service area 100 is depicted in Figure 1 using a conventional honeycomb configuration of hexagonally shaped cells 102. Each individual cell, such as cell 102, represents the coverage area of one access node 106, generally represented as a cross at the approximate center of each cell 102. Alternatively the antennas of three access nodes may be placed at the intersection of three cells 108 in order to reduce the number of towers and other physical equipment needed. The antennas and physical layer of each access node 106 may be placed anywhere within or outside the cell 102 as necessary to provide the desired signal quality throughout a cell 102.

[0034] A plurality of regularly spaced cells 102 distributed throughout an area forms the service area 100. It should be noted that depiction of cells 102 or coverage areas in the figures as regularly spaced hexagons of uniform size and shape is presented here merely as an aid to understanding. Those skilled in the art will readily recognize that the disclosed embodiments may be advantageously employed in other wireless communication networks where the coverage area of each access node 106 may be irregularly shaped, may have different sizes, and may not be uniformly distributed across the service area, and where the antennas and other components of each access node 106 may be distributed at various locations throughout or outside the coverage area of the access node 106.

[0035] The service area 100 includes various network nodes or entities including the access nodes 106, and user nodes 104. The access nodes 106 may be centrally located as illustrated in Figure 1. Alternatively, the access nodes 106 can be distributed throughout or outside the associated cell 102 as described above. The access nodes 106 of a service area 100 are communicatively coupled via a backhaul or other communication network (not shown) allowing them to share data and other information.

[0036] User nodes 104, also referred to as user equipment (UE) or mobile stations, are distributed throughout the service area 100. The user nodes 104 may include, but are not limited to, equipment and devices such as cell phones, tablets, or other suitable user equipment. The user nodes 104 are typically separate physical entities. The access nodes 106 may be a single physical entity or may be distributed among a number of tightly coupled physical entities. Figure 1 depicts only three user nodes 104, however it should be understood that more or less user nodes are typically distributed throughout many or all of the cells 102 in the service area 100 at any given point in time.

Control Area Shifting



[0037] Figures 2a and 2b illustrate an embodiment of partitioning of a service area 202 into control areas 204, 206 during two successive control phases. In the illustrations of Figure 2a and 2b, individual cells 102 are depicted as regularly shaped hexagons as described above, and all cells 102 assigned to a particular control area, such as control area 204, are shaded in a similar fashion. For example all cells 102 associated with control area 204 are shaded with diagonal lines.

[0038] The access nodes associated with each cell 102 are not depicted in the network diagram illustrated in Figures 2a, 2b. The access node associated with each cell 102 includes one or more antennas and a physical layer. The access node may be located near the center of the cell 102, at the intersection of three cells as described above or distributed within or outside the cell 102 as necessary to provide the desired signal strength throughout each cell 102.

[0039] Also included in service area 202 are control elements 210, 212. The control elements 210, 212 are processing apparatus communicatively coupled with the access nodes of each cell 102 via a backhaul or other type of communication network configured to provide coordination and control of the cells 102 in the service area 202. Control elements 210, 212 may be implemented centrally on a server or other processing apparatus configured for the purpose, or the control elements 210, 212 may be implemented as distributed computer processes running on one or more processing apparatus available in the communication network.

[0040] For scheduling of network communications, the time dimension is divided into a series of control phases, where each control phase may contain one or more transmission time slots. The control phases can all be of the same length or they may have different time durations as desired. The length of each control phase is based on the number of user nodes in the service area 202 and the amount of service required by the user nodes. In a network that is experiencing a high level of traffic or highly mobile user nodes, a shorter control phase can be appropriate.

[0041] During each control phase, the cells 102, or more particularly the access nodes servicing each cell 102, are partitioned into a number of control areas 204, 206 where transmission from the access nodes within one control 204, 206 area are controlled or scheduled by a single control element 210, 212. Note that the access nodes are not illustrated in Figures 2a, 2b, however those skilled in the art will recognize that each cell 102 includes a corresponding access node to service each cell 102. Similarly, user nodes are not illustrated in Figures 2a, 2b and it should be understood that one or more user nodes are distributed throughout the service area 202 during each control phase.

[0042] The control elements 210, 212 allocate the access nodes associated with each cell 102 within their respective control area 204, 206 to a number of clusters and coordinate the access nodes in each cluster to perform CoMP transmission or reception for the user nodes being serviced by the cluster of access nodes. Clusters implementing CoMP transmission/reception are referred to as a CoMP clusters or just clusters, and are formed based on the requirements of the user nodes requiring service within the control area 204, 206. Each CoMP cluster may contain one or more access nodes and may serve single or multiple user nodes through CoMP transmission (or reception).

[0043] During a first control phase, illustrated in Figure 2a, the service area 202 is partitioned into two control areas 204, 206 along a control area boundary 208. Transmission of cells 102 within the first control area 204 are coordinated during the first control phase by a first control element 210 that is communicatively coupled to each cell 102 in the control area 204 through a backhaul network (not shown). Similarly a second control element 212 coordinates cells 102 in the second control area 206 during the first control phase.

[0044] During the next or following control phase the control areas 206 are shifted as illustrated in Figure 2b, to form a second set of control areas 214, 216, 218 such that a cell 224 lying adjacent the control area boundary 208 during the first control phase as illustrated in Figure 2a, is not adjacent a control area boundary 220, 222 during the next control phase, as illustrated in Figure 2b. It is to be pointed out that the cells 102 have physical locations and do not move as control areas 204, 206 are shifted. Therefore, a cell 228 that is at the edge of the service area 202, as shown in Figure 2a for example, will remain at the edge of the service area 202 even though the control area boundaries 208, 220, 222 shown in Figure 2b have moved. Although the aspects of the disclosed embodiments are described herein with respect to partitioning a service area into two control areas, alternatively, a service area 202 may be partitioned into more than two control areas during each control phase (e.g. depending on service requirements in the service area 202).

[0045] Referring to Figures 3a and 3b, an exemplary partitioning of the service area 202 into six control areas during a first control phase (Figure 3a) and a second control phase (Figure 3b) is illustrated. As before, Figure 3a depicts individual cells 102 as regularly shaped hexagons, and all cells 102 assigned to a particular control area, such as control area 302, are shaded in a similar fashion.

[0046] In the example of Figure 3a, the service area 202 is partitioned into a first set of six control areas 302, 304, 306, 308, 310, 312, during the first control phase. During the following control phase, referring to Figure 3b, the service area 202 is partitioned into a different set of six control areas 314, 316, 318, 320, 322, 324. Alternating between the first set of control areas 302, 304, 306, 308, 310, 312 and the second set of control areas 314, 316, 318, 320, 322, 324 in each successive control phase avoids having any cell 102 remaining at the border of a control area at all times.

[0047] Figures 2a, 2b, 3a and 3b illustrate embodiments where control areas are formed for each control phase by alternating between two predefined sets of control areas. Alternatively more than two sets of control areas can be advantageously employed and the sets of control areas for use during a control phase may be selected using round-robin scheduling or other appropriate scheduling technique. Figures 4a-4d illustrates an example of round-robin type partitioning of a service area 400 using four sets of control areas. As before, cells 102 are depicted in Figure 4a-4d as hexagons. Control areas, such as control areas 402, 404 in Figure 4a, are indicated by shading all cells 102 assigned to the same control area in a similar fashion, and the combined coverage area of all the cells 102 is referred to as the service area 400.

[0048] Referring to Figure 4a, during the first control phase t1, the service area 400 is partitioned into a set of two control areas 402, 404 having substantially equal size. As shown in Figure 4b, during the next control phase t2, the service area 400 is partitioned into a second set of control areas 406, 408, 410. Continuing on to Figure 4c, the service area 400 is partitioned into a third set of control areas 412, 414, 416 during a third control phase t3, and in Figure 4d, a fourth set of control areas 418, 420, 422 during a fourth control phase t4. This pattern then repeats during each following set of four successive control phases.

[0049] Repeating a set of control areas in the illustrated round-robin fashion has the effect of essentially walking the control area boundaries 424, 426 across the service area 400 such that no cell 102 is adjacent a control area boundary 424, 426 during all control phases. For larger service areas with a greater number of cells it may be advantageous to partition the service area 400 into more than two control areas and use a correspondingly larger number of control areas in subsequent control phases. The sets of control areas may be pre-defined or alternatively they may be determined prior to each control phase based on a predefined algorithm.

[0050] For example, control areas 406, 408, 410 for the second control phase t2 may be obtained from the control areas 402, 404 in the first control phase t1 by assigning the cells or access nodes 432 that are adjacent a first side 428 of the control area boundary 424 during the first control phase t1 to a control area 408 adjacent a second side 430 of the control area boundary 242 during the second or next control phase t2. This prevents any cell from being adjacent to a control area boundary at all times.

[0051] The control area boundaries 424, 426 need not be simple vertical slices of the control areas 406, 408, 410 as illustrated in Figure 4b. Alternatively, the control area boundaries 424, 426 may define more complex shaped control areas, such as for example rectangular or hexagonal shapes, and the above described algorithm may be used to walk these shapes across the respective service area.

[0052] In certain embodiments it is advantageous to employ an adaptive approach to control area formation that takes loading of access nodes within a communication network into account, thereby adapting control areas to more effectively address the current state of the network. For example, control area formation may be based on the service demanded or received by user nodes being serviced by access nodes of the network. Adaptive control area formation may be accomplished in two steps:
  1. 1) determining the number and/or size of control areas to be formed; then
  2. 2) identifying and locating the control areas within the service area.


[0053] Determination of the number and/or size of control areas may be based on status of access nodes in the service area where the status of the access nodes is determined using a suitable service metric to provide a quantitative measure of the service provided by each access node. Access nodes that are not performing as well as other access nodes in the network are designated as lagging in service and may be referred to as lagging access nodes. Determination of a lagging access node may be accomplished using a service metric.

[0054] For example one suitable service metric for determining lagging access nodes would be a metric that provides some measure of the service received by user nodes connected to the access node or a metric relating requested service to received service. When computing the service metric, it is often advantageous to aggregate the service over one or more control phases in order to take longer term network variations into account. The service metric indicates the service deficit or surplus of an access node and provides a value that can be used to determine which access nodes are lagging in service as compared to other access nodes in the network at any point in time.

[0055] Another example of a suitable service metric would be a ratio of the aggregate service received from an access node by all the user nodes connected to that access node divided by the aggregate service requested from the access node by the same user node. Alternatively, the service metric may be based on the difference between the aggregate or average requested service and the aggregate or average received service over one or more control phases. Any service metric that quantifies performance of an access node relative to other access nodes may be advantageously employed to determine which access nodes are lagging. Depending on how a metric is formulated, some service metrics yield a lower value to indicate poor or less advantageous performance and others will yield a higher value to indicate poor performance. In either case a suitable service metric allows the access nodes to be sorted according to their service metric value and the most lagging access nodes can then be identified from the sorted list.

[0056] The process of computing a service metric for each access node and sorting the access nodes according to their service metric value provides a set of lagging access nodes at a particular point in time. The set of lagging access nodes may then be used as the basis for control area formation. Selection of the set of lagging access nodes may be based on a predetermined threshold for the metric value, where all access nodes whose associated level of service is below the predetermined threshold are selected, or the set of lagging access nodes may include a predetermined number of the most lagging access nodes as indicated by their metric values. Alternatively, some combination of both a threshold value and a predetermined number may be advantageously employed.

[0057] In situations where a single threshold value fails to yield a desirable size for the set of lagging access nodes, such as a set of lagging access nodes that is too small or too large, a plurality of threshold values may be used. In this case when a first threshold value yields an undesirable number of access nodes, i.e. too few or too many access nodes, the next threshold value is used and so forth until a desired number of lagging access nodes is obtained.

[0058] Referring now to Figure 5 there can be seen an illustration of an application of adaptive control area formation incorporating aspects of the present disclosure. As before, cells 102 are depicted in Figure 5 as hexagons, control areas, such as control areas 514, 516, 518 and 520, are indicated by shading all cells 102 assigned to the same control area in a similar fashion. For example, all cells 102 in control area 516 are shaded with diagonal lines. The combined coverage area of all the cells 102 is referred to as the service area 500.

[0059] As a first step, a set of lagging access nodes 506, 508, 510, 512 is identified as described above. Once the set of lagging access nodes 506, 508, 510, 512 is determined, an appropriate number of control areas can be determined by finding the minimum distance d1,2 between two adjacent lagging access nodes 506, 508 among the set of lagging access nodes 506, 508, 510, 512. This minimum distance d1,2 is used as the basis of control area formation. Alternatively, it may be advantageous to base control area formation on an average distance between lagging access nodes, a maximum distance between lagging access nodes, or on a minimum inter-control area distance set by the network operator. The mapping of control areas to the actual access nodes will strive towards having a mapping where the lagging access nodes lie as close as possible to the center of the control areas.

[0060] For example the distances d1,2 and d2,3 and the set of lagging access nodes 506, 508, 510, 512 yields a number of possible mappings of access nodes to control areas. The most appropriate mapping is the one that minimizes the distance between the lagging access nodes and the associated control area center. In the example of Figure 5, the control areas 514, 516, 518, 520 are formed to create a regular pattern of substantially equal sized rectangles with the size and location of each control area 514, 516, 518, 520 being determined based on the distances d1,2 and d2,3 and the set of most lagging access nodes 506, 508, 510, 512. With this control area placement the approximate centers of the control areas 514 and 516 are coincident with two of the most lagging access nodes 506 and 508. Thus, the distance between the most lagging access nodes 506 and 508 and their associated control area centers is zero.

[0061] In the other two control areas 518, 520 the control area centers 522, 524 are not coincident with the most lagging access nodes 510, 512 resulting in distances d3,3 and d4,4 between the control area centers 522, 524 and the lagging access nodes 510, 512 respectively. Thus, the aggregate distance for this control area placement is the sum of distances d3,3 and d4,4. Alternatively, control area formation may be accomplished by using the set of lagging nodes and the distance between lagging access nodes to locate the control area centers within the service area, then assign the remaining access nodes to control areas based on their distance or proximity to each control area center.

[0062] In the embodiments described herein, the distance between access nodes is generally based on the physical distance, such as the distance between the centers of the coverage areas of the access nodes. Alternatively, the distance or proximity between lagging access nodes may be based on path loss, signal strength, or other radio parameters of interest. Use of radio parameters to determine distance or proximity between access nodes may be achieved by reporting of the received signal status from interfered user nodes within the service area or based on an in-band communication between the access nodes.

[0063] An exemplary embodiment of an iterative algorithm for determining the most advantageous partioning of access nodes into control areas is illustrated in Figures 6, 7, and 8. Figures 6 and 8 illustrate access nodes 602, generally in the form of a triangle, distributed evenly throughout a service area 600. The service area 600 is the aggregate coverage area of all the access nodes 602. The set of lagging access nodes 604, 608, 610 is determined as previously described based on a service metric computed for all the access nodes 602 in the service area 600.

[0064] In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 6, a set of three lagging access nodes 604, 608, 610 is shown. The iterative algorithm is initiated by determining the minimum distance 606 between adjacent pairs of the lagging access nodes 604, 608, and 610. Next, the number and size of the control areas are determined based on the determined minimum distance 606 using any of the aformentioned schemes.

[0065] Referring to Figure 7, in this example, the control areas are determined using a regular pattern of rectangular control areas 700. The distance beetween control area centers 702, 704 is equal to the minimum distance 606 between lagging access nodes 604, 610. The control area pattern 700 is then applied iteratively to partition the access nodes 602 of the service area 600 into separate control areas.

[0066] Figure 8 illustrates a first iteration where a first lagging access node 604 is located at the center of one control area 802 and the remaining access nodes are partitioned according to the control area pattern 700 shown on Figure 7 to obtain a first partitioning solution. Next, an aggregate distance ∑1 for the first solution is determined by summing the distances between each lagging access node 604, 608 and 610 and an the centers of their respective control areas 802, 804, 806. Because the first lagging node 604 was placed at the center of the control area 802, the resulting distance between the center of the first control area 802 and the first lagging access node 604 is equal to zero. The distances 810 and 812 between the other lagging access nodes 608, 610 and the centers of their respective control areas 804, 806 are then summed to obtain the aggregate distance for the first solution, ∑1. This process is then repeated iteratively for each remaining lagging access node 608, 610 by repositioning the control area pattern 700 to obtain a control area solution where one of the lagging access nodes 608, 610 is at the center of a control area and a corresponding aggregate distance ∑2, ∑3 is determined for each control area solution. The control area solution corresponding to the minimum aggregate distance ∑1, ∑2, ∑3, is then selected as the most apropriate control area solution and used to define a set of control areas for partitioning of the access nodes during the next control phase. The lagging access nodes may be sorted according to their service metric and the iterations proceed in order from the most lagging access node to the least lagging access node. Alternatively, the iterations may be performed in other desired orders based on other criteria.

[0067] The number and size of control areas may be restricted if desired through the use of various operators. For example a minimum acceptable distance dfloor may be used to restrict the minimum distance between lagging access nodes d. In this case the minimum distance d between lagging access nodes becomes the maximum of the true minimum distance dmin and dfloor: d = max{ dfloor, dmin}. Alternatively a network operator may wish to impose a predetermined number of lagging access nodes or or a number of control areas, thereby restricting through implication, a certain inter-control area distance.

[0068] Alternatively, a fixed number of control areas with each control area having variable size may be used. An embodiment of partitioning access nodes into a fixed number of control areas is illustrated in Figure 9. Figure 9 uses the earlier described notation where cells 102 are depicted as hexagons and the access node servicing each cell 102 is not shown, control areas 910, 912 are indicated by shading all cells 102 assigned to the same control area in a similar fashion. The combined coverage area of all the cells 102 is referred to as the service area 900.

[0069] In the embodiment illustrated in Figure 9, the three most lagging access nodes 904, 906, 908 are postioned at the center of the three control areas 910, 912, 914. Rather than using predefined control area patterns, the control areas 910, 912, 914 are created by starting from each control area center 904, 906, 908 and expanding, i.e. assigning access nodes adjacent already assigned access nodes, until a control area meets an adjacent or neighboring control area. With this approach, control areas need not be expanded equally. The number of access nodes assigned to each control area need not be the same and the control area boundaries need not be half way between the two control area centers. For example it may be desireable to enlarge or assign more access nodes to control areas having a lower predicted service requirement and have smaller control areas with fewer assigned access nodes in areas with high predicted service requirements. This ensures a propotionally fairer distribution of access nodes to control areas.

[0070] The above approaches may be combined for an approach where both the number and size of the control areas is variable. An approach of this type is depicted in Figure 10. As before, cells 102 are depicted in Figure 10 as hexagons and the access node servicing each cell is not shown, Control areas 164, 166 are indicated by shading all cells 102 assigned to the same control area in a similar fashion, and the combined coverage area of all the cells 102 is referred to as the service area 150. Allowing both the number and size of control areas to vary results in a plurality of control area partitioning solutions where the control area centers of the possible solutions differ from the lagging accesss nodes.

[0071] The above is illustrated in Figure 10 where the control area 150 is partitioned into three control areas 162, 164, 166 of varying sizes or numbers of cells 102. As shown, this partitioning results in having the control area centers 152, 154, 156 being at different locations than the lagging access nodes 158, 160, 162 resulting in an aggregate distance for this solution as shown by the distances 170, 172, 174. As described above the most apropriate solution is the one corresponding to the minimum aggregate distance between control area centers 152, 154, 156 and the corresponding lagging access nodes 158, 160, 162. As before the number of control areas may be limited by defining a minimum distance between lagging access nodes such as the dfloor value described above. Alternatively, the number of control areas, which relates to the number of lagging access nodes, may also be based on the definition of a lagging access node.

[0072] For example a lagging access node may be determined using a predefined threshold value for the chosen service metric. This threshold value may be set by a network operator or it may be computed dynamically based on long term statistics recorded from the network over time. Multiple thresholds may also be defined for classifying the service deficit of an access node as for example, very high, high, medium, low, very low, etc., resulting in multiple control area solutions based on different numbers of lagging access nodes. These various control area solutions can then be evaluated using a chosen metric to determine the desired solution for the next control phase. As a result, the number of access nodes to consider for the formation of the control areas depends on which of the above sets are considered.

[0073] In general, there is an inter-dependency between the number of the control areas and the respective size of each control area. In addition, due to limitations on the computational resources for scheduling, such as CoMP scheduling within a control area, the size of the control area may also need to be limited. As a consequence the size of the control areas may be dictated by the amount of traffic in the network area and the corresponding demands on the computational resources. Fluctuations in traffic demand throughout a day may contribute to fluctuations in the size and number of control areas into which the access nodes are partitioned at any given time. It is expected that at busy hours the size of the control areas will be relatively small while at night, when traffic demands are low, the size of control areas will be larger. Thus, the formation of control areas can be based on the aggregate service demand. In embodiments where control area formation is based on aggregate service demand, the control areas are formed so the total traffic demand in a control area does not exceed the computational or networking resources available for coordinating and scheduling of the control area.

[0074] By using using the aggregated/averaged service surplus or aggregated service deficit as a service metric, which mirrors the service received by users in access nodes or clusters at control area edges, the above procedure for the control area formation guarantees fairness. The definition of the aggregate/average service surplus or deficit may be based on any key performance indicator or metric that can be used to measure service performance, such as for example throughput, cell edge user throughput, data loss, delay, number of resources available/demanded etc. Depending on the traffic in the network area the aggregate delay or latency can be used to calculate and compare the surplus/deficit among the access nodes. In these embodiments, the aggregate delay of an access node may be computed using the sum of the delays of its users. Higher values of aggregate delay indicate a higher service deficit or a more lagging access node. Alternatively, the aggregate service surplus/deficit can be based on the throughput, where a lower aggregate throughput would characterise a higher deficit or a more lagging access node. An additional alternative is to use the averaged received service instead of the aggregate service. A similar definition of aggregate/average service can be used for the cases where demanded service is considered for the formation of control areas instead of received service.

[0075] Figure 11 illustrates a block diagram of one embodiment of a computing device 1100 or server that may be configured to assign access nodes to control areas or form clusters of access nodes in a wireless communication network, such as for example, the wireless network service area 100 described above and with reference to Figure 1. In the illustrated embodiment, the computing device 1100 includes a processor 1102 coupled to a computer memory 1104, an interface 1106 configured to communicate with other devices or nodes in a communication network, and a user interface (UI) 1108. In certain embodiments interaction with a user is not required, and in these embodiments the UI 1108 may be omitted from the computing device 1100. The apparatus 1100 may be used to form control areas within a service area of a wireless network, such as the service area 100 or it may be used to form and schedule CoMP clusters within a control area.

[0076] The computing device 1100 is appropriate for use in a server or other network based processing apparatus employed in a wireless communication network. The computing device 1100 may include one processor 1102 as illustrated in Figure 11 or it may include a group of processors 1102 configured to operate in parallel. The processor 1102 may include special purpose devices, such as for example, digital signal processing (DSP) devices, microprocessors, or other specialized processing devices as well as one or more general purpose processors.

[0077] The memory 1104 is configured to be coupled to the processor 1102 and may be a combination of various types of computer memory such as for example volatile memory, nonvolatile memory, read only memory (ROM), random access memory (RAM) or other types of computer memory. The computer memory 1104 may also include various types of network accessible storage which the processing apparatus 1102 may access via the interface 1106. The memory 1104 and stores computer program instructions which may be organized as method groups including an operating system, applications, file system, as well as other computer program instructions for other desirable computer implemented methods such as methods that support forming control areas or forming and scheduling clusters of access nodes as described in the methods and techniques disclosed herein. Also included in the memory 1104 are program data and data files which are stored and processed by the processor 1102 in accordance with computer program instructions stored in memory 1104.

[0078] For purposes herein the term processing apparatus refers to one or more computing devices 1100 coupled to each other through their respective interfaces 1106 by a computer or other type of communications network such that the one or more computing devices 1100 may operate jointly to achieve a desired purpose. The one or more computing devices 1100 may be disposed at a single physical location or they may be distributed at various locations throughout a communication network. The one or more computing devices 1100 that form a processing apparatus may be configured to jointly execute a computer program or computer process such as any of the methods for cluster formation, or control area shifting disclosed herein.

[0079] Figure 12 illustrates a flowchart for an exemplary embodiment of a method 1200 (which may be performed by the computing device 1100) for shifting control areas in a wireless communication system. An initial set of control areas is formed by assigning 1202 access nodes of a wireless communication network to control areas based on their location within a service area, such as the service area 100 described above. Assignment 1202 of access nodes to control areas may be done using sets of predefined control areas such as the predefined control areas described above and with reference to Figures 2, 3, and 4. Alternatively the assignment may be accomplished using an adaptive approach where a set of lagging access nodes are identified; a size and number of control areas is determined based on the set of lagging access nodes; then the control area s are located within the service area. Locating of the control areas within the service area may be done using an iterative algorithm as described above.

[0080] Once control areas have been formed and all access node assignments are complete, for each control area a control element is assigned 1204 to schedule and coordinate the access nodes in the respective control area. The control element is configured to form clusters of access nodes and to control CoMP transmission and reception among the access nodes within its control area. A control phase is then determined 1208. The control phase is a period of during which the control area assignments remain stable. The method 1200 then waits 1208 for the control phase to end allowing the control elements to implement CoMP within each control area during the control phase.

[0081] Once the control phase ends 1208 a new set of control areas is formed 1210. The new control areas are formed 1210 in a manner as described above that avoids having an access node lying at the edge of a control area at all times. The process then repeats 1212 by assigning a control element 1204 to each new control area.

Cluster Formation



[0082] Once access nodes are assigned to control areas for an upcoming control phase, control elements associated with each control area perform resource allocation or scheduling of physical transmission resources for user nodes and access nodes within each control area. The control element forms access nodes into CoMP clusters and assigns user nodes to be serviced by each cluster. Formation of the CoMP clusters may be accomplished using an adaptive scheme based on traffic demand, channel conditions, and fairness between user nodes.

[0083] Figure 13 illustrates a service area 1300 that is split into two substantially equal size control areas 1302, 1304 during a control phase. Each control area 1302, 1304 is illustrated as containing a single CoMP cluster 1306, 1308 respectively. The CoMP cluster 1306 includes four cells or access nodes 1310, 1312, 1314, 1316, and the other CoMP cluster 1308 includes three cells or access nodes 1318, 1320, 1322. Alternatively each control area 1302, 1304 can contain more or less than two CoMP clusters and each cluster can include more or less than three access nodes. As noted above, the use of substantially equal size control areas with uniformly shaped and distributed cells is presented only as an aid to understanding. Those skilled in the art will readily recognize that the methods and apparatus disclosed herein can be advantageously employed in service areas of various sizes and geographic shapes, with control areas of various sizes and shapes, and with cells that have regularly or irregularly shaped coverage areas and that are not distributed in a regular fashion throughout the service area.

[0084] Cluster formation within each control area 1302, 1304 proceeds in an iterative fashion. This can include identifying the best CoMP cluster among the unassigned access nodes; assigning user nodes to the identified CoMP cluster, and repeating until there are no more semi-orthogonal users or physical resources that can be scheduled.

[0085] Forming clusters of access nodes and multi-user groups within a control area can be a computationally intensive and time consuming task. However, iteratively forming clusters based on scheduling metrics significantly reduces the complexity of CoMP cluster formation. Figure 14 illustrates a flow chart for an exemplary embodiment of a method 1400 for determining clusters of access nodes as may be used for determining CoMP clusters for use within a control area during one or more control phases. The method 1400 employs an iterative approach for cluster formation that generally proceeds as follows:
  • Select 1402 a user node having the highest value for a chosen scheduling metric;
  • Form 1404 a cluster of access nodes to service the selected user node;
  • Assign 1406 user nodes to the cluster to fill a multi-user group based on a second metric; and
  • Repeat 1408 the above steps until there are no more users or resources that can be scheduled.


[0086] Various scheduling metrics may be advantageously used to select a user node 1402, such as for example, a proportionally fair metric, maximum throughput, equal throughput, guaranteed throughput, or other appropriate metrics related to the service received or requested or channel conditions of a user node. In one embodiment, the scheduling metric can be based on evaluating precoders and using available access node resources. It is also advantageous to have the scheduling metric take both the interference from already scheduled user nodes and leakage to already scheduled user nodes into account. Appropriate scheduling metrics may be formulated such that higher values are better than lower values, or inversely where lower values are better than higher values. For purposes of the description herein, the term higher value or highest value is used to refer to the better or best of two or more metric values.

[0087] Once a user node is selected 1402, a cluster is formed to service the selected user node 1404. This can be done using a pre-defined method. For example, all access nodes having a channel quality or signal strength above a threshold value may be selected for the initial group of access nodes. When the use of a single threshold value results in a number of access nodes greater than a per-determined maximum number, the group size may be limited to this predetermined maximum by taking the access nodes with the best quality or strongest signal up to the desired maximum number, i.e. the group size is based on a threshold value and limited by a maximum number. In certain embodiments it is advantageous to evaluate the scheduling metric based on more than one user node or an entire multi-user group of user nodes rather than using only a single user node. This has the potential of providing more efficient CoMP cluster formation; however it comes at the cost of increased computational requirements.

[0088] In many instances there are several access nodes available to service the selected user node and these access nodes may be formed 1404 into a number of different clusters. To select the best cluster among the possible or candidate clusters, a scheduling metric is evaluated for each candidate cluster, and the candidate cluster having the highest or best metric value is selected as the cluster for servicing the user node 1404. The scheduling metric used for selecting the best candidate cluster may be the same metric used for the initial user node selection or alternatively it may be advantageous to use a different metric for selection of the best candidate cluster as the CoMP cluster to be formed.

[0089] After defining the CoMP cluster as described above, additional user nodes are assigned 1406 to the cluster by selecting user nodes that can participate in a spatial multi-user group. A spatial multi-user group is a group of user nodes that are spatially enough separated to be grouped for simultaneous transmission. The additional user nodes to be added to the spatial multiuser group may be selected using a second metric, such as for example, the principle of semi-orthogonal user selection (SUS), or signal to interference plus leakage plus noise ratio (SILNR). The SILNR metric used here is similar to a signal to leakage plus noise ratio with the interference term being the result of interference from user nodes already scheduled by the same control element. The CoMP cluster is filled when there are no more semi-orthogonal user nodes or physical resources left that can be scheduled in the CoMP cluster being formed.

[0090] Once the CoMP cluster is filled the process repeats 1408 by evaluating the chosen scheduling metric again for the remaining user nodes and access nodes that have not already been scheduled in a CoMP cluster. When evaluating the chosen scheduling metric for user nodes and access nodes in subsequent iterations, the interference caused by user nodes which have already been scheduled within the control area can be accounted for by inclusion in the selected scheduling metric. Similarly, leakage which is the interference caused by the candidate user node on already scheduled user nodes may also be taken into account.

[0091] When there are no more user nodes or access nodes remaining that fit the clustering criteria, the scheduling is complete for the particular control area. The current CoMP clusters and multi-user groupings may be used for multiple transmissions when desired. It is also possible to carry the same CoMP clusters and multi-user groups forward to the next control phase when a particular control area remains the same. However, when using control area formation as described above, the control areas will likely change between control phases and in most instances cluster formation and multi-user groupings will change accordingly.

[0092] Once scheduling is complete for a control area, the final precoders are calculated for each user node and a SINR estimate is available for all the scheduled user nodes. At this point it may be desirable in certain embodiments to un-schedule or remove user nodes from a cluster when the signal quality of a user node is below an acceptable threshold. For example a user node with a SINR estimate below about -7 decibels (dB) is unlikely to be able to extract data from received signals. Thus transmitting data to user nodes with low SINR values may cause interference on other user nodes and will likely not improve the overall transmission rate. The scheduling algorithms discussed above are configured to schedule user nodes such that they are enough orthogonal in the spatial domain for reliable transmission. However, precise SINR estimates are not available before the final scheduling decision and precoder calculations are completed.

[0093] In one embodiment, a link matrix containing channel information for each access node antenna to user node link may be employed to determine a user node and cluster. The link matrix is an n by m matrix where n is the number of access node antennas in the control area and m is the number of user nodes being served by the control area. The channel information may be obtained from the access nodes in the form of channel estimates or other appropriate channel information, or it may be feedback information from each user node such as a channel quality indicator, channel estimate, or other value providing an indication of link quality. The best link is then chosen by applying the chosen scheduling metric, such as a proportionally fair metric and taking interference and leakage of any already scheduled users into account. The access node and user node associated with the best link becomes the basis for forming 1402 the clusters.

[0094] Additional access nodes are assigned 1406 to the cluster based on their distance or link quality up to a desired maximum number of access nodes. As before, the distance may be a physical distance, signal strength, or other desired type of distance measurement. Additional users are then assigned 1406 to the cluster to form a spatial multi-user group using a second metric such as SUS or SILNR as described above. Once a cluster is completely defined, the link matrix, with any already scheduled user nodes and antennas removed, is used to repeat 1408 the selecting, forming, and assigning steps to form subsequent clusters until all user nodes or access node resources that meet the clustering criteria have been scheduled.


Claims

1. An apparatus for determining clusters of access nodes, the apparatus comprising:
a processing apparatus (1100),
wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to:

determine a first cluster (1404) based on a first metric, wherein the first cluster comprises one or more access nodes for serving at least a first user node;

assign further user nodes (1406) to be served by the one or more access nodes of the first cluster based on a spatial separation of the further user nodes and a second metric; and

determine at least a further cluster (1408) by repeating the determining and assigning steps for further access nodes and user nodes until there are no more user nodes to be assigned.


 
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to:

determine a plurality of candidate clusters for the first cluster, wherein different candidate clusters from the plurality of candidate clusters comprise different access nodes;

evaluate for each candidate cluster in the plurality of candidate clusters the first metric, and

select as the first cluster a candidate cluster from the plurality of candidate clusters which provides a highest value for the first metric.


 
3. The apparatus according to claim 2, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to, for each user node to be served by the access nodes of a respective candidate cluster, determine a candidate first metric, and determine the candidate first metric as the first metric of the respective candidate cluster which provides the highest value out of the candidate first metrics for the respective candidate cluster.
 
4. The apparatus of claims 2 or 3, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to evaluate the first metric for a candidate cluster in the plurality of candidate clusters based on a plurality of user nodes to be serviced by the candidate cluster.
 
5. The apparatus of any of claims 1 through 4, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to determine a link matrix, and wherein the processing apparatus is configured to determine the first cluster by selecting, based on the link matrix and the first metric, a first access node for the first cluster, and at least a further access node for the first cluster based on a distance or a signal quality between the first user node and the further access node,
wherein the link matrix comprises channel information for a plurality of radio links between user nodes to be served and a plurality of antennas, wherein the plurality of antennas is associated with the access nodes of the plurality of access nodes.
 
6. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 5, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to determine the first cluster based on a predetermined maximum number of access nodes to be associated with the first cluster.
 
7. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 6, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is further configured to remove one or more user nodes from the first cluster based on a signal to interference plus noise ratio estimate.
 
8. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 7, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to assign further user nodes to the first cluster based on semi-orthogonal user selection or a signal to leakage plus interference to noise ratio.
 
9. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 8, wherein the first metric comprises a proportionally fair metric and the processing apparatus (1100) is configured to evaluate the first metric by evaluating precoders using available access node resources.
 
10. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 9, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is further configured to:

determine a first one or more clusters of access nodes for a plurality of access nodes in a first control area;

after a first control phase, determine a second one or more clusters of access nodes for a plurality of access nodes in a second control area,

wherein the control phase comprises a period of time during which the determined clusters of access nodes remains constant, and a control area comprises a plurality of access nodes.


 
11. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 10, wherein the processing apparatus (1100) is further configured to the assign further user nodes to form a spatial multiuser group based on a second metric.
 
12. The apparatus of any of the preceding claims 1 through 11, wherein the processing apparatus is further configured to:

assign (1202) each access node in the plurality of access nodes to a control area of a plurality of control areas;

determine (1206) a first control phase, wherein a control phase comprises a period of time during which the assignment of access nodes to control areas remains constant;

determining clusters of access nodes in a control area of the plurality of control areas; and

when changing from the first control phase to a following second control phase, reassign at least a subset of access nodes which were assigned during the first control phase to a first control area, to a second control area of the plurality of control areas and reassign at least a subset of access nodes which were assigned during the first control phase to a third control area of the plurality of control areas to the first control area.


 
13. A method (1400) for determining clusters of access nodes, the method comprising:

determining a first cluster (1404) based on a first metric, wherein the first cluster comprises one or more access nodes for serving at least a first user node;

assigning further user nodes (1406) to be served by the one or more access nodes of the first cluster based on a spatial separation of the further user nodes and a second metric; and

determining at least a further cluster (1408) by repeating the determining and assigning steps for further access nodes and user nodes until there are no more user nodes to be assigned.


 
14. A computer program comprising a program code for performing the method according to claim 13, when the computer program runs on a computer.
 


Ansprüche

1. Vorrichtung zum Bestimmen von Zugangsknoten-Clustern, wobei die Vorrichtung aufweist:

eine Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100),

wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist:

einen ersten Cluster (1404) auf Grundlage einer ersten Metrik zu bestimmen, wobei der erste Cluster einen oder mehrere Zugangsknoten zum Bedienen mindestens eines ersten Benutzerknotens aufweist;

weitere Benutzerknoten (1406), die von dem einem oder den mehreren Zugangsknoten des ersten Clusters zu bedienen sind, auf Grundlage einer räumlichen Trennung der weiteren Benutzerknoten und einer zweiten Metrik zuzuweisen; und

mindestens einen weiteren Cluster (1408) durch Wiederholen der Bestimmungs- und Zuweisungsschritte für weitere Zugangsknoten und Benutzerknoten zu bestimmen, bis es keine Benutzerknoten mehr gibt, die zuzuweisen sind.


 
2. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist:

eine Mehrzahl von Kandidaten-Clustern für den ersten Cluster zu bestimmen, wobei verschiedene Kandidaten-Cluster aus der Mehrzahl von Kandidaten-Clustern verschiedene Zugangsknoten aufweisen;

für jeden Kandidaten-Cluster in der Mehrzahl von Kandidaten-Clustern die erste Metrik zu bewerten und

einen Kandidaten-Cluster aus der Mehrzahl von Kandidaten-Clustern als den ersten Cluster auszuwählen, der einen höchsten Wert für die erste Metrik liefert.


 
3. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 2, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, für jeden Benutzerknoten, der von den Zugangsknoten eines jeweiligen Kandidaten-Clusters zu bedienen ist, eine erste Kandidatenmetrik zu bestimmen und die erste Kandidatenmetrik als die erste Metrik des jeweiligen Kandidaten-Clusters zu bestimmen, die den höchsten Wert aus den ersten Kandidatenmetriken für den jeweiligen Kandidaten-Cluster liefert.
 
4. Vorrichtung nach Anspruch 2 oder 3, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, die erste Metrik für einen Kandidaten-Cluster in der Mehrzahl von Kandidaten-Clustern auf Grundlage einer Mehrzahl von Benutzerknoten, die von dem Kandidaten-Cluster zu bedienen sind, zu bewerten.
 
5. Vorrichtung nach einem der Ansprüche 1 bis 4, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, eine Verbindungsmatrix zu bestimmen, und wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung dazu ausgebildet ist, den ersten Cluster durch Auswählen eines ersten Zugangsknotens für den ersten Cluster auf Grundlage der Verbindungsmatrix und der ersten Metrik und mindestens eines weiteren Zugangsknotens für den ersten Cluster auf Grundlage eines Abstands oder einer Signalqualität zwischen dem ersten Benutzerknoten und dem weiteren Zugangsknoten zu bestimmen,
wobei die Verbindungsmatrix Kanalinformationen für eine Mehrzahl von Funkverbindungen zwischen Benutzerknoten, die zu bedienen sind, und einer Mehrzahl von Antennen aufweist, wobei die Mehrzahl von Antennen den Zugangsknoten der Mehrzahl von Zugangsknoten zugeordnet ist.
 
6. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 5, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, den ersten Cluster auf Grundlage einer vorbestimmten maximalen Anzahl von Zugangsknoten, die dem ersten Cluster zuzuordnen sind, zu bestimmen.
 
7. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 6, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) ferner dazu ausgebildet ist, einen oder mehrere Benutzerknoten auf Grundlage einer Schätzung eines "Signal-to-Interference-plus-Noise-Ratio" aus dem ersten Cluster zu entfernen.
 
8. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 7, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, dem ersten Cluster auf Grundlage einer semiorthogonalen Benutzerauswahl oder eines "Signal-to-Leakageplus-Interference-to-Noise-Ratio" weitere Benutzerknoten zuzuweisen.
 
9. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 8, wobei die erste Metrik eine proportional angemessene Metrik umfasst und die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) dazu ausgebildet ist, die erste Metrik durch Bewerten von Vorcodierern unter Verwendung verfügbarer Zugangsknotenressourcen zu bewerten.
 
10. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 9, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) ferner dazu ausgebildet ist:

einen ersten einen oder erste mehrere Zugangsknoten-Cluster für eine Mehrzahl von Zugangsknoten in einem ersten Steuerbereich zu bestimmen;

nach einer ersten Steuerphase einen zweiten einen oder zweite mehrere Zugangsknoten-Cluster für eine Mehrzahl von Zugangsknoten in einem zweiten Steuerbereich zu bestimmen,

wobei die Steuerphase eine Zeitspanne umfasst, während der die bestimmten Zugangsknoten-Cluster konstant bleiben, und ein Steuerbereich eine Mehrzahl von Zugangsknoten umfasst.


 
11. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 10, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung (1100) ferner dazu ausgebildet ist, weitere Benutzerknoten zum Bilden einer räumlichen Mehrbenutzergruppe auf Grundlage einer zweiten Metrik zuzuweisen.
 
12. Vorrichtung nach einem der vorhergehenden Ansprüche 1 bis 11, wobei die Verarbeitungsvorrichtung ferner dazu ausgebildet ist:

jeden Zugangsknoten in der Mehrzahl von Zugangsknoten einem Steuerbereich einer Mehrzahl von Steuerbereichen zuzuweisen (1202);

eine erste Steuerphase zu bestimmen (1206), wobei eine Steuerphase eine Zeitspanne umfasst, während der die Zuweisung von Zugangsknoten zu Steuerbereichen konstant bleibt;

Zugangsknoten-Cluster in einem Steuerbereich der Mehrzahl von Steuerbereichen zu bestimmen; und

wenn von der ersten Steuerphase zu einer folgenden zweiten Steuerphase gewechselt wird, mindestens einen Teilsatz von Zugangsknoten, die während der ersten Steuerphase einem ersten Steuerbereich zugewiesen wurden, einem zweiten Steuerbereich der Mehrzahl von Steuerbereichen neu zuzuweisen und mindestens einen Teilsatz von Zugangsknoten, die während der ersten Steuerphase einem dritten Steuerbereich der Mehrzahl von Steuerbereichen zugewiesen wurden, dem ersten Steuerbereich neu zuzuweisen.


 
13. Verfahren (1400) zum Bestimmen von Zugangsknoten-Clustern, wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

das Bestimmen eines ersten Clusters (1404) auf Grundlage einer ersten Metrik, wobei der erste Cluster einen oder mehrere Zugangsknoten zum Bedienen mindestens eines ersten Benutzerknotens aufweist;

das Zuweisen weiterer Benutzerknoten (1406), die von dem einem oder den mehreren Zugangsknoten des ersten Clusters zu bedienen sind, auf Grundlage einer räumlichen Trennung der weiteren Benutzerknoten und einer zweiten Metrik; und

das Bestimmen mindestens eines weiteren Clusters (1408) durch Wiederholen der Bestimmungs- und Zuweisungsschritte für weitere Zugangsknoten und Benutzerknoten, bis es keine Benutzerknoten mehr gibt, die zuzuweisen sind.


 
14. Computerprogramm, das einen Programmcode zum Durchführen des Verfahrens nach Anspruch 13, wenn das Computerprogramm auf einem Computer läuft, aufweist.
 


Revendications

1. Appareil permettant de déterminer des grappes de nœuds d'accès, l'appareil comprenant :

un appareil de traitement (1100),

dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour :

la détermination d'une première grappe (1404) sur la base d'une première métrique, la première grappe comprenant un ou plusieurs nœuds d'accès destinés à desservir au moins un premier nœud d'utilisateur ;

l'attribution de nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires (1406) qui doivent être desservis par le ou les nœuds d'accès de la première grappe sur la base d'une séparation spatiale des nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires et d'une seconde métrique ; et

la détermination d'au moins une grappe supplémentaire (1408) en répétant les étapes de détermination et d'attribution pour des nœuds d'accès supplémentaires et des nœuds d'utilisateurs jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus de nœuds d'utilisateurs à attribuer.


 
2. Appareil selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour :

la détermination d'une pluralité de grappes candidates pour la première grappe, différentes grappes candidates à partir de la pluralité de grappes candidates comprenant différents nœuds d'accès ;

l'évaluation pour chaque grappe candidate dans la pluralité de grappes candidates de la première métrique, et

la sélection en tant que la première grappe d'une grappe candidate à partir de la pluralité de grappes candidates qui fournissent la valeur la plus élevée pour la première métrique.


 
3. Appareil selon la revendication 2, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour, pour chaque nœud d'utilisateur qui doit être desservi par les nœuds d'accès d'une grappe candidate respective, la détermination d'une première métrique candidate, et la détermination de la première métrique candidate en tant que la première métrique de la grappe candidate respective qui fournit la valeur la plus élevée des premières métriques candidates pour la grappe candidate respective.
 
4. Appareil selon les revendications 2 ou 3, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour évaluer la première métrique pour une grappe candidate dans la pluralité de grappes candidates sur la base d'une pluralité de nœuds d'utilisateurs qui doivent être desservis par la grappe candidate.
 
5. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications 1 à 4, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour déterminer une matrice de liaison, et l'appareil de traitement étant conçu pour déterminer la première grappe par la sélection, sur la base de la matrice de liaison et de la première métrique, d'un premier nœud d'accès pour la première grappe, et d'au moins un nœud d'accès supplémentaire pour la première grappe sur la base d'une distance ou d'une qualité de signal entre le premier nœud d'utilisateur et le nœud d'accès supplémentaire,
dans lequel la matrice de liaison comprend des informations de canal pour une pluralité de liaisons radio entre des nœuds d'utilisateurs qui doivent être desservis et une pluralité d'antennes, la pluralité d'antennes étant associée aux nœuds d'accès de la pluralité de nœuds d'accès.
 
6. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 5, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour déterminer la première grappe sur la base d'un nombre maximum prédéterminé de nœuds d'accès devant être associés avec la première grappe.
 
7. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 6, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu en outre pour supprimer un ou plusieurs nœuds d'utilisateurs de la première grappe sur la base d'une estimation de rapport signal sur interférence plus bruit.
 
8. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 7, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour attribuer des nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires à la première grappe sur la base d'une sélection d'utilisateur semi-orthogonale ou d'un rapport signal sur fuite plus interférence sur bruit.
 
9. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 8, dans lequel la première métrique comprend une métrique proportionnellement équitable et l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu pour évaluer la première métrique en évaluant des pré-codeurs à l'aide de ressources de nœud d'accès disponibles.
 
10. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 9, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu en outre pour :

déterminer une ou plusieurs premières grappes de nœuds d'accès pour une pluralité de nœuds d'accès dans une première zone de contrôle ;

après une première phase de contrôle, déterminer une ou plusieurs secondes grappes de nœuds d'accès pour une pluralité de nœuds d'accès dans une deuxième zone de contrôle,

dans lequel la phase de contrôle comprend une période de temps pendant laquelle les grappes déterminées de nœuds d'accès restent constantes, et une zone de contrôle comprenant une pluralité de nœuds d'accès.


 
11. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 10, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement (1100) est conçu en outre pour attribuer des nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires afin de former un groupe d'utilisateurs multiples spatial sur la base d'une seconde métrique.
 
12. Appareil selon l'une quelconque des revendications précédentes 1 à 11, dans lequel l'appareil de traitement est conçu en outre pour :

l'attribution (1202) de chaque nœud d'accès dans la pluralité de nœuds d'accès à une zone de contrôle d'une pluralité de zones de contrôle ;

la détermination (1206) d'une première phase de contrôle, une phase de contrôle comprenant une période de temps pendant laquelle l'attribution de nœuds d'accès permettant de contrôler des zones reste constante ;

la détermination des grappes de nœuds d'accès dans une zone de contrôle de la pluralité de zones de contrôle ; et

lors du passage de la première phase de contrôle à une seconde phase de contrôle suivante, la réattribution d'au moins un sous-ensemble de nœuds d'accès qui ont été attribués pendant la première phase de contrôle à une première zone de contrôle, à une deuxième zone de contrôle de la pluralité de zones de contrôle et la réattribution d'au moins un sous-ensemble de nœuds d'accès qui ont été attribués pendant la première phase de contrôle à une troisième zone de contrôle de la pluralité de zones de contrôle à la première zone de contrôle.


 
13. Procédé (1400) permettant de déterminer des grappes de nœuds d'accès, le procédé comprenant :

la détermination d'une première grappe (1404) sur la base d'une première métrique, la première grappe comprenant un ou plusieurs nœuds d'accès permettant de desservir au moins un premier nœud d'utilisateur ;

l'attribution de nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires (1406) qui doivent être desservis par le ou les nœuds d'accès de la première grappe sur la base d'une séparation spatiale des nœuds d'utilisateurs supplémentaires et d'une seconde métrique ; et

la détermination d'au moins une grappe supplémentaire (1408) en répétant les étapes de détermination et d'attribution pour les nœuds d'accès supplémentaires et les nœuds d'utilisateurs jusqu'à ce qu'il n'y ait plus de nœuds d'utilisateurs à attribuer.


 
14. Programme informatique comprenant un code de programme permettant de mettre en œuvre le procédé selon la revendication 13, lorsque le programme informatique fonctionne sur un ordinateur.
 




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REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



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Patent documents cited in the description




Non-patent literature cited in the description