GSM (Global System for Mobile Telecommunication) is the standard or protocol that is used for transferring voice and data (SMS) in the mobile phone network.
In circuit switching, a dedicated path is established for a particular session of data transfer from source to destination.
Circuit switching has been used in landline telephone networks as well as in mobile phone networks. In GSM (2G), the available set of frequencies are divided into slots (FDMA - Frequency Division Multiple Access). Checkout exclusive mobile phone deals and compare prices on top selling mobile phone brands. CrazyEngineers (CE) is creating an ecosystem for professional engineers and engineering students in over 180 countries. Join us now to become a part of our global family comprising of engineers from different disciplines, education, culture, backgrounds and work experience.
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With a mobile phone (or as my American friends call it, cell phone) you have two main options when choosing how to pay for your minutes, internet and texts. If you love to use your phone, and it rarely leaves your side then you probably have it on a contract. Like with pay as you go SIMs, it can often pay to research all the deals on offer, as there are different contracts for different people. The only problem with contracts is that the more you want, unfortunately, often the more you have to pay. Founder and editor of Technology Bloggers, Christopher likes learning and enjoys writing on the blogs diverse range of topics.
I have always stuck to pay as you go method since I only use the phone about once or twice a day. Mobile Network Comparison helps you pick the best mobile phone network in the UK, get free SIM cards or find unlimited data offers. Although O2 are refusing to answer press questions about what exactly went wrong, we know that you are a curious bunch so we looked into it a bit more to try and work out all we can about the background to the outage. Too start with, we have to explain a little about the workings and structure of modern GSM mobile networks. Connected to the MSC are complicated pieces of hardware like the base station subsystem (BSS) which allows 2G mobile phones to communicate with the NSS. The most relevant part to us is the Home Location Register (HLR) which holds information about each subscriber of the network.
It seems the problem was that the O2 HLR was not working properly or completely unreachable and hence people couldn’t get a connection to a cell tower as they could not be authenticated. We don’t know all the details about how O2 sets up its HLR but internal documents confirm that the HLR includes information on supplementary services, authentication credentials and subscriber profile information such as details about APN (Access Point Names) which provide data access.
What seems to have happened with the O2 outage is that the database was being transitioned and consolidated into a new Centralized User Database (CUDB). While the landlines had a physical path established for a call, the mobile phone calls were allotted a specific range of frequencies from the available bandwidth. In the mobile phone network, the MSC is equivalent to a telephone exchange in the fixed line network.

It may not display this or other websites correctly.You should upgrade or use an alternative browser. Unlike landline phones, which can only be used in the vicinity of a single physical location, cell phones allow calls to be placed and received from anywhere. Some pay as you go providers are targeted towards those who use their phone more for calling, whilst others focus on those who text a lot. If you spend less than ?10 a month on your phone, Pay As You Go is probably the cheaper option for you. Yes you can have unlimited monthly calls, texts and internet usage, along with the latest phone, however it can cost you the earth! They enchant you with their advertising, and soon as they have you in chains, they give you the bait and switch. I saw different subscription plans on my mobile carrier and I was surprised to see the different combinations of services they offer on each plan. Most of my work communication is done through internet means like Skype, chat or email so the phone is just there for anyone who can’t be contacted via those means mostly. I think the pay-as-you-go option is often incorrectly viewed as always being more expensive, though; a lot of people seem to go for a contract when in reality they would be best served with a pay-as-you-go plan. The beauty of that approach is that if he ever starts to use his phone more we can easily make a change to something that makes more sense.
The internet was awash with unfounded supposition (a pre-Olympics volume update was a favourite theory) and the lack of any firm statement from the networks only served to encourage things. As promised previously, here’s all we know about the cause of the problem informed by our sources, statements from industry insiders and some educated guesses. The core of all mobile networks is the Network Switching Subsystem (NSS) which handles all aspects of call switching (think of it like a modern day operator, connecting users to each other). It has the details of all the registered SIM cards and mobile numbers as well as other information used to identify users.
For example, when you try to use the internet on your phone, O2 checks with the HLR to see whether you have permission to use the APN which provides web access. More specifically, we are pretty sure that the problem was with the database part of the HLR.
CUDB node is based on a Distributed Cluster Architecture which guarantees high capacity with an optimal footprint and real time availability.
Ericsson’s big rival Alcatel Lucent supplied Orange France with HLR systems that broke down and caused a 12 hour outage for 26 million users earlier in July. For example, if a caller from London calls another person in Edinburgh, a path is chosen for this particular call, depending on available resources (free base stations) at that particular time.
This BSC is in charge of allocating radio channels, administrating the frequencies, handing over the call from one BTS to another if the mobile phone user is travelling. Cell phones work by connecting to cellular or satellite networks that can also connect to the PSTN.In addition, smart cell phones can connect to the Internet and support many other features besides voice communication. Likewise if you really love having the latest model, there are contracts where you can get new phones as they come out, for free!
Whereas pay as you go, you will find these offers from startups who are committed to building goodwill with their customers. More and more plans and types of subscriptions are in the offer, and they’re all for our benefit really.

Central to this is the Mobile Switching Centre (MSC) which effectively sets and and releases all connections – it routes all services across the network. Some of its functions are updating the VLRs with mobile phones’ locations (each phone can only be on one VLR at a time), and communicating with the MSC. Say, the call got routed through the base stations in the following areas - London-Birmingham-Manchester-Darlington-Edinburgh.
In TDMA, the frequency slots are divided again into time slots for supporting more number of calls simultaneously.
The calls usually got dropped, when the internet was being used at a particular access point. Though these cells are circular in structure, for theoretical and analytical purposes, they are considered to be hexagonal. It is concerned with location management, handovers, routing calls to roaming mobile stations, authentication and so on. Think of it a bit like your router at home which lets you connect your PCs, laptops, games consoles and smartphones to the internet through one broadband connection.
Mainly, it has to handle the conversion of the wireless radiowaves sent to and from phones into a form that can be understood by the computerised digital systems at the core of the network. Core provisioning systems were first outsourced to them by O2 in 2009 and they run large portions of the network’s backend.
And knowing that it was due to an error with the authentication database also should make it clearer why people were affected randomly – it all depended on whether you were already connected to the HLR or whether you could get through rather than how close you were to a cell tower or what type of phone you had.
But anyway, there you have it – a bit more of an insight into how mobile networks actually operate and a straightforward answer to what went wrong in the huge O2 outage.
Some network providers gave the option of putting the internet connection on stand-by and answering the call, and resuming the internet activity after the call. It also routes calls between the PSTN (landline telephone) and the cellular (mobile phone) network. There is also a 3G equivalent of the BSS called the UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access Network (UTRAN).
Another important piece of equipment is the Visitor Location Register (VLR) which stores information about the physical location of each subscriber so the network knows where to find each phone.
In case all paths are used up in serving calls, a new call that needs to be set up, must wait for a path to get freed up. Therefore the voices will sound continuous to the caller and callee (However, a slight delay might be present). A set of frequencies have been allotted to 3 calls - Call 1, Call 2 and Call 3 (indicated by their respective colours). The next 10 milliseconds have been allotted to Call 2, and the third 10 milliseconds, to Call 3.

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