Understanding the Standards
Understanding the Standards
One of my key ambitions with the book was to give people enough knowledge to be
able to use the actual standardization documentation in order to learn more. Books and
articles are excellent in order to get into new technical areas and when you need the
implementation (reality check) aspect as well. Many of us, however, also sometimes need to
get into the depth of the technology and find out exactly what the standard states. Here
we sometimes face a challenge, as the standards are somewhat hard to find and navigate
through. At times, it is even hard to know who is responsible for a standardization area.
In this article, I intend to shed some light over some of the major standardization bodies
and help you navigate safely in these unknown waters. This is a one of the few kinds of
articles for which I actually prefer the electronic format with its hyperlinks as opposed
to the printed version when reading it.
The GPRS and 3G Mobile Networks
First of all, we have the mobile networks and the associated architectures.
Cdma2000 is standardized by 3GPP2, www.3gpp2.org, but here we mainly focus on the other
2.5G and 3G technologies, GPRS, EDGE and WCDMA (UMTS). All of these three are standardized
in the 3rd Generation Partnership Program (3GPP) and available on the Internet.
The 3GPP standardization is based on releases, and everything is a migration.
The 3GPP release phases:
Release 1997: GPRS is added to existing GSM systems and adds packet data
(Release 1998 is another upgrade to GPRS but not as significant a step). Commercial
networks on a broad scale during 2001.
Release 1999 (Release 3): WCDMA (UMTS) is added, with high-speed packet and
circuit switched data. Commercial operations expected to start 2002.
Release 4 (The years format have been skipped): Adding more IP multimedia
functionality. Standardization finalized March 2001.
Release 5: Standardization targeted to be finalized 1st half of 2002.
Then for each release of the standard, there is a quarterly update (e.g. 3GPP Rel 3,
March 2001) which contains change requests and small corrections.
The 3GPP standards (at www.3gpp.org) can be a bit difficult to read for beginners,
although they are freely available on the Web. The page
http://www.3gpp.org/3G_Specs/3G_Specs.htm explains the structure and links to the relevant
document databases. On the FTP–site, ftp.3gpp.org, there are directories for the
different workgroups and the specifications are grouped by 3GPP meetings and releases,
e.g. ftp://ftp.3gpp.org/Specs/2000-12/ contains all the specifications resulting from the
December 2000 proceedings. Then you just choose what release of the standard you want to
look at, for example R1999 to check out the first release of the WCDMA(UMTS) system.
Drafts . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:36
Ph1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:37
Ph2. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:38
R1996. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:39
R1997. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:41
R1998. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:42
R1999. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:44
Rel-4. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:48
Rel-5. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:49
status_2000-12.zip . . . . . . . Jan 3 11:17 301k
withdrawn. . . . . . . . . . . . Mar 13 12:49
The tricky part is now how to find the document numbers for these files. The web
page http://www.3gpp.org/3G_Specs/spec_titles.htm holds exactly that information and the
status file (e.g. ftp://ftp.3gpp.org/Specs/2000-12/status_2000-12.zip also explains how
far a document has come. Thus, to find the document TS21.101 you just click on the
'21_Series' folder under ' R1999' and the file is found as 21101-320.zip (ftp://ftp.3gpp.org/Specs/2000-12/R1999/21_series/21101-320.zip).
The overall applications architecture for cellular networks is described in 3GPP but
there are other bodies that standardize many of the Applications Enablers (see Chapter 9).
The cycles for applications standards are of course shorter and it is quicker to get
products on the market, therefore it is good to get acquainted with the appropriate
The WAP Forum Web site, http://www.wapforum.org/,
contains all of the WAP standardization documentation. Most of the information is under
the "Technical Information"
link. Today the latest public release is June 2000 (WAP 1.2.1), which introduces WIM,
UAProf and Push. If you want to download the entire spec at once, the link http://www1.wapforum.org/tech/terms.asp?doc=Technical_June2000-20010605.zip
is what you are looking for. For others, the http://www.wapforum.org/what/technical.htm
link holds the different documents and their titles. WAP Next Generation (WAP NG, or 2.0)
is not yet finalized in standardization and the WAP Forum is therefore keeping it
confidential (members only). The Forum hopes to release it during summer 2001.
) is standardized by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), which now has
approximately 2000 members. The Bluetooth specifications are available at http://www.bluetooth.com/developer/specification/specification.asp.
There are two documents for version 1.1: the main specification and the profiles
specification. Note that these files are big, and choosing "Print target" in
your browser might make you unpopular among people who are using the same printer.
Parlay is an organization that drives the standardization of open APIs
that developers can use. This includes call control and charging features that usually not
are available outside the mobile network(Chapter 9, "Application
Architectures."). More information about Parlay is found at http://www.parlay.org/. For the current version of
Parlay, 2.1, the specifications are found at http://www.parlay.org/specs/index.asp.
2.1 includes API's for the following functions:
- Call Processing APIs 2.1 [1.6 MB]
- Connectivity Manager APIs 2.1 [600 KB]
- Framework APIs 2.1 [1.1
- Messaging APIs 2.1 [430
- Mobility APIs 2.1 [560 KB]
- Common Data & IDL 2.1 [650 KB]
Many of the operators that install a Service Network will support the Parlay API's in
order to give developers access to these features.
SyncML is another key enabler that will have a great impact on
developers as well as operators. In short, SyncML enables many different devices to
synchronize with servers over a standardized, XML-based protocol. Synchronizing your
Calendar or e-mail over the air is just a start and later sales databases and other
applications will join. The SyncML Forum, http://www.syncml.org/,
standardizes SyncML and there is plenty of good info on their webpage. The White Paper, http://www.syncml.org/download/whitepaper.pdf,
is a good start and for the techies we find the specifications at http://www.syncml.org/downloads.html. For
operators, SyncML is like a dream because of all the traffic over the air it is expected
Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is standardized in 3GPP and in the
WAP Forum and it is a natural evolution for today's messaging technologies. The hugely
popular Short Message Service (SMS) has taken the world by storm and has become a huge
cash cow for mobile operators. In Q1 2001 alone, over 50 Billion messages where sent world
wide! With MMS you can attach send entire multimedia presentations that contain images,
sounds, text and later also video clips. The presentations can be sent either
between mobiles or between mobiles and fixed PC's with e-mail capabilities. WAP is used on
top of the bearers to facilitate efficient and robust transport of the messages. TS 22140 and TS 23140
contain the MMS specifications for phase 1 and 2 respectively (Release 1999).
Reading the standards is not always easy, especially when it comes to the telecoms
world. Reading a book only gets you to a certain level and many developers will have to
check out some specifics in the specifications in order to get ahead in the development
process. Hopefully you now are fit to face this challenge.
About the author:
Christoffer Andersson is Senior Specialist and Manager of Special
Projects at Ericsson. In this position he works with strategic issues and projects in
the area of Terminals & Applications 2G/3G. Christoffer is also author of the Amazon.com
best-selling book 'GPRS and 3G Wireless Applications - The Professional Developer's
Guide', published in May 2001 by John Wiley & Sons. Christoffer can be reached at
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and
not necessarily Ericsson.
Entire article (C) 2001 Christoffer Andersson
GPRS and 3G Wireless Applications