US20120094666A1 - Uniquely identifying target femtocell to facilitate femto-assisted active hand-in - Google Patents

Uniquely identifying target femtocell to facilitate femto-assisted active hand-in Download PDF

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US20120094666A1
US20120094666A1 US13/223,103 US201113223103A US2012094666A1 US 20120094666 A1 US20120094666 A1 US 20120094666A1 US 201113223103 A US201113223103 A US 201113223103A US 2012094666 A1 US2012094666 A1 US 2012094666A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
femtocell
user equipment
oob
identifier
femtocells
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Abandoned
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US13/223,103
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Olufunmilola O. Awoniyi
Samir S. Soliman
Jangwon Lee
Andrei D. Radulescu
Damanjit Singh
Jen M. Chen
Mehmet Yavuz
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Qualcomm Inc
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Qualcomm Inc
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Priority to US13/223,103 priority patent/US20120094666A1/en
Assigned to QUALCOMM INCORPORATED reassignment QUALCOMM INCORPORATED ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: YAVUZ, MEHMET, SINGH, DAMANJIT, AWONIYI, OLUFUNMILOLA O., CHEN, JEN M., LEE, JANGWON, RADULESCU, ANDREI D., SOLIMAN, SAMIR S.
Publication of US20120094666A1 publication Critical patent/US20120094666A1/en
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W48/00Access restriction; Network selection; Access point selection
    • H04W48/16Discovering, processing access restriction or access information
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W36/00Hand-off or reselection arrangements
    • H04W36/0005Control or signalling for completing the hand-off
    • H04W36/0055Transmission and use of information for re-establishing the radio link
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W36/00Hand-off or reselection arrangements
    • H04W36/04Reselecting a cell layer in multi-layered cells
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W84/00Network topologies
    • H04W84/02Hierarchically pre-organised networks, e.g. paging networks, cellular networks, WLAN [Wireless Local Area Network] or WLL [Wireless Local Loop]
    • H04W84/04Large scale networks; Deep hierarchical networks
    • H04W84/042Public Land Mobile systems, e.g. cellular systems
    • H04W84/045Public Land Mobile systems, e.g. cellular systems using private Base Stations, e.g. femto Base Stations, home Node B

Abstract

Systems, methods, and devices are described for supporting macrocell-to-femtocell hand-ins of active macro communications for mobile devices. An out-of-band (OOB) link is used to detect that a mobile device is in proximity of a femtocell. Having detected the mobile device in proximity to the femtocell, an OOB proximity detection is communicated to a femtocell gateway disposed in a core network in communication with the macro network to effectively pre-register the mobile device with the femto-convergence system. When the femtocell gateway receives a handover request from the macro network implicating the pre-registered mobile device, it is able to reliably determine the appropriate target femtocell to use for the hand-in according to the pre-registration, even where identification of the appropriate target femtocell would otherwise be unreliable. Some embodiments may also handling registering the mobile device after a handover request has occurred, including tiered approaches.

Description

    CROSS REFERENCES
  • The present Application claims priority to Provisional Application No. 61/393,533 entitled “Uniquely Identifying Target Femtocell to Facilitate Femto-Assisted Active Hand-in” filed Oct. 15, 2010, and assigned to the assignee hereof and hereby expressly incorporated by reference herein. This application is also related to: U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, entitled “PROXIMITY DETECTION FOR FEMTOCELLS USING OUT-OF-BAND LINKS,” and referenced as Qualcomm Docket No. 102971, and U.S. patent application Ser. No. ______, entitled “FEMTOCELL INDICATION OF MOBILE DEVICE PROXIMITY AND TRANSMISSION OF MOBILE IDENTITY TO ASSIST IN RESOLVING FEMTOCELL DISAMBIGUATION,” and referenced as Qualcomm Docket No. 110936, each assigned to the assignee hereof and hereby expressly incorporated by reference herein.
  • BACKGROUND
  • Communication networks are in wide use today, and often have multiple devices in communication over wireless links to carry voice and data. Many of these devices, such as cellular phones, smartphones, laptops, and tablets, are mobile, and may connect with a network wirelessly via a base station, access point, wireless router, or Node B (collectively referred to herein as “access points”). A mobile device may remain within the service area of such an access point for a relatively long period of time (thereby being “camped on” the access point) or may travel relatively rapidly through access point service areas, with cellular handover or reselection techniques being used for maintaining a communication session, or for idle mode operation as association with access points is changed.
  • Issues with respect to available spectrum, bandwidth, or capacity may result in an access being unavailable or inadequate between certain mobile devices and an access point. Likewise, issues with respect to wireless signal propagation (e.g., shadowing, multipath fading, interference, etc.) may result in access being unavailable for particular mobile devices.
  • Cellular networks have employed the use of various cell types, such as macrocells, microcells, picocells, and femtocells, to provide desired bandwidth, capacity, and wireless communication coverage within service areas. Femtocells may be used to provide wireless communication in areas of poor network coverage (e.g., inside of buildings), to provide increased network capacity, and to utilize broadband network capacity for backhaul. There may be a need in the art for novel functionality to accurately identify femtocells for a macrocell to femtocell hand-in.
  • SUMMARY
  • The present disclosure is directed to systems and methods for supporting macrocell-to-femtocell hand-ins of active macro communications for mobile devices. A femtocell detects a mobile device in its proximity (e.g., using an out-of-band link established by an out-of-band radio integrated with the femtocell as part of a femto-proxy system). Having detected the mobile device in its proximity, the femtocell communicates an OOB presence indicator to pre-register the mobile device with a femtocell gateway (e.g., another type of interface gateway) disposed in a core network in communication with the macro network. When the femtocell gateway receives a handover request from the macro network implicating the pre-registered mobile device, the femtocell gateway is able to reliably determine the appropriate femtocell to use for the hand-in according to the OOB presence indication. The OOB presence indication can be carried in an existing message between femtocell and femtocell gateway such as a registration message, handover response message, or an OOB presence message can be defined to communicate this indication.
  • Some embodiments include a method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in. A user equipment may be in proximity to a femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link. A user equipment identifier may be identified corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link. The user equipment may be registered for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
  • Identifying the user equipment identifier may include receiving an OOB identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link. Identifying the user equipment identifier may include receiving a macro identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link. Registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell may include transmitting a registration message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway. Registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell may include transmitting an OOB indication message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
  • In some embodiments, the method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include utilizing a user equipment mapping between a macro identifier of the user equipment with the OOB identifier to determine the user equipment identifier. Detecting the user equipment in proximity to the femtocell may include paging the user equipment over the OOB communications link; and detecting a response to the paging from the user equipment over the OOB communications link. The response may include the OOB identifier of the user equipment. In some embodiments, the response may include the macro identifier for the user equipment.
  • In some embodiments, the method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include receiving a handover request for the user equipment at the femtocell from the femtocell gateway, the handover request being configured to direct the user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from the macrocell to the femtocell. The handover request may be received subsequent to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell. The handover request may be received prior to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell; and detecting the user equipment may include detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request. Detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request may include detecting the user equipment over the OOB communications link utilizing an OOB identifier of the user equipment. In some embodiments, detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request may include detecting the user equipment over the OOB communications link utilizing a macro identifier of the user equipment. Registering the user equipment may further include transmitting a handover response accepting the handover request.
  • In some embodiments, the method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include detecting a loss of the OOB communications link between the user equipment and the femtocell. The user equipment may be de-registered according to detecting the loss of the OOB communications link.
  • In some embodiments, the femtocell is one of multiple femtocells on a macro network, each femtocell having a first femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is non-uniquely addressable by the macro network and a second femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway. In some embodiments, the OOB communications link includes a Bluetooth link. The first femtocell identifier of each respective femtocell may include a primary scrambling code (PSC) of the respective femtocell. The user equipment identifier may include a macro identifier associated with the user equipment. The macro identifier may include a International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) associated with the user equipment.
  • Some embodiments include a femtocell that may include an in-band frequency module, communicatively coupled with a macro network via a femtocell gateway and configured to provide cellular network access to user equipments. The femtocell may include an out-of-band (OOB) frequency module, communicatively coupled with the in-band frequency module and configured to communicate with the user equipments over an OOB communications link. The femtocell may include a communications management subsystem, communicatively coupled with the in-band frequency module and the OOB frequency module, and configured to: detect a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link; identify a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and register/or the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
  • The communications management subsystem may be configured to identify the user equipment identifier using a configuration to receive a macro identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link. The communications management subsystem may be configured to identify the user equipment identifier using a configuration to receive an OOB identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link. The communications management subsystem may be configured to register the user equipment using a configuration to transmit a registration message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway. The communications management subsystem may be configured to register the user equipment using a configuration to transmit an OOB indication message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
  • The communications management subsystem may be further configured to utilize a user equipment mapping between a macro identifier of the user equipment with a OOB identifier to determine the user equipment identifier. The communications management subsystem configured to detect the user equipment in proximity to the femtocell may be configured to: page the user equipment over the OOB communications link; and/or detect a response to the paging from the user equipment over the OOB communications link. The response may include a macro identifier and/or an OOB identifier of the user equipment.
  • The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: receive a handover request for the user equipment at the femtocell from the femtocell gateway, the handover request being configured to direct the user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from the macrocell to the femtocell. The handover request may be received subsequent to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell. The handover request may be received prior to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell. The communications management subsystem may be configured to detect the user equipment by detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request. The communications management subsystem may be configured to detect the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request using a configuration to detect the user equipment over the OOB communications link utilizing an OOB identifier of the user equipment. In some embodiments, a macro identifier of the user equipment may be utilized.
  • In some embodiments, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to detect a loss of the OOB communications link between the user equipment and the femtocell. The user equipment may be de-registered according to detecting the loss of the OOB communications link. In some embodiments, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to transmit a handover response accepting the handover request as part of registering the user equipment. In some embodiments, the femtocell is one of multiple femtocells on a cellular network, each femtocell having a first femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is non-uniquely addressable by the macro network and a second femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femto gateway.
  • Some embodiments include a processor for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in. The processor may include a communications management controller that may be configured to: detect a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link; identify a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and/or register the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include computer program product for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in residing on a processor-readable medium and including processor-readable instructions, which, when executed, cause a processor to perform steps that may include: detecting a user equipment in proximity to a femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link; identifying a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and/or registering the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include a system for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in. The system may include: means for detecting a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link; means for identifying a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and/or means for registering the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating 00B proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include a method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in. The method may include receiving, at a femtocell gateway from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier. It may be determined, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request. The handover request may be communicated, from the femtocell gateway, to the designated femtocell.
  • Determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request may include determining a registering femtocell from the plurality of femtocells that has registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request; and/or determining that the registering femtocell is the designated femtocell with the first femtocell identifier. The method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include receiving an acknowledgement message from the registering femtocell.
  • Determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the relocation request may include determining that none of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request. The method may further include determining a set of candidate femtocells from the multiple femtocells registered at the femto gateway. The set of candidate femtocells may be identified by at least the first femtocell identifier. Each of the set of candidate femtocells may be directed to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity. An indication may be received from a successful femtocell of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity. It may be determined that the successful femtocell is the designated femtocell. In some embodiments, the method may further include monitoring an elapsed time subsequent to directing the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity; and determining whether the indication from one of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity is received while the elapsed time is within a predefined time limit.
  • Determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request may include determining whether an OOB proximity detection is received from any of the plurality of femtocells prior to receiving the handover request. The OOB proximity indication may include a macro identifier of the user equipment.
  • Determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request may include determining whether an OOB proximity indication is received from any of the multiple femtocells prior to receiving the handover request. The OOB proximity indication may include an OOB identifier of the user equipment. A macro identifier of the user equipment corresponding to the OOB identifier of the user equipment may be determined.
  • The method of macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include determining whether the designated femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier. Communicating, from the femtocell gateway, the handover request to designated femtocell may utilize the first femtocell identifier.
  • Determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request may include determining whether two or more femtocells of the multiple femtocells are addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier. Determining whether the designated femtocell is one of the two or more femtocells addressable according to the first femtocell identifier may utilize a second femtocell identifier.
  • In some embodiments, the method of macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in may further include determining a set of candidate femtocells from the multiple femtocells; and directing, using an OOB hand-in cause value in the handover request, each of the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity. The method may further include receiving an OOB accept message from one of the candidate femtocells. The OOB accept message may indicate that the one of the candidate femtocells detects the user equipment in its proximity. The method may include identifying one of the candidate cells associated with the OOB accept message as the designated femtocell. In some embodiments, the method may further receiving at least an OOB reject message from one or more of the candidate femtocells or an error indication message from one or more of the candidate femtocells and no OOB accept messages; and/or transmitting to each of the candidate femtocells a handover request with a normal cause value. The method may further include receiving at least a blind accept or a blind reject from one or more of the candidate femtocells; and/or identifying one of the candidate femtocells associated with a blind accept as the designated femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include a femtocell gateway that may include a macro network interface subsystem configured to communicate with a core node of a macro network and configured to receive communications from the macro network. The femtocell gateway may include a femtocell interface subsystem configured to communicate with multiple femtocells. The femtocell gateway may include a communications management subsystem, communicatively coupled with the macro network interface subsystem and the femtocell interface subsystem, and may be configured to: receive, from the macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier; determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and/or communicate the handover request to designated femtocell.
  • To determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem may be configured to: determine a registering femtocell from the multiple femtocells that has registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request; and/or determine that the registering femtocell is the designated femtocell with the first femtocell identifier. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: receive an acknowledgement message from the registering femtocell.
  • To determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem may be configured to: determine that none of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to determine a set of candidate femtocells from the multiple femtocells. The candidate femtocells may be identified by at least the first femtocell identifier. Each of the candidate femtocells may be directed to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity. An indication may be received from a successful femtocell of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity. It may be determined that the successful femtocell is the designated femtocell. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: monitor an elapsed time subsequent to directing the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity; and/or determine whether the indication from one of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity is received while the elapsed time is within a predefined time limit.
  • To determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to determine whether an OOB proximity indication is received from any of the multiple femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises a macro identifier of the user equipment. To determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to: determine whether an OOB proximity detection is received from any of the multiple femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises an OOB identifier of the user equipment; and/or determine a macro identifier of the user equipment corresponding to the OOB identifier of the user equipment.
  • In some embodiments, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to: determine whether the designated femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier. Communicating the handover request to designated femtocell may utilize the first femtocell identifier.
  • In some embodiments, the communications management subsystem configured to determine whether any of the multiple femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request may include a configuration to: determine whether two or more femtocells of the multiple femtocells are addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier; and/or determine whether the designated femtocell is one of the two or more femtocells addressable according to the first femtocell identifier utilizing a second femtocell identifier.
  • In some embodiments, the communications management subsystem may be further configured to: determine a set of candidate femtocells from the multiple femtocells; and direct, using an OOB hand-in cause value in the handover request, each of the candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: receive an OOB accept message from one of the candidate femtocells, wherein the OOB accept message indicates that the one of the candidate femtocells detects the user equipment in its proximity; and/or identify the one of the candidate cells as the designated femtocell. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: receive at least an OOB reject message from one or more of the candidate femtocells or an error indication message from one or more of the candidate femtocells and no OOB accept messages; and transmit to each of the candidate femtocells a handover request with a normal cause value. The communications management subsystem may be further configured to: receive at least a blind accept or a blind reject from one or more of the candidate femtocells; and/or identify one of the candidate femtocells associated with a blind accept as the designated femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include a processor for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in in a femtocell gateway. The processor may include a communications management controller configured to: receive, from the macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier; determine whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and/or communicate the handover request to the designated femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include a computer program product for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in residing on a processor-readable medium disposed at a femtocell gateway and including a processor-readable instructions, which, when executed, cause a processor to perform steps that may include receiving, from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier; determining whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and/or communicating the handover request to the designated femtocell.
  • Some embodiments include system for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in that may include: means for receiving, from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier; means for determining whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and/or means for communicating the handover request to the designated femtocell.
  • The foregoing has outlined rather broadly examples according to disclosure in order that the detailed description that follows may be better understood. Additional features will be described hereinafter. The conception and specific examples disclosed may be readily utilized as a basis for modifying or designing other structures for carrying out the same purposes of the present disclosure. Such equivalent constructions do not depart from the spirit and scope of the appended claims. Features which are believed to be characteristic of the concepts disclosed herein, both as to their organization and method of operation, together with associated advantages will be better understood from the following description when considered in connection with the accompanying figures. Each of the figures is provided for the purpose of illustration and description only and not as a definition of the limits of the claims.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • A further understanding of the nature and advantages of examples provided by the disclosure may be realized by reference to the remaining portions of the specification and the drawings wherein like reference numerals are used throughout the several drawings to refer to similar components. In some instances, a sub-label is associated with a reference numeral to denote one of multiple similar components. When reference is made to a reference numeral without specification to an existing sub-label, the reference numeral refers to all such similar components.
  • FIG. 1 shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 2A shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system that includes a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 2B shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system that another femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 3 shows a block diagram of an example of a processor module for implementing functionality of a communications management subsystem in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 4 shows a block diagram of an example of a mobile user equipment in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 5 shows a simplified network diagram of a communications system for facilitating active hand-in using a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 6A shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system that includes a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 6B shows a block diagram of another femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 7A shows a flow diagram of a method for handling user equipment registration with a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 7B shows a flow diagram of a method for handling user equipment registration with a femtocell using a Bluetooth radio for out-of-band proximity detection in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 8 shows a flow diagram of a method for handling active hand-ins with a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 9 shows a call flow diagram illustrating an active hand-in in accordance with various embodiments such as the methods of FIGS. 9 and 10;
  • FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram of a method for handling de-registration of user equipment with a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 11 shows a flow diagram of a method for implementing certain active hand-in functionality without OOB proximity detection in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 12 shows a flow diagram of a method for handling femtocell-assisted active hand-in at a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 13A shows a flow diagram of a method for handling femtocell-assisted active hand-in at a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIG. 13B shows a flow diagram of a method for handling femtocell-assisted active hand-in at a femtocell gateway with a tiered approach in accordance with various embodiments;
  • FIGS. 14A and 14B show call flow diagrams illustrating an active hand-in in accordance with various embodiments such the methods of FIGS. 11, 12, and/or and 13;
  • FIG. 15A shows a call flow diagram of a method for handling the receipt of handover requests when a “tiered” approach is used and OOB detection is successful in accordance with various embodiments; and
  • FIG. 15B shows a call flow diagram of a method for handling the receipt of handover requests when the “tiered” approach is used and OOB detection is unsuccessful in accordance with various embodiments.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • The following description generally relates to supporting macrocell-to-femtocell hand-ins of active macro communications for mobile devices. A femtocell may detect a mobile device in its proximity (e.g., using an out-of-band link established by an out-of-band radio integrated with the femtocell, which may be part of a femto-proxy system). Having detected the mobile device in its proximity, the femtocell may communicate an OOB proximity detection or presence indication to pre-register the mobile device with a femtocell gateway (or other type of interface gateway) disposed in a core network in communication with the macro network. When the femtocell gateway receives a handover request from the macro network implicating the pre-registered mobile device, the femtocell gateway may be able to reliably determine the appropriate femtocell to use for the hand-in according to the OOB proximity detection. Some embodiments also provide for registering the mobile device after a handover request has occurred. In addition, some embodiments may provide “tiered” approaches for handling the receipt of handover requests.
  • The following description provides examples, and is not limiting of the scope, applicability, or configuration set forth in the claims. Changes may be made in the function and arrangement of elements discussed without departing from the spirit and scope of the disclosure. Various examples may omit, substitute, or add various procedures or components as appropriate. For instance, the methods described may be performed in an order different from that described, and various operations may be added, omitted, or combined. Also, features described with respect to certain examples may be combined in other examples.
  • Referring first to FIG. 1, a block diagram illustrates an example of a wireless communications system 100. The system 100 includes macrocell base stations 105, user equipments (UEs) 115, a base station controller 120, femtocell 125, and a core network 130 (the controller 120 may be integrated into the core network 130). The system 100 may support operation on multiple carriers (waveform signals of different frequencies). Multi-carrier transmitters can transmit modulated signals simultaneously on the multiple carriers. Each modulated signal may be a Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) signal, Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) signal, Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) signal, Orthogonal FDMA (OFDMA) signal, Single-Carrier FDMA (SC-FDMA) signal, etc. Each modulated signal may be sent on a different carrier and may carry control information (e.g., pilot signals), overhead information, data, etc. The system 100 may be a multi-carrier LTE network capable of efficiently allocating network resources.
  • The UEs 115 may be any type of mobile station, mobile device, access terminal, subscriber unit, or user equipment. The UEs 115 may include cellular phones and wireless communications devices, but may also include personal digital assistants (PDAs), smartphones, other handheld devices, netbooks, notebook computers, etc. Thus, the term user equipment (UE) should be interpreted broadly hereinafter, including the claims, to include any type of wireless or mobile communications device.
  • The macrocell base stations 105 may wirelessly communicate with the UEs 115 via a base station antenna. The macrocell base stations 105 may be configured to communicate with the UEs 115 under the control of the controller 120 via multiple carriers. Each of the base station 105 sites can provide communication coverage for a respective geographic area. In some embodiments, macrocell base stations 105 may be referred to as a Node B. The coverage area for each macrocell base station 105 here is identified as 110-a, 110-b, or 110-c. The coverage area for a base station may be divided into sectors (not shown, but making up only a portion of the coverage area). The system 100 may include base stations 105 of different types (e.g., macro, micro, and/or pico base stations). As used herein, the term “cell” may refer to 1) a sector, or 2) a site (e.g., a base station 105). Thus, the term “macrocell” may refer to 1) a macrocell sector, 2) a macrocell base station (e.g., macrocell base station 105), and/or 3) a macrocell controller. Thus, the term “femtocell” may refer to 1) a femtocell sector, or 2) a femtocell base station (e.g., femtocell access point).
  • For the discussion below, the UEs 115 operate on (are “camped on”) a macro or similar network facilitated by multiple macrocell base stations 105. Each macrocell base station 105 may cover a relatively large geographic area (e.g., hundreds of meters to several kilometers in radius) and may allow unrestricted access by terminals with service subscription. A portion of the UEs 115 may also be registered to operate (or otherwise allowed to operate) in femtocell coverage area 110-d (e.g., communicating with femtocell 125, which may be referred to as a femtocell access point (FAP) in some cases), within the coverage area of a macrocell 110-a. As a UE 115 approaches a femtocell, there may be need for novel mechanisms for the UE 115 to recognize the presence of the femtocell 125 so that the UE 115 may migrate to the femtocell 125 from the macrocell base station 105.
  • Strategic deployment of femtocells may be used to mitigate mobile device power consumption, as mobile devices typically operate using an internal power supply, such as a small battery, to facilitate highly mobile operation. Femtocells may be used to offload traffic and reduce spectrum usage at a macrocell. Femtocells may also be utilized to provide service within areas which might not otherwise experience adequate or even any service (e.g., due to capacity limitations, bandwidth limitations, signal fading, signal shadowing, etc.), thereby allowing mobile devices to reduce searching times, to reduce transmit power, to reduce transmit times, etc. A femtocell 125 may provide service within a relatively small service area (e.g., within a house or building). Accordingly, a UE 115 is typically disposed near a femtocell 110-d when being served, often allowing the UE 115 to communicate with reduced transmission power.
  • By way of example, the femtocell may be implemented as a Home Node B (“HNB”) or Home eNode B (HeNB), and located in a user premises, such as a residence, an office building, etc. Femtocell 125 will be used hereinafter generically to describe any femtocell access point, and should not be interpreted as limiting. The femtocell 125 location may be chosen for maximum coverage (e.g., in a centralized location), to allow access to a global positioning satellite (GPS) signal (e.g., near a window), or in other locations. A set of UEs 115 may be registered on (e.g., on a whitelist of) a single femtocell 125 that provides coverage over substantially an entire user premises. The “home” femtocell 125 provides the UE 115 with access to communication services via a connection to the macrocell communications network. As used herein, the macrocell communications network is assumed to be a wireless wide-area network (WWAN). As such, terms like “macrocell network” and “WWAN network” are interchangeable. Similar techniques may be applied to other types of network environments, femtocell coverage topologies, etc., without departing from the scope of the disclosure or claims.
  • Systems, methods, devices, and computer program products are described to identify target femtocells to facilitate femto-assisted active hand-ins. In example configurations, the femtocell 125 may be integrated with one or more OOB transceivers. The femtocell 125 may transmit or receive OOB discovery signals (e.g., Bluetooth page or inquiry signals) to or from a UE 115 to facilitate the exchange of femtocell and device information. The femtocell 125 may, of course, also be configured to connect with a UE 115 via in-band signals. The femtocell 125 may detect the UE 115 in proximity to the femtocell 125 using an OOB communications link. The femtocell 125 may identify an identifier of the UE 115. The femtocell 125 may register the UE 115 for hand-in from the macrocell base station 105 for example, to the femtocell 125. The registration process may include communicating, from the femtocell 125 to a femtocell gateway (not shown), the UE identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the UE 115 to the femtocell 125.
  • As used herein, the term “frequency range” may be used to refer to the frequency spectrum allocated to a particular macrocell or femtocell, or for OOB signaling. A macrocell frequency range may be a first frequency channel within a set of frequencies allocated to WWAN communications, and a femtocell frequency range may be a second frequency channel within the set of frequencies allocated to WWAN communications. The macrocell frequency range and the femtocell frequency range may the same, or different (therefore, there may be an intra-frequency or inter-frequency search for a femtocell). Additional macrocell frequency ranges may occupy other frequency channels within the set of frequencies allocated to WWAN communications.
  • As used herein, “out-of-band,” or “OOB,” includes any type of communications that are out-of-band with respect to the macrocell or femtocell communications network. For example, a femtocell 125 and/or the UE 115 may be configured to operate using Bluetooth (e.g., class 1, class 1.5, and/or class 2), ZigBee (e.g., according to the IEEE 802.15.4-2003 wireless standard), near field communication (NFC), WiFi, an ultra-wideband (UWB) link, and/or any other useful type of communications out of the macrocell network band.
  • OOB integration with the femtocell 125 may provide a number of features. For example, the OOB signaling may allow for reduced interference, lower power femtocell registration, macrocell offloading, and so on. Further, the integration of OOB functionality with the femtocell 125 may allow the UEs 115 associated with the femtocell 125 to also be part of an OOB piconet. The piconet may facilitate enhanced HNB functionality, other communications services, power management functionality, and/or other features to the UEs 115. These and other features will be further appreciated from the description below.
  • FIG. 2A shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system 200-a that includes OOB capabilities. This system 200-a may be an example of aspects of the system 100 depicted in FIG. 1. The femtocell 125-a may include an OOB frequency module 240-a, an in-band frequency module 230-a, and/or a communications management subsystem 250. The in-band frequency module 230-a may be a femto Node B and/or radio network controller, as described with reference to FIG. 1. The femtocell 125-a also may include antennas 205, a transceiver module 210, memory 215, and a processor module 225, which each may be in communication, directly or indirectly, with each other (e.g., over one or more buses). The transceiver module 210 may be configured to communicate bi-directionally, via the antennas 205, with the UEs 115. The transceiver module 210 (and/or other components of the femtocell 125-a) may also be configured to communicate bi-directionally with a macro communications network 100-a (e.g., a WWAN). For example, the transceiver module 210 may be configured to communicate with the macro communications network 100-a via a backhaul network. The macro communications network 100-a may be the communications system 100 of FIG. 1.
  • The memory 215 may include random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). In some embodiments, the memory 215 includes (or is in communication with) a data store 217 configured to store UE mappings 219. As described more fully below, these UE mappings 219 may be used to facilitate certain femtocell-assisted hand-in functionality. Typically the UE mappings 219 map a identifier of each UE 115 (e.g., the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) associated with the UE's 115 SIM card) with an OOB identifier corresponding to the UE's 115 OOB radio (e.g., the UE's 115 Bluetooth address). In certain embodiments, further mappings are maintained for each UE 115 by the UE mappings 219 including, for example, a public long code mask.
  • The memory 215 may also store computer-readable, computer-executable software code 220 containing instructions that are configured to, when executed, cause the processor module 225 to perform various functions described herein (e.g., call processing, database management, message routing, etc.). Alternatively, the software 220 may not be directly executable by the processor module 225 but be configured to cause the computer, e.g., when compiled and executed, to perform functions described herein.
  • The processor module 225 may include an intelligent hardware device, e.g., a central processing unit (CPU) such as those made by Intel® Corporation or AMD®, a microcontroller, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), etc. The processor module 225 may include a speech encoder (not shown) configured to receive audio via a microphone, convert the audio into packets (e.g., 30 ms in length) representative of the received audio, provide the audio packets to the transceiver module 210, and provide indications of whether a user is speaking Alternatively, an encoder may only provide packets to the transceiver module 210, with the provision or withholding/suppression of the packet itself providing the indication of whether a user is speaking
  • The transceiver module 210 may include a modem configured to modulate the packets and provide the modulated packets to the antennas 205 for transmission, and to demodulate packets received from the antennas 205. While some examples of the femtocell 125-a may include a single antenna 205, the femtocell 125-a preferably includes multiple antennas 205 for multiple links. For example, one or more links may be used to support macro communications with the UEs 115. Also, one or more out-of-band links may be supported by the same antenna 205 or different antennas 205.
  • Notably, the femtocell 125-a may be configured to provide both in-band frequency module 230-a and OOB frequency module 240-a functionality. For example, when the UE 115 approaches the femtocell coverage area, the UE's 115 OOB radio may begin searching for the OOB frequency module 240-a. In some cases, the OOB frequency module 240-a may page the UE's OOB radio. Upon discovery, the UE 115 may have a high level of confidence that it is in proximity to the femtocell coverage area, and a scan for the in-band frequency module 230-a may commence. Similarly, the OOB frequency module 240-a may be utilized by the femtocell 125-a to determine that a UE 115 is in proximity to the femtocell 125-a.
  • The scan for the in-band frequency module 230-a may be implemented in different ways. For example, due to the OOB frequency module 240-a discovery by the UE's 115 OOB radio, both the UE 115 and the femtocell 125-a may be aware of each other's proximity. The UE 115 may scan for the in-band frequency module 230-a. Alternatively, the in-band frequency module 230-a may poll for the UE 115 (e.g., individually, or as part of a round-robin polling of all registered UEs 115), and the UE 115 may listen for the poll. When the scan for the in-band frequency module 230-a is successful, the UE 115 may attach to the in-band frequency module 230-a.
  • When the UE 115 is in the femtocell coverage area and is linked to the in-band frequency module 230-a through a communication link, the UE 115 may be in communication with the macro communications network 100-a via the in-band frequency module 230-a. As described above, the UE 115 may also be a slave of a piconet for which the OOB frequency module 240-a acts as the master. For example, the piconet may operate using Bluetooth and may include Bluetooth communications links facilitated by a Bluetooth radio (e.g., implemented as part of the transceiver module 210) in the in-band frequency module 230-a.
  • Examples of the in-band frequency module 230-a have various configurations of base station or wireless access point equipment. As used herein, the in-band frequency module 230-a may be a device that communicates with various terminals (e.g., client devices (UEs 115, etc.), proximity agent devices, etc.) and may also be referred to as, and include some or all the functionality of, a base station, a Node B, Home Node B, and/or other similar devices. Although referred to herein as the in-band frequency module 230-a, the concepts herein are applicable to access point configurations other than femtocell configuration (e.g., picocells, microcells, etc.). Examples of the in-band frequency module 230-a utilize communication frequencies and protocols native to a corresponding cellular network (e.g., the macro communications network 100-a, or a portion thereof) to facilitate communication within a femtocell coverage area associated with the in-band frequency module 230-a (e.g., to provide improved coverage of an area, to provide increased capacity, to provide increased bandwidth, etc.).
  • The in-band frequency module 230-a may be in communication with other interfaces not explicitly shown in FIG. 2A. For example, the in-band frequency module 230-a may be in communication with a native cellular interface as part of the transceiver module 210 (e.g., a specialized transceiver utilizing cellular network communication techniques that may consume relatively large amounts of power in operation) for communicating with various appropriately configured devices, such as the UE 115, through a native cellular wireless link (e.g., an “in-band” communication link) Such a communication interface may operate according to various communication standards, including but not limited to wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA), CDMA2000, global system for mobile telecommunication (GSM), worldwide interoperability for microwave access (WiMax), and wireless LAN (WLAN). Also or alternatively, the in-band frequency module 230-a may be in communication with one or more backend network interfaces as part of the transceiver module 210 (e.g., a backhaul interface providing communication via the Internet, a packet switched network, a switched network, a radio network, a control network, a wired link, and/or the like) for communicating with various devices or other networks.
  • As described above, the in-band frequency module 230-a may further be in communication with one or more OOB interfaces as part of the transceiver module 210 and/or the OOB frequency module 240-a. For example, the OOB interfaces may include transceivers that consume relatively low amounts of power in operation and/or may cause less interference in the in-band spectrum with respect to the in-band transceivers. Such an OOB interface may be utilized according to embodiments to provide low power wireless communications with respect to various appropriately configured devices, such as an OOB radio of the UE 115. The OOB interface may, for example, provide a Bluetooth link, an ultra-wideband (UWB) link, an IEEE 802.11 (WLAN) link, etc.
  • The terms “high power” and “low power” as used herein are relative terms and do not imply a particular level of power consumption. Accordingly, OOB devices (e.g OOB frequency module 240-a) may simply consume less power than native cellular interface (e.g., for macro WWAN communications) for a given time of operation. In some implementations, OOB interfaces also provide relatively lower bandwidth communications, relatively shorter range communication, and/or consume relatively lower power in comparison to the macro communications interfaces. There is no limitation that the OOB devices and interfaces be low power, short range, and/or low bandwidth. Devices may use any suitable out-of-band link, whether wireless or otherwise, such as IEEE 802.11, Bluetooth, PEANUT, UWB, ZigBee, an IP tunnel, a wired link, etc. Moreover, devices may utilize virtual OOB links, such as through use of IP based mechanisms over a wireless wide area network (WWAN) link (e.g., IP tunnel over a WWAN link) that acts as a virtual OOB link.
  • OOB frequency module 240-a may provide various types of OOB functionality and may be implemented in various ways. An OOB frequency module 240-a may have any of various configurations, such as a stand-alone processor-based system, a processor-based system integrated with a host device (e.g., access point, gateway, router, switch, repeater, hub, concentrator, etc.), etc. For example, the OOB frequency module 240-a may include various types of interfaces for facilitating various types of communications. In some embodiments, the OOB frequency module 240-a may be referred to as a femto-proxy module.
  • Some OOB frequency module 240-a include one or more OOB interfaces as part of the transceiver module 210 (e.g., a transceiver that may consume relatively low amounts of power in operation and/or may cause less interference than in the in-band spectrum) for communicating with other appropriately configured devices (e.g., a UE 115) for providing interference mitigation and/or femtocell selection herein through a wireless link. One example of a suitable communication interface is a Bluetooth-compliant transceiver that uses a time-division duplex (TDD) scheme.
  • OOB frequency module 240-a may also include one or more backend network interfaces as part of the transceiver module 210 (e.g., packet switched network interface, switched network interface, radio network interface, control network interface, a wired link, and/or the like) for communicating with various devices or networks. An OOB frequency module 240-a that is integrated within a host device, such as with in-band frequency module 230-a, may utilize an internal bus or other such communication interface in the alternative to a backend network interface to provide communications between the OOB frequency module 240-a and other devices, if desired. Additionally or alternatively, other interfaces, such as OOB interfaces, native cellular interfaces, etc., may be utilized to provide communication between the OOB frequency module 240-a and the in-band frequency module 230-a and/or other devices or networks.
  • Various communications functions (e.g., including those of the in-band frequency module 230-a and/or the OOB frequency module 240-a) may be managed using the communications management subsystem 250. For example, the communications management subsystem 250 may at least partially handle communications with the macro (e.g., WWAN) network, one or more OOB networks (e.g., piconets, UE 115 OOB radios, other femto-proxies, OOB beacons, etc.), one or more other femtocells (e.g., in-band frequency module 230-a), UEs 115, etc. For example, the communications management subsystem 250 may be a component of the femtocell 125-a in communication with some or all of the other components of the femtocell 125-a via a bus.
  • Various other architectures are possible other than those illustrated by FIG. 2A. The in-band frequency module 230-a and/or the OOB frequency module 240-a may or may not be collocated, integrated into a single device, configured to share components, etc. For example, the femtocell 125-a of FIG. 2A has an integrated in-band frequency module 230-a and OOB frequency module 240-a that at least partially share components, including the antennas 205, the transceiver module 210, the memory 215, and the processor module 225.
  • The components of the femtocell 125-a may, individually or collectively, be implemented, in whole or in part, with instructions embodied in a memory, formatted to be executed by one or more general or application-specific processors. They may also be implemented with one or more application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) adapted to perform some or all of the applicable functions in hardware. Alternatively, the functions may be performed by one or more other processing units (or cores), on one or more integrated circuits. In other embodiments, other types of integrated circuits may be used (e.g., Structured/Platform ASICs, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), and other Semi-Custom ICs), which may be programmed in any manner known in the art.
  • FIG. 2B shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system 200-b that includes an architecture of a femtocell 125-b that is different from the architecture shown in FIG. 2A. Similar to the femtocell 125-a of FIG. 2A, the femtocell 125-b includes an OOB frequency module 240-b and an in-band frequency module 230-b. Unlike the system 125-a of FIG. 2A, however, each of the OOB frequency module 240-b and the in-band frequency module 230-b has its own antenna 205, transceiver module 210, memory 215, and processor module 225. Both transceiver modules 210 are configured to communicate bi-directionally, via their respective antennas 205, with UEs 115. The transceiver module 210-1 of the in-band frequency module 230-b is illustrated in bi-directional communication with the macro communications network 100-b (e.g., typically over a backhaul network).
  • For the sake of illustration, the femtocell 125-b is shown without a separate communications management subsystem 250. In some configurations, a communications management subsystem 250 is provided in both the OOB frequency module 240-b and the in-band frequency module 230-b. In other configurations, the communications management subsystem 250 is implemented as part of the OOB frequency module 240-b. In still other configurations, functionality of the communications management subsystem 250 is implemented as a computer program product (e.g., stored as software 220 in memory 215) of one or both of the OOB frequency module 240-b and the in-band frequency module 230-b.
  • The components of the femtocell 125-b may, individually or collectively, be implemented, in whole or in part, with instructions embodied in a memory, formatted to be executed by one or more general or application-specific processors. They may also be implemented with one or more application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) adapted to perform some or all of the applicable functions in hardware. Alternatively, the functions may be performed by one or more other processing units (or cores), on one or more integrated circuits. In other embodiments, other types of integrated circuits may be used (e.g., Structured/Platform ASICs, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), and other Semi-Custom ICs), which may be programmed in any manner known in the art.
  • In yet other configurations, some or all of the functionality of the communications management subsystem 250 of system 200-a may implemented as a component of the processor module 225. FIG. 3 shows a block diagram 300 of a processor module 225-a for implementing functionality of the communications management subsystem 250. The processor module 225-a may include a WWAN communications controller 310 and a user equipment controller 320. The processor module 225-a may be in communication (e.g., as illustrated in FIGS. 2A and 2B) with the OOB frequency module 240 and/or the in-band frequency module 230. The WWAN communications controller 310 may be configured to receive a WWAN communication (e.g., a page) for a designated UE 115. The user equipment controller 320 may determine how to handle the communication, including affecting operation of the OOB frequency module 240 and/or the in-band frequency module 230.
  • Both the in-band frequency module 230-a of FIG. 2A and the in-band frequency module 230-b of FIG. 2B are illustrated as providing a communications link only to the macro communications network 100-a. However, the in-band frequency module 230 may provide communications functionality via many different types of networks and/or topologies. For example, the in-band frequency module 230 may provide a wireless interface for a cellular telephone network, a cellular data network, a local area network (LAN), a metropolitan area network (MAN), a wide area network (WAN), the public switched telephone network (PSTN), the Internet, etc.
  • As described above, the femtocell 125 may be configured to communicate with client devices, including the UEs 115. FIG. 4 shows a block diagram 400 of mobile user equipment (UE) 115-a for use with the femtocell 125 of FIGS. 2A and/or 2B in the context of the communications systems and networks of FIGS. 1-3. The UE 115-a may have any of various configurations, such as personal computers (e.g., laptop computers, net book computers, tablet computers, etc.), cellular telephones, PDAs, digital video recorders (DVRs), internet appliances, gaming consoles, e-readers, etc. For the purpose of clarity, the UE 115-a is assumed to be provided in a mobile configuration, having an internal power supply (not shown), such as a small battery, to facilitate mobile operation.
  • The UE 115-a may include antennas 445, an in-band transceiver module 410, an OOB transceiver module 405, memory 415, and a processor module 425, which each may be in communication, directly or indirectly, with each other (e.g., via one or more buses). The transceiver modules 405, 410 may be configured to communicate bi-directionally, via the antennas 445 with femtocells and macrocells. For example, the in-band transceiver module 410 may be configured to communicate bi-directionally with macrocell base stations 105 of a macrocell of FIG. 1, and with the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, or 2B. The OOB transceiver module 405 may be configured to communicate bi-directionally with the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, or 2B. Each transceiver module 405, 410 may include a modem configured to modulate the packets and provide the modulated packets to the antennas 445 for transmission, and to demodulate packets received from the antennas 445. While the UE 115-a may include a single antenna, the UE 115-a will typically include multiple antennas 445 for multiple links.
  • As generally referenced above, the OOB transceiver module 405 may be configured to communicate with a femtocell over one or more OOB communication links as described in more detail below. The OOB transceiver module 405 at the mobile device 115-a may include a Bluetooth transceiver for example.
  • The memory 415 may include random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). The memory 415 may store computer-readable, computer-executable software code 420 containing instructions that are configured to, when executed, cause the processor module 425 to perform various functions described herein (e.g., call processing, database management, message routing, etc.). Alternatively, the software 420 may not be directly executable by the processor module 425 but be configured to cause the computer (e.g., when compiled and executed) to perform functions described herein.
  • The processor module 425 may include an intelligent hardware device, e.g., a central processing unit (CPU) such as those made by Intel® Corporation or AMD®, a microcontroller, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), etc. The processor module 325 may include a speech encoder (not shown) configured to receive audio via a microphone, convert the audio into packets (e.g., 30 ms in length) representative of the received audio, provide the audio packets to the in-band transceiver module 410, and provide indications of whether a user is speaking Alternatively, an encoder may only provide packets to the in-band transceiver module 410, with the provision or withholding/suppression of the packet itself providing the indication of whether a user is speaking
  • According to the architecture of FIG. 4, the UE 115-a further includes a communications management module 440. The communications management module 440 may manage communications with a macrocell, femtocell, other UEs 115 (e.g., acting as a master of a secondary piconet), etc. By way of example, the communications management module 440 may be a component of the UE 115-a in communication with some or all of the other components of the UE 115-a via a bus. Alternatively, functionality of the communications management module 440 may be implemented as a component of a transceiver module 405, 410, as a computer program product, and/or as one or more controller elements of the processor module 425.
  • Some components of the UE 115-a may, individually or collectively, be implemented, in whole or in part, with instructions embodied in a memory, formatted to be executed by one or more general or application-specific processors. They may also be implemented with one or more application specific integrated circuits (ASICs) adapted to perform some or all of the applicable functions in hardware. Alternatively, the functions may be performed by one or more other processing units (or cores), on one or more integrated circuits. In other embodiments, other types of integrated circuits may be used (e.g., Structured/Platform ASICs, Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), and other Semi-Custom ICs), which may be programmed in any manner known in the art.
  • In many cases, it is desirable to support active hand-in from a macrocell (e.g., macrocell base stations 105 of FIG. 1) to the femtocell 125 and/or active hand-out from the femtocell 125 to the macrocell base station 105 using handovers to provide seamless voice and data service to active users (active UEs 115). Active handouts can be relatively simple to implement and are supported by most operators with legacy macro networks 100 and UEs 115. However, active hand-in may be challenging and may not typically be supported by operators.
  • For example, as a UE 115 moves during the course of active communications with the macro network 100 (e.g., during a voice call, an active data transfer, etc.), a determination may be made that a handover is needed (e.g., the current macrocell base station 105 signal may become weak). The need for a handover may be determined according to measurement reports sent by the active UE 115. Notably, the phrase “measurement report” may be generally associated with 3GPP networks, but is intended herein to include any similar types of measurement reporting in any similar type of network (e.g., including “PSMMs,” or pilot strength measurements, in 3GPP2 networks).
  • The measurement reports may include a measurement of the strength of the pilot observed by the UE 115 and the forward link cell identifier of the target cell. The cell identifier may be any identifier used by the macro network 100 to identify a particular cell. For example, the cell identifier may be a “PSC” (primary scrambling code) in a 3GPP network, a “PN offset” in a 3GPP2 network, etc. On a typical macro network 100, enough cell identifiers (e.g., PSC) may be available to substantially ensure that, given the geographical distribution of the macrocell base stations 105, each macrocell base station 105 can effectively be uniquely identified by its cell identifier (e.g., by a Radio Network controller (RNC) 120 in the macro network 100, a Serving GPRS Support Node (SGSN) in the core of the network, etc.).
  • While macrocell base stations 105 may effectively be uniquely identified by the macro network 100, there are typically not enough remaining cell identifiers to uniquely identify all femtocells, such as femtocell 125, and in particular, the in-band frequency modules 230 added to the network. For example, a typical macro network 100 may have 512 PSC values available for assignment to all the cells in its network. PN offsets may be reused on different carriers, in different geographic regions, etc. to extend the number of cells that can effectively be identified without confusion. However, only a small portion of the PSC values may be available for use by the femtocells 125, through their in-band frequency modules 230 (i.e., other than the values reserved for use by macrocell base stations 105), and the number and density of femtocells 125 may be relatively large in some areas. For example, only a small number of PSC values must be reused among possibly hundreds of femtocells 125 per macro sector.
  • When a handover is required for an active UE 115 to a macrocell base station 105 (as a handover from another macrocell base station 105 or as a hand-out from a femtocell 125), the cell identifier provided in the measurement report may be sufficient to reliably determine the appropriate macrocell base station 105 for hand-off. The active communication may be handed off to the correct target cell without ambiguity. However, when a handover may be required for an active UE 115 to a femtocell 125 (as a hand-in from a macrocell base station 105), the same cell identifier provided in the measurement report may be shared by multiple femtocells 125 in the same macro sector. As such, the cell identifier alone may be insufficient to reliably determine the appropriate femtocells 125 for hand-in in all cases. For example, the UE 115 may be near its femtocell 125, and it may be desirable to hand-in to that femtocell 125, but another femtocell 125 in the macro sector may be associated with the same cell identifier.
  • In some newer networks, additional identifiers are available that may mitigate or solve this issue. For example, in UMTS networks, cells may be upgraded to broadcast system information (SI), location information, and/or other information that may make identification of a particular femtocell 125 based only on its cell identifier(s) more unique and reliable. Upgraded UEs 115 can exploit new cell identifier(s), for example, by decoding the system information of neighboring cells and reporting the identifiers in measurement reports during active communications. The controllers (which may include macro radio network controls (RNC) 120 and/or Serving GPRS Support Node (SGSN) 550, shown below in FIG. 5) can then include the SI (e.g. CELL_ID, C) in the handover messages to uniquely identify the target femtocell 125 (e.g., to the femtocell gateway). This technique may only be available for communications between upgraded networks and upgraded UEs 115. For operators who do not want to upgrade the air interface, this technique may not be available. Likewise for operators who do want to upgrade their networks (e.g. RNC 120 and SGSN 650 shown below in FIG. 6A) to forward the SI to the femtocell gateway, this technique may not be available.
  • Operators of legacy networks (including those desiring to communicate with legacy UEs 115) may address this difficulty with active hand-in in different ways. Some typical networks may not support active hand-in at all. In the event that the hand-in may be the only way to maintain the active communications with the UE 115, the active communications may simply be lost (e.g., a call may be dropped when signals from macrocell base station 105 are lost, even when the UE 115 is otherwise in the femtocell coverage area).
  • According to at least one technique for addressing the difficulty with active hand-in in legacy networks, some operators may implement blind handover. For example, when the measurement report includes a cell identifier that is shared by multiple femtocells 125 in the same macro sector, the network may blindly select any of the femtocells 125 having that cell identifier for the hand-in. If blind selection results in hand-in to an appropriate femtocell 125, the hand-in may be successful. However, if blind selection results in hand-in to an inappropriate femtocell 125 (e.g., one that is out of range of the UE 115, one for which the UE 115 is not authorized to attach, etc.), the active communications may be lost.
  • It will now be appreciated that operators of legacy systems may be unable to reliably support active hand-ins to femtocells 125 using existing techniques. Embodiments include novel techniques for supporting active hand-ins for legacy networks and/or for legacy UEs 115. Turning to FIG. 5, a simplified network diagram is shown of a communications system 500 for facilitating active hand-in.
  • The communications system 500 may include a macro network 100, a user local network 510, and a core network 530. The core network 530 may include, among other things, a femtocell gateway 540 and/or a SGSN 550. The femtocell gateway 540 may be in communication with a number of femtocells 125 (only one femtocell 125 is shown for clarity), and the SGSN 550 is in communication with multiple macrocell base stations 105 via one or more macro RNCs 120 (only one macrocell base station 105 is show for clarity). The femtocell 125 is in communication through in-band frequency module 230 with the macro network 100 via core network 530 elements, such that cellular communications may be facilitated through the femtocell 125 using functionality of the femtocell gateway 540 and/or SGSN 550.
  • A UE 115 in active communications with the macrocell base station 105 (over a macro communications link 560-b) may approach a coverage area of the femtocell 125. As described above, the macro network 100 (e.g., the macro RNC 120) may determine that a handover is needed based on a measurement report from the UE 115. The measurement report may identify the target femtocell 125 by its cell identifier (e.g., its PSC). A handover request may then be sent by the SGSN 550 to the target femtocell gateway 540 for identifying an appropriate femtocell 125 for the hand-in.
  • As discussed, particularly where multiple femtocells 125 share a cell identifier, it may be difficult or impossible for the femtocell gateway 540 to reliably determine the appropriate target femtocell 125 for hand-in using the cell identifier alone. Some embodiments may exploit features of femtocell 125. As shown, the user local network 510 includes the in-band frequency module 230 functionality integrated with OOB functionality of an OOB frequency module 240 as part of a femtocell 125. This OOB functionality may be facilitated over an OOB communications link 570 that can be established between the UE 115 and the OOB frequency module 240. This in-band functionality may be facilitated over an in-band communications link 550-a that can be established between the UE 115 and the in-band frequency module 230. The in-band communications link 550-a may be established, for example, when a hand-in occurs from macrocell 105 to femtocell 125.
  • While many different types of out-of-band communications may be used to facilitate functionality described here (e.g., as discussed above), the discussion below focuses on Bluetooth as facilitating the OOB communications of these embodiments. Other embodiments may utilize other types of out-of-band communications. Bluetooth may provide certain features. One feature is that Bluetooth radios may be integrated into many UEs 115, so that the Bluetooth functionality can be exploited for many users without modifying their existing UEs 115. Another feature is that the tolerable path loss between two “Class 1.5” Bluetooth devices may be comparable or even higher than between a femtocell 125 and a UE 115. In any given environment, this higher tolerable path loss may translate to higher effective range (e.g., facilitating femtocell 125 discovery, handover, and/or interference mitigation, as described herein).
  • Yet another feature of Bluetooth is that the Bluetooth address (BD_ADDR) can provide a unique, 48-bit address used to identify each Bluetooth enabled device. The Bluetooth address may be used when a device communicates with another device, and is divided into a 24-bit LAP (Lower Address Part), a 16-bit NAP (Non-significant Address Part), and an 8-bit UAP (Upper Address Part). The LAP may be assigned by a manufacturer and may be unique for each Bluetooth device, while UAP and NAP may be part of an Organizationally Unique Identifier (OUI). Using the Bluetooth address, each Bluetooth adapter in any device may be identified according to a globally unique value.
  • As described more fully below, embodiments may operate in the context of a system, like the communications system 500 of FIG. 5, to support active hand-ins with minimal or no change to legacy macro networks 100 and/or to legacy UEs 115. One set of such embodiments uses modifications to UEs 115 and the femtocell gateway 540 to facilitate active hand-in. In particular, an OOB identifier of the femtocell 125 may be detected by the UE 115 and communicated as part of the measurement report to facilitate identification of the target femtocell 125 by the femtocell gateway 540.
  • Each of the UE 115 and the femtocell 125 (through OOB frequency module 240, for example) may have a unique Bluetooth device address (BD_ADDR) that may be used for paging the other device (e.g., UE 115 pages the femtocell 125 or the femtocell 125 pages the UE 115). It is understood that the BD_ADDR of the other device may be known by the paging device. Notably, the same or similar techniques may be used for other types of out-of-band addressing. For example, the devices may know each other's WiFi MAC address, etc. The UE 115 may then assist the macro network 100 in effecting the active hand-in.
  • In some embodiments, after an OOB communications link 570 is established with the OOB frequency module 240 of the femtocell 125, the UE 115 can communicate a cell identifier (e.g., PSC) and the OOB identifier (e.g., Bluetooth device address) of the target femtocell 125 to the SGSN 550 as part of its measurement report. The femtocell gateway 540 may maintain a mapping between the cell identifier and the OOB identifier, which can then be used to uniquely identify the target femtocell 125 for active hand-in.
  • One technique may involve upgrades at the UE 115 “air-interface” (i.e., new messages or modifications of existing messages are involved). Also, proper communication of new UE 115 messaging may involve changes to the macro RNCs 120, the SGSN 550, the femtocell gateway 540, and the femtocell 125 (and in particular, the in-band frequency module 230 of the femtocell 125). These changes to the legacy macro network 100 may largely be software upgrades (rather than hardware upgrades), but operators may still be reluctant to implement the changes.
  • Another set of embodiments supports active hand-ins for both macro networks 100 and UEs 115, which may be legacy macro networks 100 and/or legacy UEs 115 in some cases. In particular, changes to the femtocell 125 and/or the femtocell gateway 540 may allow for femtocell 125 assisted active hand-in. Embodiments of femtocell 125 assisted hand-in may be implemented without changes to the air-interface, the macro RNC 120, or the SGSN 550. Femtocell 125 assisted hand-in may exploit registration by the femtocell 125 of UEs 115 at the femtocell gateway 540 (e.g., using OOB proximity detection to effectively pre-register the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540). When a handover directive is received at the femtocell gateway 540 implicating a UE 115, registration of the UE 115 can be used by the femtocell gateway 540 to help determine the appropriate target femtocell 125 for hand-in.
  • As described above with reference to FIG. 2A, embodiments of the femtocell 125 may maintain UE mappings 219. Typically, the UE mappings 219 map a macro identifier of each UE 115 (e.g., the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI), Mobile Equipment Identifier (MEID), Electronic Serial Number (ESN), etc.) with an OOB identifier corresponding to the UE's 115 OOB radio (e.g., Bluetooth device address, WiFi MAC address, etc.). When the femtocell 125 is a restricted access femtocell, the UE mappings 219 may be maintained only for authorized users. For example, an access control list may be maintained at the femtocell 125 that includes or is associated with the UE mappings 219.
  • Notably, there may various ways to establish the UE mappings 219. According to one exemplary technique, the UE 115 calls a particular number, which may automatically trigger an OOB pairing (e.g., a Bluetooth pairing) between the UE 115 and the femtocell 125. Thus, the mapping between the UE macro identifier and OOB identifier may be established. According to another exemplary technique, a user manually enters the UE's 115 macro identifier (e.g., IMSI) and OOB identifier (e.g., BD_ADDR) into a user interface at the femtocell 125. According to yet another exemplary technique, a user enters the mapping information via a portal (e.g., a web page), and the femtocell 125 downloads the information (e.g., or the femtocell 125 includes a web server and the portal directly addresses femtocell 125). In yet another exemplary technique, the OOB identifier of the UE can be entered into the portal by using a sniffer, an OOB-enabled device that wirelessly obtains the OOB identifier and reports it to the portal.
  • Active hand-in functionality described herein may involve use of a femtocell 125 having an in-band frequency module 230 integrated with an OOB frequency module 240. As illustrated in FIG. 5, and as described in a number of exemplary configurations above, the OOB frequency module 240 includes an OOB device (e.g., an OOB radio) that is communicatively coupled with the in-band frequency module 230. For example, the in-band frequency module 230 and the OOB frequency module 240 may be physically integrated into a single housing or assembly (e.g., and in communication over a bus or some other internal connection), or the OOB frequency module 240 may be separately housed and may be in communication with the in-band frequency module 230 using a wired or wireless connection. Typically, the OOB frequency module 240 is located close enough to the in-band frequency module 230 so that proximity detection by the OOB frequency module 240 indicates proximity also to the in-band frequency module 230.
  • In some other configurations, the OOB frequency module 240 is logically, rather than physically, integrated with the in-band frequency module 230 (e.g., the components can otherwise be logically associated with each other by the network). For example, even having the OOB frequency module 240 physically separated from the in-band frequency module 230, the components may be part of a common subnet so that proximity detection by the OOB frequency module 240 can be associated with proximity to the in-band frequency module.
  • The configuration described in FIG. 5 is intended only to be illustrative, and not limiting. Other configurations are possible for providing the same or similar types of integrative functionality between OOB frequency module 240 and in-frequency module 230. For example, many configurations may allow OOB proximity detection to be used to facilitate reliable active hand-in to a particular femtocell 125, according to various embodiments.
  • To facilitate femtocell 125 assisted hand-in, femtocells 125, like the one described in FIG. 2A for example, may interact with embodiments of femtocell gateway 540, such as those described in FIG. 6A and FIG. 6B. FIG. 6A shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system 600-a that includes a femtocell gateway 540-a. The femtocell gateway 540-a may include a communications management subsystem 610, a femto interface subsystem 630, and/or a macro interface subsystem 640. The femtocell gateway 540-a also may include memory 615 and a processor module 625. All the components of the femtocell gateway 540-a may be in communication with each other directly or indirectly (e.g., over one or more buses).
  • For the sake of context and clarity, the femto interface subsystem 630 is shown in communication with femtocell 125 (which includes in-band frequency module 230 and OOB frequency module 240), and the macro interface subsystem 640 is shown in communication with macrocell base station 105 (via an SGSN 550 and/or one or more macro RNCs 120). Various communications functions, including those involved in facilitating femtocell 125 assisted hand-in are implemented and/or managed using the communications management subsystem 610. For example, the communications management subsystem 610 may at least partially handle communications with macro network elements using functionality of the macro interface subsystem 640 and may at least partially handle communications with femtocell 125 using functionality of the femto interface subsystem 630. For example, the communications management subsystem 610 may be a component of the femtocell gateway 540-a in communication with some or all of the other components of the femtocell gateway 540 via a bus.
  • The memory 615 may include random access memory (RAM) and read-only memory (ROM). In some embodiments, the memory 615 is configured to maintain registration-related information. As described more fully below, the registration-related information may include identifier mappings for femtocells 125, UEs 115, etc., as well as registration messages, flags, etc.
  • The memory 615 may also store computer-readable, computer-executable software code 620 containing instructions that are configured to, when executed, cause the processor module 625 to perform various functions described herein (e.g., call processing, database management, message routing, etc.). Alternatively, the software 620 may not be directly executable by the processor module 625 but be configured to cause the computer, e.g., when compiled and executed, to perform functions described herein.
  • The processor module 625 may include an intelligent hardware device, e.g., a central processing unit (CPU) such as those made by Intel® Corporation or AMD®, a microcontroller, an application specific integrated circuit (ASIC), etc. Embodiments of the processor module 625 may be configured to facilitate functionality, such as timer functionality. Further, embodiments of the processor module 625 include or facilitate some or all of the functionality of the communications management subsystem 610, the femto interface subsystem 630, or the macro interface subsystem 640.
  • For example, FIG. 6B shows a block diagram of a wireless communications system 600-b that includes a femtocell gateway 540-b that is an alternate configuration of the femtocell gateway 540-a of FIG. 6A. As with the femtocell gateway 540-a of FIG. 6A, the femtocell gateway 540-b of FIG. 6B may include a femto interface subsystem 630, a macro interface subsystem 640, memory 615, and/or a processor module 625, which may all be in communication with each other directly or indirectly (e.g., over one or more buses). Unlike the femtocell gateway 540-a of FIG. 6A, the femtocell gateway 540-b of FIG. 6B may include communications management controller 610. Embodiments of the communications management controller 610 may be implemented as part of the processor module 625 to provide substantially the same functionality as that of the communications management subsystem 610 shown in FIG. 6A.
  • As discussed above, embodiments of femtocell gateway 540, such as those described in FIGS. 6A and 6B, can interact with femtocells 125, like the one described in FIG. 2A, to facilitate femtocell 125 assisted hand-in. For example, when a UE 115 approaches a femtocell 125, the femtocell 125 may detect the UE 115 in its proximity using an OOB link (e.g., Bluetooth paging procedure) or vice versa. In addition to or as part of the OOB detection procedure, the femtocell 125 may determine whether the UE 115 is an authorized user. For example, the femtocell 125 may check an access control list to determine whether the UE 115 is authorized to access macro communications services via the femtocell 125.
  • Having discovered each other (and the femtocell 125 having validated the UE 115 as an authorized user), the femtocell 125 may register the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540. For example, the femtocell 125 may maintain a UE mapping 219 between the UE's 115 OOB identifier (e.g., the Bluetooth device address,) detected during the detection procedure and a macro identifier of the UE 115, like the UE's 115 IMSI. The femtocell 125 may register the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540 according to the UE's 115 identifier(s).
  • In some embodiments, the OOB radio range (e.g., the edge of Bluetooth coverage) may be greater than the femtocell 125 coverage range (for example, the range of the in-band frequency module 230), such that the detection and registration of the UE 115 may be performed before the UE 115 detects the femtocell 125. Thus, in many cases, a, OOB proximity detection or indication may be communicated by the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540 for the UE 115 before any handover has been triggered by a measurement report of the UE 115 (i.e., the UE 115 may effectively be “pre-registered” upon receipt of any handover request implicating the UE 115).
  • Notably, various types of registration or pre-registration may be available in the macro network 100 and/or femtocell 125 context. As used herein, “registration” and “pre-registration” can intend to refer to the existing UE registration in macro networks (and the communication of this message between the femtocell 125 and femtocell gateway 540 may be triggered by the OOB proximity detection). In another embodiment, the registration refers to a message carrying an OOB proximity detection specifically to register a UE 115 with an femtocell gateway 540. When a handover is triggered and a relocation request is received at the femtocell gateway 540 (e.g., from the SGSN 650), the femtocell gateway 540 may be able to correlate the UE registration with the handover request (e.g., according to the UE's 115 macro identifier). With this information, the femtocell gateway 540 can uniquely identify the appropriate target femtocell 125 and reliably proceed with the hand-in. If the existing UE 115 registration message in macro network is used for indicating the OOB proximity to femtocell gateway 540, the femtocell gateway 540 may create an entry for the UE 115 and the registering femtocell 125 in a registration database as it would for regular UE registrations not indicating OOB proximity. Later on, when a handover is triggered and a relocation request is received at the femtocell gateway 540 (e.g., from the SGSN 650), the femtocell gateway 540 may use the entry in the database to correlate the UE 115 with registration in the database with the handover request (e.g., according to the UE's 115 macro identifier). With this information, the femtocell gateway 540 can uniquely identify the appropriate target femtocell 125 and reliably proceed with the hand-in.
  • In some cases, the femtocell gateway 540 communicates the handover request to the femtocell 125 with a flag indicating that femtocell gateway 540 thinks that the UE 115 is in proximity of the femtocell 125 based on the femtocell's 125 prior registration with the UE's 115 macro identifier (e.g., IMSI). Having received the flag, the femtocell 125 may try to detect the UE 115 again (e.g., over an OOB channel using the OOB frequency module 240). If the UE 115 is no longer in the femtocell's 125 proximity, the femtocell 125 can reject the handover request from the femtocell gateway 540. Further certain types of de-registration techniques may be used, as described below.
  • According to one de-registration technique, a UE 115 is explicitly deregistered by communicating an OOB absence indication to the femtocell gateway 540. For example, the OOB frequency module 240 and/or the in-band frequency module 230 may detect link loss with the UE 115 and send a de-registration request to the femtocell gateway 540 in the form of an OOB absence indication. According to another de-registration technique, a UE 115 may be de-registered if a certain amount of time elapses after registration without receiving a corresponding handover request. According to yet another de-registration technique, a UE 115 may be explicitly or implicitly de-registered upon acknowledgement of handover to the target femtocell 125.
  • In some embodiments, registration is only performed for active UEs 115. In one illustrative scenario, as described above, registration is based on detection over an OOB communication link and subsequent communication to the femtocell gateway 540 of an OOB proximity detection or indication. In this scenario, the femtocell 125 may not know whether the UE 115 is in WWAN idle state or active state (e.g., in a voice call). For idle handover, the femtocell's 125 pre-registration with the femtocell gateway 540 with the UE's 115 macro identifier (e.g., IMSI) is ignored. For example, implicit de-registration may occur if a handover request message does not arrive at femtocell gateway 540 prior to a timeout.
  • In another illustrative scenario, a handover request message arrives at the femtocell gateway 540 (e.g., as a relocation request message from the core network 130 of FIG. 1) implicating a UE 115. Even if the UE 115 has been pre-registered, the femtocell gateway 540 may send a handover request to the femtocell 125 with a flag indicating that the femtocell gateway 540 believes the UE 115 is in proximity of that specific femtocell 125 based on the pre-registration. In some embodiments, the femtocell 125 again tries to detect the UE 115 over the OOB communication link. If it fails, the femtocell 125 may reject the handover request; if it succeeds, the femtocell 125 may accept the handover request.
  • If the registration request is received at the femtocell gateway 540 after a corresponding handover request implicating the UE 115 is received at the femtocell gateway 540, the femtocell gateway 540 may handle the hand-in in various ways, as described more fully below (e.g., with reference to the call flow diagram of FIGS. 13-14). For example, even when the registration request is received after a corresponding handover request, techniques described herein may be used to help facilitate active hand-in. Alternatively, there may be no hand-in, or techniques described above may be used, like blind hand-in, etc.
  • It may be appreciated that the femtocell 125 assisted hand-in techniques described herein provide certain features. One feature may be that the techniques may be used to reliably determine an appropriate target femtocell 125 for active hand-in. Another feature is that pre-registration through communication of OOB proximity detection or indication may reduce or eliminate latencies relating to the blind hand-off technique. Yet another feature is that core network signaling (e.g., from measurement request and response) may be reduced. And another feature is that no changes may be needed in the UE 115, the air interface, or the legacy infrastructure. The techniques may be implemented with changes only to the femtocell 125 and/or the femtocell gateway 540.
  • Embodiments of femtocell 125 assisted hand-in techniques are described below with reference to methods of FIGS. 7-14. Turning first to FIG. 7A, a flow diagram is shown of a method 700-a for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in in accordance with various embodiments. The method 700-a may, for example, be performed by the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, 2B, 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 700-a may begin at block 705 by detecting a UE 115 in proximity to a femtocell 125 using an OOB communications link. The femtocell 125 may be communicatively coupled with a macro network 100 via a macrocell base station 105. For example, the UE 115 may be camped on the macrocell base station 125 and may or may not be in active cellular communications. The femtocell 125 may include includes an OOB frequency module 240 and an in-band frequency module 230. The in-band frequency module 230 may include an HNB. The femtocell 125, through the in-band frequency module 230, may be communicatively coupled with the macro network 100 via a femtocell gateway 540. In some embodiments, the femtocell gateway 540 may be a HNB gateway.
  • At block 710, an identifier of UE 115 on the macro network 100 may be identified or determined by the femtocell 125 using the OOB communications link. For example, as part of detecting the UE 115 at block 705, an OOB identifier corresponding to the UE 115 (e.g., the BD_ADDR) may be detected using the OOB frequency module 240 over an OOB communications link. In some embodiments, a macro identifier (e.g., IMSI) associated with the UE 115 may be identified. As discussed above, the femtocell 125 may maintain UE mappings 219 between a corresponding OOB identifier and identifier for a particular UE 115.
  • In some embodiments, a determination is made as to whether the UE 115 is authorized to access the macro network 100 via the femtocell 125. For example, the femtocell 125 may maintain an access control list (e.g., a “white list”) with UEs 115 authorized to attach to the femtocell 125 (e.g., authorized to access macro communications services via the femtocell 125). If it is determined that the UE 115 is not authorized to access the macro network 100 via the femtocell 125, the method 700-a may abort. For example, the method 700-a may ignore the UE 115. In some embodiments, the femtocell gateway 540 may determine whether the UE 115 is authorized to access the macro network 100 via the femtocell 125. If it is determined that the UE 115 is authorized to access the macro network 100 via the femtocell 125, the femtocell 125 may proceed with registering the UE 115 as described below.
  • At block 715, the UE 115 is registered for hand-in from the macrocell base station 105 to the femtocell 125. This may be done by communicating, from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540, the user equipment identifier. In addition, the registering of the UE 115 may indicate OOB proximity detection of the UE 115 with respect to the femtocell 125. For example, the femtocell 125 may communicate at least the UE's 115 macro identifier to the femtocell gateway 540 as part of a registration message. As discussed above, the OOB range may be greater than (e.g., or at least substantially the same as) the femtocell range, such that the blocks of the method 700-a (e.g., from the proximity detection at block 705 to communication of the registration method at block 715) may, in some cases, occur before the UE 115 enters the femtocell range. In this way, the registration may occur before the UE's 115 measurement report may indicate the femtocell 125 and before any handover to the femtocell 125 is determined by the macro network 100.
  • Registering the UE 115 for hand-in the macrocell 105 to the femtocell 125 may include transmitting a registration message from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540. Registering the UE 115 for hand-in from the macrocell 105 to the femtocell 125 may include transmitting an OOB indication message from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540. Some embodiments may utilize a UE mapping between a macro identifier of the UE 115 with the OOB identifier to determine the user equipment identifier.
  • As described above with reference to FIG. 5, various configurations may use different types of OOB proximity detection to facilitate registration (e.g., pre- and/or post-registration using OOB proximity detection). For example, portions of the method 700-a may be different, depending on whether the OOB proximity detection was being performed using a configuration like the one shown in FIG. 5 (e.g., using a Bluetooth radio as an OOB frequency module 240 physically integrated with the femtocell 125). For the sake of added clarity, an example scenario is described in FIG. 7B.
  • Turning first to FIG. 7B, a flow diagram is shown of a method 700-b for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in utilizing UE 115 registration at a femtocell gateway 540 using a femtocell 125 in accordance with various embodiments. The method 700-b may, for example, be performed by the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, 2B, 5, 6A, or 6B. Method 700-b may be performed in the context of a Bluetooth radio being used as an OOB frequency module 240 physically integrated with a femtocell 125, for example. For the sake of added clarity, reference numerals from FIG. 7A are used with the addition of a lower-case “a” to indicate a possible illustrative implementation of the corresponding block from FIG. 7A in the context of FIG. 7B. Accordingly, the method 700-b begins with block 705-a in which a Bluetooth radio, configured as an OOB frequency module 240 integrated with a femtocell 125 is used to detect a UE 115 in proximity to the femtocell 125.
  • Block 705-a includes blocks 720 and 725. At block 725, a Bluetooth radio (i.e., OOB frequency module 240) periodically pages the UE 115 to see whether the UE 115 is in its proximity. As used herein, “periodically” is intended broadly to convey types of signaling that are non-continuous. For example, periodically may include signaling (e.g., paging) at predefined intervals, according to particular thresholds, etc. At block 725, the Bluetooth radio of the femtocell detects a response from the UE 115 over a Bluetooth link. More generally, the femtocell may page the UE 115 over an OOB communications link and then detect a response to the paging from the UE 115 over the OOB communications link. The response may include an OOB identifier of the UE 115. In some embodiments, the response may include a macro identifier of the UE 115.
  • Having received the response from the UE 115, the femtocell 125 may be aware that the UE 115 is in proximity, and the femtocell 125 may know the Bluetooth device address (e.g., BD_ADDR) of the UE 115. As described above, the Bluetooth device address may effectively provide a unique out-of-band identifier for the UE 115. In some configurations, the femtocell 125 makes further determinations. For example, as discussed above, the femtocell 125 may determine whether the UE 115 is authorized to access the macro network 100 via the femtocell 125, through the in-band frequency module 230, for example.
  • At block 710-a, a macro identifier identifying the UE 115 on the macro network 100 (e.g., the IMSI) may be determined. For example, UE mappings 219 between a corresponding OOB identifier and macro identifier for a particular UE 115 may be maintained by the femtocell 125, such that the femtocell 125 may determine the macro identifier of the UE 115 from its corresponding Bluetooth device address. Alternatively, the mappings may be maintained at the femtocell gateway 540.
  • At block 715-a, the UE 115 may be registered for hand-in from the macrocell base station 105 to the target femtocell 125. In particular, the femtocell 125 may communicate an OOB proximity detection or OOB presence indication to the femtocell gateway 540 with an identifier of the UE 115 to register the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540. In some configurations, in which the UE mappings are maintained at the femtocell 125, the OOB proximity detection or indiction may be communicated to the femtocell gateway 540 with the UE's 115 macro identifier (e.g., and OOB identifier, in some configurations). In other configurations, in which the UE mappings are maintained at the femtocell gateway 540, the OOB proximity detection or indication may be communicated to the femtocell gateway 540 with the UE's 115 OOB identifier, and the femtocell gateway 540 may then determine the mapping to the corresponding macro identifier.
  • Using Bluetooth for proximity may provide a number of features. For example, Bluetooth may allow for relatively low-power paging, range that may be similar to that of the femtocell coverage area, etc. Further, many UEs 115 may already be equipped with Bluetooth radios, such that the techniques may be implemented with little or no changes to the UEs 115. However, certain limitations may manifest in some configurations. For example, the femtocell 125 may need to be integrated with the Bluetooth radio, and certain types of provisioning may be difficult. Further, when using an open-femtocell (e.g., no access control list) or enterprise-type configuration, it may be difficult or inefficient to page the large number of Bluetooth addresses corresponding to all UEs 115 that may be in proximity. Some embodiments may utilize other forms of OOB communication to address these issues, or utilize other methods discussed herein.
  • FIG. 8 shows a flow diagram of a method 800 for handling active hand-ins with a femtocell in accordance with various embodiments. The method 800 may, for example, be performed by the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, 2B, 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 800 is shown in the context of block 715 of FIG. 7A or FIG. 7B for added clarity. For the sake of illustration, the method 800 is described for a UE 115 that was registered by the femtocell 125 with the femtocell gateway 540, for example, according to the method 700-a of FIG. 7A.
  • Accordingly, the method 800 may begin at block 805 by receiving a handover request for a pre-registered UE 115 (a UE 115 for which OOB proximity detection has previously been communicated to the femtocell gateway 540) at the femtocell 125 from the femtocell gateway 540. In these cases, the handover request may be received subsequent to registered the UE 115 from hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell. In some embodiments, the femtocell 125 maintains an awareness of its registration of the UE 115, such that it is aware of the proximity of the UE 115 when the handover request is received. In other embodiments, the handover request includes a flag or other indication to the femtocell 125 that the implicated UE 115 is believed to be in the femtocell's 125 proximity (e.g., that the UE 115 has been pre-registered by the femtocell 125 by communicating an OOB proximity detection to the femtocell gateway 540).
  • At block 810, an acknowledgement message may be communicated from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540 in response to receiving the handover request. The messaging between the femtocell 125 and the femtocell gateway 540 may be implemented across one or more networks. For example, the acknowledgement message may be communicated from the femtocell 125 to a secure gateway at the edge of a core network over an Internet Protocol Security (IPSec) tunnel, from the secure gateway to an IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) network in the core network, and from the IMS network to the femtocell gateway 540 in the core network.
  • At block 815, the pre-registered UE 115 is directed to hand in active communications from its currently connected (source) macrocell 105 to the target femtocell 125. Notably, the UE 115 may not typically receive any handover direction from the femtocell 125. Rather, the femtocell 125 may acknowledge the handover request to indicate that it is an appropriate handover target, and macro network 100 elements (e.g., the source macrocell 105) ultimately may communicate the handover directive to the UE 115.
  • Merely by way of example, a call flow diagram 900 illustrating an active hand-in according to the methods 700 and 800 of FIGS. 7 and 8 is shown in FIG. 9. The call flow diagram 900 shows communications between a UE 115, a currently connected (source) macrocell 105, RNC 120, a source SGSN 650, a target femtocell gateway 540, and two potential target femtocells 125-a and 125-b. For the sake of avoiding excess detail, the signaling between source macrocell 105 in communication with a macro RNC 120, is not shown. It is assumed for the sake of the call flow diagram 900 that the potential target femtocells 125 have a common cell identifier (e.g., they have the same PSC). As such, it may be necessary to reliably determine the appropriate one of the potential target femtocells 125 to ensure a successful active hand-in.
  • The call flow diagram 900 begins at block 904 with the UE 115 currently engaged in an active macro communications, like a voice call or a data call, that may be facilitated by the source SGSN 650 via the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120. At some time, the UE 115 moves into proximity of the OOB frequency module 240 associated with a first of the potential target femtocell 125-a (e.g., the OOB frequency module 240 and an in-band frequency module 230 may integrated into the femtocell 125-a). At block 908, the OOB frequency module 240 may detect the UE 115 in its proximity (e.g., as in block 705 of FIG. 7A). At block 912, the first potential target femtocell 125-a may send an OOB proximity detection or indication (e.g., a registration request) to the target femtocell gateway 540 to pre-register the UE 115 (e.g., according to block 715 of FIG. 7A). At block 914, the target femtocell gateway 540 may respond with a registration acceptance acknowledging the reception of the registration request from the target femtocell 125-a, and then may confirm that an entry for the UE 115 and registering femtocell 125-a have been created in the registration database.
  • At some time thereafter, the UE 115 may move into the femtocell coverage area of the femtocell 125, detect the femtocell 125, and send a measurement report to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 916. The measurement report may include the pilot strength of the femtocell 125 as observed by the UE 115 and the PSC of the femtocell 125. The source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 may determine that a handover is required according to the measurement report and may communicate a relocation required message to the source SGSN 650 at block 920. At block 924, the relocation required message may be communicated (e.g., as a relocation request message over the core network) from the source SGSN 650 to the target femtocell gateway 540.
  • Having received a relocation request, the target femtocell gateway 240 may now determine which potential target femtocell 125 is the correct target for the hand-in. For example, the handover request may include the IMSI of the UE 115 and the PSC of the target femtocell 125. However, in this exemplary case, two potential target femtocells 125 may have the same PSC, such that one cannot be uniquely identified by the PSC alone. Using traditional techniques, as described above, the handover request may be addressed, for example, by ignoring the hand-in, by blindly selecting one of the potential target femtocells 125, etc. However, having received the OOB proximity indication or UE registration message at block 912, the target femtocell gateway 540 may reliably select the first potential target femtocell 125-a as the correct target femtocell 125 for the hand-in.
  • At block 928, the target femtocell gateway 540 may send the handover request to the first target femtocell 125-a. The first target femtocell 125-a may respond to the target femtocell gateway 540 with a handover response carrying an “accept” message at block 932. The handover may then be communicated to the UE 115 via the core network and/or the macro network 100. Notably, while referred to generically herein in some instances as “handover requests” for the sake of simplicity, each related message may, in fact, be of a different form and/or purpose. For example, as illustrated, a handover response may be communicated from the target femtocell gateway 540 to the source SGSN 650 as a relocation response message at block 936; a relocation command may be communicated from the source SGSN 650 to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 940; and/or a relocation command may be communicated from the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 to the UE 115 as a physical channel configuration message at block 944.
  • At block 948, the UE 115 may communicate an acknowledgement message, the physical channel reconfiguration message to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120. At block 952, the UE 115 may attempt to detect and synchronize with the first potential femtocell 125-a; and, at block 956, the UE 115 may communicate a handover complete message to the first potential target femtocell 125-a; and the first potential target femtocell 125-a may communicate the handover complete message to the target femtocell gateway 540 at block 960. Although not shown in the figure, the handover complete message may be relayed to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 so that the radio link set-up for the UE 115 can be deleted. Having completed the hand-in, the UE's 115 active macro communications (e.g., the voice call) continue at block 964 facilitated by the appropriately identified target femtocell 125 (i.e., previously the first potential target femtocell 125-a) instead of by the source macrocell 125 and/or RNC 120.
  • It is worth noting that the call flow diagram 900 is intended to show one example of a exemplary call flow and is simplified in many ways to add clarity. For example, while a “handover request” is discussed in a number of blocks, it will be appreciated that each element may communicate the message in similar or different forms with similar or different information included. As such, the call flow diagram 900 should not be construed as limiting the scope of the disclosure or claims.
  • It is further worth noting that it may be necessary or desirable to de-register UEs 115 in certain cases. For example, suppose that a UE 115 is registered by a first femtocell 125-a. Later, the UE 115 may move into proximity of a second femtocell 125-b that may have the same PSC of the first femtocell 125-a, but may be located well out of range of the first femtocell 125-a (e.g., miles away). The UE 115 may send a measurement report with the shared PSC, triggering a handover request. At this block, the femtocell gateway 540 may have to use one or more techniques to determine that handover to the second femtocell 125-b, rather than to the first femtocell 125-a, is desired. Otherwise, registration by the first femtocell 125-a may cause the femtocell gateway 540 to attempt a hand-in of the active communications of the UE 115 from its current macrocell 105 to the first femtocell 125-a, even though the UE 115 is well out of range of the first femtocell 125, which may cause undesirable results (e.g., an active voice call may be dropped). Registration time stamps, de-registration, and/or other techniques described herein may be used to address this issue, as described more fully below.
  • FIG. 10 shows a flow diagram of a method 1000 for handling de-registration of UEs in accordance with various embodiments. The method 1000 may, for example, be performed by the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, 2B, 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 1000 is shown in the context of block 715 of FIG. 7A for added clarity. For the sake of illustration, the method 1000 is described for a UE 115 that was registered by the femtocell 125 with the femtocell gateway 540, for example, according to the method 700-a of FIG. 7A.
  • The method 1000 may begin at block 1005 by determining whether an OOB communications link between the OOB frequency module 240 and the registered UE 115 has been lost. As described above (e.g., with reference to block 705 of FIG. 7A), an OOB communications link may be established between the UE 115 and an OOB frequency module 240 associated with the target femtocell 125. If the OOB communications link is lost (e.g., at all, for a predetermined minimum duration, etc.), this may indicate that the UE 115 is no longer in proximity to the femtocell 125.
  • If it is determined at block 1005 that the OOB communications link has been lost (e.g., since registration of the UE 115), the UE 115 may be de-registered at the femtocell gateway 540 by the femocell 125 at block 1010. If it is determined at block 1005 that the OOB communications link has not been lost, a further determination may be made at block 1015 as to whether a handover request has been received for the registered UE 115 at the femtocell 125. If a handover request has not been received, the method 1000 may iterate through blocks 1005 and 1015 until either the OOB communications link is determined to be lost at block 1005 or the handover request is received at block 1015. If a handover request has been received for the registered UE 115 at the femtocell 125, the registered UE 115 may be directed to hand-in (e.g., according to block 815 of FIG. 8).
  • Certain embodiments may handle de-registration in other ways. For example, in one configuration, the method 1000 may explicitly de-register the UE 115 after completing the hand-in (e.g., successfully and/or unsuccessfully). Notably, however, it may be useful to maintain the registration (i.e., not de-register the UE 115) even after hand-in to provide the network with knowledge about the proximity of the UE 115 and/or other types of information that can be gained from the registration.
  • According to another configuration, when the UE 115 is registered at the femtocell gateway 540, the registration is associated with a timestamp. For example, the registering femtocell 125 may communicate an OOB proximity detection that includes the UE's 115 macro identifier (e.g., or OOB identifier) and a timestamp. If another femtocell 125 subsequently sends a registration request to the femtocell gateway 540 for the same UE 115, the new registration request may include a later timestamp. The femtocell gateway 540 may then consider any prior registration request to be invalid, and facilitate handover to the later-requesting femtocell 125. For example, the UE 115 may implicitly be de-registered from prior-requesting femtocell 125 upon receiving a subsequent registration request at the femtocell gateway 540.
  • According to still another configuration, timer-based de-registration is implemented. For example, upon registering the UE 115, the femtocell 125 may begin a timer (e.g., or otherwise begin tracking elapsed time). A certain timeframe (e.g., one minute) may be determined after which de-registration is appropriate. For example, setting the timeframe too small may cause the femtocell 125 to have to re-register the UE 115 inefficiently, while setting the timeframe too large may allow the UE 115 to enter coverage areas of other femtocells 125 potentially sharing the same PSC prior to the de-registration. Notably, timer-based de-registration may be undesirable in certain configurations. For example, after registration, a handover request may not be received for a long time due to the UE 115 being idle or due to some other circumstance. If the UE 115 were implicitly de-registered prior to receiving the handover request, benefits of the registration may be lost.
  • FIGS. 7-10 are discussed above primarily in context of pre-registration (i.e., communicating the OOB proximity detection for a UE 115 prior to receiving a handover request for the UE 115). It may be appreciated that similar techniques may be used in cases where the OOB proximity detection is communicated subsequent to receiving a handover request implicating the UE 115. For example, as described above, the femtocell gateway 540 may be unable to determine the appropriate target femtocell 125 for hand-in based only on the cell identifier provided in the handover request from the SGSN 650, and may communicate a handover request to all candidate target femtocells 125 (e.g., simultaneously).
  • FIG. 11 shows a flow diagram of a method 1100 for implementing certain active hand-in functionality without pre-registration (i.e., without having communicated the OOB proximity detection for a UE 115 prior to receiving a handover request for the UE 115) in accordance with various embodiments. The method 1100 may, for example, be performed by the femtocell 125 of FIG. 1, 2A, 2B, 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 1100 may begin at block 1105 by receiving a handover request at a femtocell 125 via its in-band frequency module 230 from a femtocell gateway 540 for a designated UE 115. The femtocell gateway 540 may send the handover request to a set of candidate femtocells that share the same PSCs. Note that the handover request may be sent to each femtocell with a “dummy ID”, instead of the target femtocell macro identifier. The “dummy ID” may indicate to the femtocell 125 that the handover request is for a PSC confusion scenario where multiple candidate femtocells 125 have been identified, hence, an OOB capable femtocell 125 may use an OOB detection of a designated UE 115 (a UE with mapping between a UE macro identifier and OOB identifier stored in the femtocell). Otherwise, the femtocell 125 may use legacy techniques like blind support or no support to respond to the handover request.
  • At block 1110, the femtocell 125 may confirm that the UE 115 has an entry in the UE mappings 219 between the UE macro identifier and OOB identifier. For example, if the UE 115 is in the femtocell's 125 UE mappings 219 (e.g., in the femtocell's 125 access control list), the femtocell 125 may be able to use the UE's 115 IMSI, etc. to determine the UE's 115 OOB identifier (e.g., BD_ADDR). Then the OOB frequency module 240 of the femtocell 125 may be used to detect the UE 115 over an OOB communications channel. Note that if a mapping for the UE was not found in UE mapping 219, the femtocell 125 may be unable to use OOB detection and hence, send a handover response based on other techniques such as blind support or no support as shown in block 1115.
  • Having used OOB communication to detect the UE 115 at block 1120, a determination is made at block 1125 as to whether the UE 115 is detected in proximity to the femtocell 125. If it is determined at block 1125 that the UE 115 is not detected in proximity to the femtocell 125, the femtocell 125 may communicate a detection failure response to the femtocell gateway 540 at block 1130 through a handover response with a “reject” flag. If it is determined at block 1125 that the UE 115 is detected in proximity to the femtocell 125, femtocell 125 may communicate a detection successful response to the femtocell gateway 540 at block 1135.
  • Having successfully detected the UE 115 in its proximity, the femtocell 125 may handle the hand-in in various ways. According to one technique, the femtocell 125 registers the UE 115 for hand-in to the femtocell gateway 540 (e.g., by communicating the cell identifier of the UE 115 from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540 in a registration message such as with block 715 of FIG. 7A) followed by a handover response with an “accept” flag 1145. According to another technique, the femtocell 125 communicates successful proximity detection with a handover response with an “accept” and “OOB indicator” flags 1140. The reception of an OOB indicator in a handover response message at block 1228 or a UE 115 registration preceding the handover response with an “accept” flag at block 908, alerts the femtocell gateway 540 to the fact that the handover response is based on OOB detection and the UE has been successfully detected. The femtocell gateway may give precedence to such responses over handover responses based on other techniques like blind hand-off or no support since these techniques are less reliable. Having communicated a successful detection to the femtocell gateway 540, the UE's 115 communications may be handed over to the femtocell 125 in a reliable fashion.
  • FIGS. 7-11 focus primarily on handling of hand-in functionality from the perspective of a femtocell 125. As described above and as illustrated by the call flow diagram 900 of FIG. 9, active hand-in functionality is further facilitated by actions of the femtocell gateway 540. Techniques for handling of hand-in functionality from the perspective of a femtocell gateway 540 are described in FIGS. 12-14.
  • Turning to FIG. 12, a flow diagram is shown of a method 1200 for handling femtocell-assisted hand-in at a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments. The method 1200 may, for example, be performed by the femtocell gateway 540 of FIG. 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 1200 may begin at block 1205 a handover request may be received, at a femtocell gateway 540 from a macro network 100. The handover request may be configured to direct a UE 115 to hand off active communications with the macro network 100 from a macrocell 105 to a designated femtocell 125 with a first femtocell identifier.
  • At block 1210, it may be determined at the femtocell gateway 540 whether any of multiple femtocells 125 registered the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540 prior to receiving the handover request. Block 1210 may include determining whether an OOB proximity detection is received from any of the multiple femtocells prior to receiving the handover request. The OOB proximity detection may include a macro identifier of the UE 115, such as an IMSI. The OOB proximity detection may include an OOB identifier of the UE 115. In some cases, the femtocell gateway 540 may determine whether the macro identifier of the UE 115 corresponds to the OOB identifier of the UE 115. In some embodiments, the femtocell gateway 540 may determine whether two or more femtocells of the multiple femtocells are addessable by the femtocell gateway 540 according to the first femtocell identifier. The femtocell gateway 540 may then determine whether the designated femtocell is one of the two or more femtocells addressable according to the first femtocell identifier utilizing a second femtocell identifier.
  • At block 1215, the femtocell gateway 540 may communicate the handover request to the designated femtocell 125. Some embodiments of method 1200 may further include determining whether the designated femtocell 125 is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway 540 according to the first femtocell identifier. Communicating the handover request from the femtocell gateway 540 to designated femtocell may utilize the first femtocell identifier.
  • Turning to FIG. 13A, a flow diagram is shown of a method 1300-a for handling femtocell-assisted active hand-in at a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments. The method 1300-a may, for example, be performed by the femtocell gateway 540 of FIG. 5, 6A, or 6B. The method 1300-a may begin at block 1205 by receiving a handover request at the femtocell gateway 540 from a macro network 100 (e.g., from the SGSN 650 over the core network). The handover request may be configured to direct a UE 115 to hand off active macro communications from a current (source) macrocell 105 to a designated femtocell 125. The designated femtocell 125 may be one of a number of femtocells 125 in communication with the femtocell gateway 540, and each femtocell 125 may be identifiable by a first femtocell identifier (e.g., a PSC). Each femtocell 125 may also be identifiable by a second femtocell identifier, which may be a femtocell gateway-oriented identifier (e.g., an identifier used by the femtocell gateway 540 to uniquely address all the femtocells 125 in communication with the femtocell gateway 540). Note that this femtocell gateway identifier can be similar to the unique identifier broadcasted in the system information of the femtocells 125. In addition, the femtocell gateway 540 can send handover requests to the femtocells 125 with an identifier termed the “dummy ID” which indicates to the femtocells 125 that the handover request is for a PSC confusion scenario where multiple candidate femtocells 125 have been identified, hence, an OOB capable femtocell 125 with an OOB frequency module 240 may use the OOB detection for a designated UE 115. Otherwise, the femtocell 125 may use legacy techniques like blind support or no support to respond to the handover request. Note that the “dummy ID” may have a similar format as the femtocell gateway oriented identifier but it has not been assigned to any femtocell 125.
  • As described above, the first femtocell identifier may be substantially non-unique. For example, a number of femtocells 125 in the same macro sector may share the same first femtocell identifier (e.g., PSC). On the contrary, the second femtocell identifier may be substantially or completely unique. For example, the second femtocell identifier may be at least unique enough so as to be used to reliably identify a particular femtocell 125 from the perspective of the femtocell gateway 540. It may be assumed that the designated femtocell 125 is identified in the handover request by its first femtocell identifier. For example, the first femtocell identifier may be how the femtocell 125 is identified by the UE 115 as part of its measurement report, which is then used to trigger the handover request.
  • At block 1210, a determination may be made as to whether any femtocells 125 registered the macro identifier of the UE 115 (e.g., the IMSI) with the femtocell gateway 540 prior to receiving the handover request at the femtocell gateway 540. If it is determined at block 1210 that a particular (“registering”) femtocell 125 registered the macro identifier of the UE 115 with the femtocell gateway 540 prior to receiving the handover request at the femtocell gateway 540, the designated femtocell 125 may be determined to be the “registering” femtocell 125 at block 1305 (i.e., the “registering” femtocell 125 may be determined to be the target femtocell 125 for hand-in). Accordingly, at block 1215, the handover request may be communicated from the femtocell gateway 540 to the designated femtocell 125 (i.e., the “registering” femtocell 125) according to its second femtocell identifier. For example, the femtocell gateway 540 may maintain a mapping for all its connected femtocells 125 between their respective first and second identifiers. The femtocell gateway 540 may uniquely address the handover request to the designated femtocell 125 by mapping the received first femtocell identifier (which may be substantially non-unique) to the maintained second femtocell identifier (which may be substantially unique). After the handover request is sent to the femtocell 125, at block 1310, an acknowledgement message (e.g. handover request message with an “accept” may be received by the femtocell gateway 540 from the designated femtocell 125.
  • If it is determined at block 1210 that no femtocells 125 registered the macro identifier of the UE 115 (using an OOB proximity detection or UE registration message) with the femtocell gateway 540 prior to receiving the handover request at the femtocell gateway 540, the femtocell gateway 540 may use one or more techniques to handle the hand-in without being able to exploit pre-registration. For example, at block 1315, a set of candidate target femtocells 125 may be determined from those femtocells 125 registered at the femtocell gateway 540. For example, the femtocell gateway 540 may include in the set of candidates all femtocell 125 in the relevant macro sector associated with the received first femtocell identifier. As described above, the femtocell gateway 540 may send handover request for the designated UE 115 to any or a set of the femtocells 125 in the candidate list.
  • In some embodiments, the handover request sent to the femtocells 125 of the candidate list are directed to detect the UE 115 at block 1320. In some cases, the handover request may include a “dummy ID” so femtocells 125 with OOB frequency modules 240 may be directed to detect the UE 115. For example, the femtocells 125 may engage in proximity detection according to techniques described with reference to FIG. 11. It may be possible that none of the candidate femtocells 125 will detect the UE 115 in its proximity, or that multiple candidate femtocells 125 will detect the UE 115 in their proximity. Various techniques may be used to abort the method 1300 where there is no successful detection, or to select a “best” result when there are multiple successes. Notably, embodiments may use only OOB detection. Use of the OOB detection may obviate the possibility that multiple successes would occur. Accordingly, and for the sake of clarity, it is assumed that one of the candidate femtocells 125 is identifiable by the femtocell gateway 540 as having successfully detected the UE 115 in its proximity.
  • At block 1325, an indication is received at the femtocell gateway 540 from one of the candidate femtocells 125 that the UE 115 is in its proximity. The femtocell 125 that indicates that the UE 115 is in its proximity may be referred to as a successful femtocell. This may be a registration message accompanied by a handover response with an “accept” flag or a handover response with “accept” and “OOB indicator” flags, etc.
  • At block 1330, the femtocell gateway 540 may direct the designated UE 115 to be handed over to the designated (registering) femtocell 125 determined from blocks 1210, 1305, 1215, and/or 1310. Otherwise, if there was no pre-registration for the designated UE 115 in 1210, the femtocell gateway 540 may direct the designated UE 125 to be handed over to the designated femtocell 125 determined from blocks 1210, 1315, 1320, and/or 1325.
  • In some embodiments, the femtocell gateway 540 may monitor an elapsed time subsequent to directing the set of candidate femtocells 125 to detect whether UE 115 is in its proximity. The femtocell gateway 540 may determine whether the indication from one of the candidate femtocells 125 that the UE 115 is in its proximity is received while the elapsed time is within a predefined time limit. The femtocell gateway 540 may communicate the handover request to the designated femtocell 125 when the indication from the one of the candidate femtocells 125 that the UE 115 is in its proximity is received within the predefined time limit.
  • Turning to FIG. 13B, a flow diagram is shown of a method 1300-b for handling femtocell-assisted active hand-in at a femtocell gateway in accordance with various embodiments. The method 1300-b may, for example, be performed by the femtocell gateway 540 of FIG. 5, 6A, or 6B. Method 1300-b may utilize aspects of method 1300-a of FIG. 13A, such as blocks 1205 that are not shown in this diagram. For the sake of added clarity, reference numerals from FIG. 13A may used with the addition of a lower-case “a” to indicate a possible illustrative implementation or variation of the corresponding block from FIG. 13A in the context of FIG. 13B.
  • Method 1300-b may include at block 1210-a determining that none of the of multiple femtocells 125 registered the UE 115 prior to receiving the handover request. At block 1315-a, a set of candidate femtocells 125 from the multiple femtocells may be determined. The set of candidate femtocells may be identified by at least the first femtocell identifier in some embodiments. At block 1335, each of the candidate femtocells 125 may be directed with an OOB hand-in cause value in the handover request to detect whether the UE 115 is in its proximity. The OOB hand-in cause value may be unrecognizable by some femtocells 125, while some femtocells 125 with OOB capabilities may recognize the OOB hand-in cause value. A dummy identifier may also be transmitted in some cases. Block 1335 may be referred to as a “first tier” handover request.
  • At block 1340, it may be determined whether an OOB accept message from one of the candidate femtocells 125 is received. The OOB accept message may indicate that the one of the candidate femtocells 125 detects the UE 115 in its proximity. If it is determined that an OOB accept message has been received, the candidate femtocell 125 associated with the OOB accept message may identified as the designated femtocell 125.
  • If an OOB accept message is not received, it may be that only OOB reject message(s) from one or more of the candidate femtocells and/or error indication message(s) from one or more of the candidate femtocells may be received at block 1350. A “second tier” handover request may be made as a result. At block 1355, a handover request with a normal cause value may be transmitting to each of the set of candidate femtocells 125. The normal cause value may be recognizable by the candidate femtocells 125 in general. A dummy identifier may also be transmitted in some cases. The femtocell cells 125 may respond using legacy techniques such as a handover response with blind accept or blind reject flag. At block 1360, at least a blind accept or a blind reject from one or more of the candidate femtocells 125 may be received. At block 1365, the candidate femtocell 125 associated with the blind accept may be identified as the designated femtocell.
  • At block 1330-a, the designated UE 115 may be directed to hand in from its current connected macrocell 105 to the designated femtocell 125.
  • Exemplary call flow diagrams 1400-a and 1400-b, illustrating an active hand-in according to the methods 1100, 1200, and/or 1300-a of FIGS. 11, 12, and/or 13A, respectively, are shown in FIG. 14A and FIG. 14B. The call flow diagrams 1400 are similar to the call flow diagram 900 of FIG. 9, and similar messaging is described according to the same reference numbers as those used in FIG. 9. It will be appreciated that the messaging, while similar, may not be identical according to the circumstances of the different call flows. In particular, FIG. 9 describes a pre-registration scenario, while FIGS. 14A and 14B describe a post-registration scenario. In FIG.14A, a post-registration scenario is illustrated where the OOB proximity detection may be communicated from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540 by a combination of UE registration message and a handover request with an “accept” flag. In FIG.14B, a post-registration scenario is illustrated where the OOB proximity detection may be communicated from the femtocell 125 to the femtocell gateway 540 by a handover request with “accept” and OOB indicator flags.
  • As in FIG. 9, the call flow diagrams 1400 show communications between a UE 115, a currently connected (source) macrocell 105 and/or RNC120, a source SGSN 650, a target femtocell gateway 540, and two potential target femtocell 125-a and 125-b. For the sake of avoiding excess detail, the source macrocell base station may include a source macrocell 105 in communication with a macro RNC 120, and signaling between those elements is not shown. It is assumed for the sake of the call flow diagrams 1400 that the potential target femtocells 125 have a common cell identifier (e.g., they have the same PSC). As such, it may be necessary to reliably determine the appropriate one of the potential target femtocells 125 to ensure a successful active hand-in.
  • The call flow diagrams 1400 may begin at block 904 with the UE 115 currently engaged in an active macro communications, like a voice call or a data call, facilitated by the source SGSN 650 via the source macrocell 105 and/or the RNC 120. At some time, the UE 115 may move into the femto coverage area of the femtocell 125, detect the femtocell 125, and send a measurement report to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 916. The measurement report may include the pilot strength of the femtocell 125 as observed by the UE 115 and the PSC of the femtocell 125. The source source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 may determine that a handover is required according to the measurement report and communicates a relocation required message to the source SGSN 650 at block 920. At block 924, the relocation required message may be communicated (e.g., as a relocation request message over the core network) from the source SGSN 650 to the target femtocell gateway 540.
  • It is assumed in FIGS. 14A and 14B that, at the block when the relocation request 924 is received by the femtocell gateway 540, the UE 115 has still not been registered by any femtocells 125 sharing the identifier, such that multiple femtocells 125 may be candidate target femtocells 125 for the hand-in. In some cases, the femtocell gateway 540 may send handover request with “dummy ID” to the candidate femtocells 125 at block 1402. At block 1404, the OOB frequency module 240 associated with a first of the potential target femtocell 125-a (e.g., the OOB frequency module 240 and the in-band frequency module may be integrated into the first potential target femtocell 125-a) detects the UE 115 in its proximity.
  • In FIG. 14A, when the UE 115 is detected by the first of the potential target femtocell 125-a, the femtocell 125-a may send an OOB proximity detection to the target femtocell gateway 540 by sending a registration message for the designated UE 115 at block 1408 and a handover response with an “accept” flag at block 932. Having received the OOB proximity detection and the handover request, the target femtocell gateway 540 can determine the designated femtocell 125-a. . Note that the femtocell 125-b may also receive the handover request at block 1402 and may reply back to the target femtocell gateway 540 with a handover response based on blind off at block 1410. As described above, the target femtocell gateway 540 may distinguish the handover response based on OOB detection from those based on the blind off, and hence can determine the designated femtocell 125-a.
  • In FIG. 14B, after OOB detection at block 1404, the femtocells 125 may send handover response messages at block 1410. While multiple potential target femtocells 125 may send handover response messages, only target femtocell 125-a (i.e., which detected the UE 115 in its proximity) communicates an OOB proximity detection to the femtocell gateway 540 along with its handover response (e.g., by sending “accept” and OOB indicator flags at block 1406).
  • Irrespective of whether the OOB proximity detection or indicator in FIG. 14A or FIG. 14B is used, the handover may then communicated to the UE 115 via the core network and the macro network 100. Notably, while referred to generically herein in some instances as “handover requests” for the sake of simplicity, each related message may, in fact, be of a different form and/or purpose. For example, as illustrated, a handover response may be communicated from the target femtocell gateway 540 to the source SGSN 650 as a relocation response message at block 936; a relocation command may be communicated from the source SGSN 650 to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 940; and/or a relocation command may be communicated from the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC to the UE 115 as a physical channel configuration message at block 944.
  • At block 948, the UE 115 may communicate an acknowledgement message, the physical channel reconfiguration message to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120. At block 952, the UE may attempt to detect and synchronize with the first potential femtocell 125-a. At block 956, the UE 115 may communicate a handover complete message to the first potential target femtocell 125-a; and the first potential target femtocell 125-a may communicate the handover complete message to the target femtocell gateway 540 at block 960. Although not shown in the figure, the Handover complete message may be relayed to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 so that the radio link set-up for the UE 115 can be deleted. Having completed the hand-in, the UE's 115 active macro communications (e.g., the voice call) continue at block 964 facilitated by the appropriately identified target femtocell 125 (i.e., previously the first potential target femtocell 125-a) instead of by the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120.
  • Other embodiments for facilitating the active hand-in in a post-registration scenario may include tiered approaches. With this method, the femtocell gateway 540 may give priority to handover responses from OOB-capable femtocells 125 (e.g., those having an OOB frequency module 240 that uses the OOB link for detection), over responses from femtocells 125 that are not OOB-capable. This prioritization may be desirable because the responses based on OOB detection may be more reliable than the default response configurations in femtocells that typically involve a “blind” accept or reject of the handover request.
  • In these embodiments, the femtocell gateway 540 may attempt to first obtain handover responses based on OOB detection by sending “first tier” handover request targeted towards OOB-capable femtocells 125 only. If no handover response with an “accept” flag is received by the femtocell gateway 540, the femtocell gateway 540 may send a “second tier” handover request message to all candidate femtocells 125. The “tiered approach” can be implemented by defining a new “cause value” field in the handover request, thereby obtaining “OOB capability awareness” from the core network 130 of FIG. 1 about the femtocells 125 supported by the femtocell gateway 540, etc. The “cause value” field may typically be used in handover request in deployed networks to communicate to the femtocells 125 the reason for handover request.
  • In FIG. 15A and FIG. 15B, call flows for the embodiments in which the “cause value” is used in the “tiered approach” for post registration detection are discussed. FIG. 15A and/or FIG. 15B may illustrate an active hand-in according to the method 1300-b of FIG. 13B. FIG. 15A and/or FIG. 15B show aspects that may be implemented as aspects of method 1300-b of FIG. 13B. FIG. 15A illustrates a scenario where OOB detection is successful, and FIG. 15B illustrates a scenario where the OOB detection is unsuccessful. As in FIGS. 9, 14A, and/or 14B, the call flow diagrams 1500-a and 1500-b show communications between a UE 115, a currently connected (source) macrocell 105 and/or RNC 105/120, a source SGSN 650, a target femtocell gateway 540, and two potential target femtocells 125. For the sake of avoiding excess detail, the source macrocell base station may include the source macrocell 105 (which may be source macro Node B) in communication with a macro RNC 120, and signaling between those elements is not shown. It is assumed for the sake of the call flow diagrams 1500 that the potential target femtocells 125 have a common cell identifier (e.g., they have the same PSC). As such, it may be necessary to reliably determine the appropriate one of the potential target femtocells 125 to ensure a successful active hand-in.
  • The call flow diagrams 1500 begin at block 904 with the UE 115 currently engaged in an active macro communications, like a voice call or a data call, facilitated by the source SGSN 650 via the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120. At some time, the UE 115 may move into the femto coverage area of a femtocell 125, detect the femtocell 125, and send a measurement report to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 916. The measurement report may include the pilot strength of the femtocell 125 as observed by the UE 115 and the PSC of the femtocell 125. The source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 may determine that a handover is required according to the measurement report and communicates a relocation required message to the source SGSN 650 at block 920. At block 924, the relocation required message is communicated (e.g., as a relocation request message over the core network) from the source SGSN 650 to the target femtocell gateway 540.
  • It is assumed in FIG. 15A that at the block when the relocation request 924 may be received by the femtocell gateways 540, the UE 115 has still not been registered by any femtocells 125 sharing the identifier, such that multiple femtocells 125 are candidate target femtocells 125 for the hand-in. As a result, the femtocell gateway 540 may send the “first tier” handover request with “dummy ID” and an unrecognized “cause value” 1502 (e.g. “OOB hand-in”) to the candidate femtocells 125. At block 1504, femtocells 125 without the OOB capability (e.g., illustrated as femtocell 125-b) respond back with an “error indication” in the handover response. At block 1505, an OOB-capable femtocell 125 (e.g., illustrated as the first potential target femtocell. 125-a, which is assumed to be integrated with an OOB frequency module 240) may detect the UE 115 in its proximity and send a handover response with an “accept” flag to the femtocell gateway 540 at block 1506.
  • The handover may then be communicated to the UE 115 via the core network and the macro network 100. Notably, while referred to generically herein in some instances as “handover requests” for the sake of simplicity, each related message may, in fact, be of a different form and/or purpose. For example, as illustrated, a handover response may be communicated from the target femtocell gateway 540 to the source SGSN 650 as a relocation response message at block 936; a relocation command may be communicated from the source SGSN 650 to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 at block 940; and a relocation command may be communicated from the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 to the UE 115 as a physical channel configuration message at block 944.
  • At block 948, the UE 115 may communicate an acknowledgement message, the physical channel reconfiguration message to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120. At block 952, the UE 115 may attempt to detect and synchronize with the first potential femtocell 125-a; at block 956, the UE 115 may communicate a handover complete message to the first potential target femtocell 125-a; and the first potential target femtocell 125-a may communicate the handover complete message to the target femtocell gateway 540 at block 960. Although not shown in the figure, the Handover complete message may be relayed to the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120 so that the radio link set-up for the UE 115 can be deleted. Having completed the hand-in, the UE's 115 active macro communications (e.g., the voice call) may continue at block 964 facilitated by the appropriately identified target femtocell 125 (i.e., previously the first potential target femtocell 125-a) instead of by the source macrocell 105 and/or RNC 120.
  • It is assumed in FIG. 15B that, at the block when the relocation request 924 is received by the femtocell gateway 540, the UE 115 may still not been registered by any femtocell 125 sharing the identifier, such that multiple femtocells 125 may be candidate femtocells 125 for the hand-in. As a result, the femtocell gateway 540 may send the “first tier” handover request with “dummy ID” and an unrecognized “cause value” 1502 (e.g. “OOB hand-in”) to the candidate femtocells 125-b without the OOB capability. At block 1504, femtocells 125 without the OOB capability (e.g., femtocells 125-b) may respond back to the femtocell gateway 540 with an “error indication” in the handover response. At block 1508, OOB-capable potential target femtocells 125 (e.g., femtocells 125-a) may recognize the “cause value” and attempt to detect the UE 115 but the detection was unsuccessful. Therefore, all such femtocells 125-a may send handover responses with a “reject” flag 1510 to the femtocell gateway 540.
  • After the femtocell gateway 540 collects all the responses and no handover response with an “accept” flag is received, the femtocell gateway 540 may then sends the “second tier” handover requests 1512 with a “dummy ID” and a “cause value” that can be recognized by all candidate femtocells 125. The femtocells 125-a with OOB capability may not use the OOB detection, but instead all femtocells 125 respond to the handover requests 1512 using legacy techniques such as handover response with blind “accept” or “reject” flags. After the femtocell gateway 540 receives the handover responses 1514, it may uses legacy active hand-in support (which are typically less reliable than using the OOB detection) in implementing hand-in. This legacy support might require that the femtocell gateway 540 to blindly select one femtocell 125 as the designated femtocell 125 or use other criterion (e.g. signal strength) to select the best “femtocell” 125 if such information is available at the femtocell gateway 540.
  • If the femtocell gateway 540 had prior knowledge of which femtocells 125 are OOB capable (OOB capability awareness), the “first tier” handover request 1502 in FIGS. 15A and 15B can be sent only to femtocells 125-a and not to all candidate femtocells 125. This may reduce the signaling involved in the active hand-in process.
  • Techniques described herein may be used for various wireless communication systems such as CDMA, TDMA, FDMA, OFDMA, SC-FDMA, and other systems. The terms “system” and “network” are often used interchangeably. A CDMA system may implement a radio technology such as CDMA2000, Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (UTRA), etc. CDMA2000 covers IS-2000, IS-95, and IS-856 standards. IS-2000 Releases 0 and A are commonly referred to as CDMA2000 1X, 1X, etc. IS-856 (TIA-856) is commonly referred to as CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, High Rate Packet Data (HRPD), etc. UTRA includes Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) and other variants of CDMA. A TDMA system may implement a radio technology such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). An OFDMA system may implement a radio technology such as Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB), Evolved UTRA (E-UTRA), IEEE 802.11 (Wi-Fi), IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX), IEEE 802.20, Flash-OFDM, etc. UTRA and E-UTRA are part of Universal Mobile Telecommunication System (UMTS). 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) and LTE-Advanced (LTE-A) are new releases of UMTS that use E-UTRA. UTRA, E-UTRA, UMTS, LTE, LTE-A, and GSM are described in documents from an organization named “3rd Generation Partnership Project” (3GPP). CDMA2000 and UMB are described in documents from an organization named “3rd Generation Partnership Project 2” (3GPP2). The techniques described herein may be used for the systems and radio technologies mentioned above, as well as for other systems and radio technologies.
  • The various operations of methods described above may be performed by any suitable means capable of performing the corresponding functions. The means may include various hardware and/or software component(s) and/or module(s), including, but not limited to a circuit, an application specific integrate circuit (ASIC), or processor.
  • The various illustrative logical blocks, modules, and circuits described may be implemented or performed with a general purpose processor, a digital signal processor (DSP), an ASIC, a field programmable gate array signal (FPGA), or other programmable logic device (PLD), discrete gate, or transistor logic, discrete hardware components, or any combination thereof designed to perform the functions described herein. A general purpose processor may be a microprocessor, but in the alternative, the processor may be any commercially available processor, controller, microcontroller, or state machine. A processor may also be implemented as a combination of computing devices, e.g., a combination of a DSP and a microprocessor, a plurality of microprocessors, one or more microprocessors in conjunction with a DSP core, or any other such configuration.
  • The steps of a method or algorithm described in connection with the present disclosure, may be embodied directly in hardware, in a software module executed by a processor, or in a combination of the two. A software module may reside in any form of tangible storage medium. Some examples of storage media that may be used include random access memory (RAM), read only memory (ROM), flash memory, EPROM memory, EEPROM memory, registers, a hard disk, a removable disk, a CD-ROM and so forth. A storage medium may be coupled to a processor such that the processor can read information from, and write information to, the storage medium. In the alternative, the storage medium may be integral to the processor. A software module may be a single instruction, or many instructions, and may be distributed over several different code segments, among different programs, and across multiple storage media.
  • The methods disclosed herein comprise one or more actions for achieving the described method. The method and/or actions may be interchanged with one another without departing from the scope of the claims. In other words, unless a specific order of actions is specified, the order and/or use of specific actions may be modified without departing from the scope of the claims.
  • The functions described may be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or any combination thereof If implemented in software, the functions may be stored as one or more instructions on a tangible computer-readable medium. A storage medium may be any available tangible medium that can be accessed by a computer. By way of example, and not limitation, such computer-readable media can comprise RAM, ROM, EEPROM, CD-ROM, or other optical disk storage, magnetic disk storage, or other magnetic storage devices, or any other tangible medium that can be used to carry or store desired program code in the form of instructions or data structures and that can be accessed by a computer. Disk and disc, as used herein, include compact disc (CD), laser disc, optical disc, digital versatile disc (DVD), floppy disk, and Blu-ray® disc where disks usually reproduce data magnetically, while discs reproduce data optically with lasers.
  • Thus, a computer program product may perform operations presented herein. For example, such a computer program product may be a computer readable tangible medium having instructions tangibly stored (and/or encoded) thereon, the instructions being executable by one or more processors to perform the operations described herein. The computer program product may include packaging material.
  • Software or instructions may also be transmitted over a transmission medium. For example, software may be transmitted from a website, server, or other remote source using a transmission medium such as a coaxial cable, fiber optic cable, twisted pair, digital subscriber line (DSL), or wireless technology such as infrared, radio, or microwave.
  • Further, modules and/or other appropriate means for performing the methods and techniques described herein can be downloaded and/or otherwise obtained by a user terminal and/or base station as applicable. For example, such a device can be coupled to a server to facilitate the transfer of means for performing the methods described herein. Alternatively, various methods described herein can be provided via storage means (e.g., RAM, ROM, a physical storage medium such as a CD or floppy disk, etc.), such that a user terminal and/or base station can obtain the various methods upon coupling or providing the storage means to the device. Moreover, any other suitable technique for providing the methods and techniques described herein to a device can be utilized.
  • Other examples and implementations are within the scope and spirit of the disclosure and appended claims. For example, due to the nature of software, functions described above can be implemented using software executed by a processor, hardware, firmware, hardwiring, or combinations of any of these. Features implementing functions may also be physically located at various positions, including being distributed such that portions of functions are implemented at different physical locations. Also, as used herein, including in the claims, “or” as used in a list of items prefaced by “at least one of indicates a disjunctive list such that, for example, a list of “at least one of A, B, or C” means A or B or C or AB or AC or BC or ABC (i.e., A and B and C). Further, the term “exemplary” does not mean that the described example is preferred or better than other examples.
  • Various changes, substitutions, and alterations to the techniques described herein can be made without departing from the technology of the teachings as defined by the appended claims. Moreover, the scope of the disclosure and claims is not limited to the particular aspects of the process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, means, methods, and actions described above. Processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or actions, presently existing or later to be developed, that perform substantially the same function or achieve substantially the same result as the corresponding aspects described herein may be utilized. Accordingly, the appended claims include within their scope such processes, machines, manufacture, compositions of matter, means, methods, or actions.

Claims (66)

1. A method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in comprising:
detecting a user equipment in proximity to a femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link;
identifying a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and
registering the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein identifying the user equipment identifier comprises receiving an OOB identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein identifying the user equipment identifier comprises receiving a macro identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell comprises transmitting a registration message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell comprises transmitting an OOB indication message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
6. The method of claim 2, further comprising:
utilizing a user equipment mapping between a macro identifier of the user equipment with the OOB identifier to determine the user equipment identifier.
7. The method of claim 2, wherein detecting the user equipment in proximity to the femtocell comprises:
paging the user equipment over the OOB communications link; and
detecting a response to the paging from the user equipment over the OOB communications link, wherein the response comprises the OOB identifier of the user equipment.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
receiving a handover request for the user equipment at the femtocell from the femtocell gateway, the handover request being configured to direct the user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from the macrocell to the femtocell.
9. The method of claim 8, wherein the handover request is received subsequent to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell.
10. The method of claim 8, wherein:
the handover request is received prior to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell; and
detecting the user equipment comprises detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request.
11. The method of claim 10, wherein detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request comprises:
detecting the user equipment over the OOB communications link utilizing an OOB identifier of the user equipment.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
detecting a loss of the OOB communications link between the user equipment and the femtocell; and
de-registering the user equipment according to detecting the loss of the OOB communications link.
13. The method of claim 10, wherein registering the user equipment further comprises transmitting a handover response accepting the handover request.
14. The method of claim 1, wherein the femtocell is one of a plurality of femtocells on a macro network, each femtocell having a first femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is non-uniquely addressable by the macro network and a second femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway.
15. The method of claim 1, wherein the OOB communications link comprises a Bluetooth link.
16. The method of claim 14, wherein the first femtocell identifier of each respective femtocell comprises a primary scrambling code (PSC) of the respective femtocell.
17. The method of claim 1, wherein the user equipment identifier comprises a macro identifier associated with the user equipment.
18. The method of claim 17, wherein the macro identifier comprises a International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) associated with the user equipment.
19. A femtocell comprising:
an in-band frequency module, communicatively coupled with a macro network via a femtocell gateway and configured to provide cellular network access to user equipments;
an out-of-band (OOB) frequency module, communicatively coupled with the in-band frequency module and configured to communicate with the user equipments over an OOB communications link; and
a communications management subsystem, communicatively coupled with the in-band frequency module and the OOB frequency module, and configured to:
detect a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link;
identify a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment
detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and
register the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
20. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to identify the user equipment identifier comprises a configuration to receive a macro identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link.
21. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to identify the user equipment identifier comprises a configuration to receive an OOB identifier associated with the user equipment identifier over the OOB communications link.
22. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to register the user equipment comprises a configuration to transmit a registration message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
23. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to register the user equipment comprises a configuration to transmit an OOB indication message from the femtocell to the femtocell gateway.
24. The femtocell of claim 21, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
utilize a user equipment mapping between a macro identifier of the user equipment with the OOB identifier to determine the user equipment identifier.
25. The femtocell of claim 20, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to detect the user equipment in proximity to the femtocell is further configured to:
page the user equipment over the OOB communications link; and
detect a response to the paging from the user equipment over the OOB communications link, wherein the response comprises the macro identifier of the user equipment.
26. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
receive a handover request for the user equipment at the femtocell from the femtocell gateway, the handover request being configured to direct the user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from the macrocell to the femtocell.
27. The femtocell of claim 26, wherein the handover request is received subsequent to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell.
28. The femtocell of claim 26, wherein:
the handover request is received prior to registering the user equipment for hand-in from the macrocell to the femtocell; and
the communications management subsystem configured to detect the user equipment comprises detecting the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request.
29. The femtocell of claim 28, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to detect the user equipment in response to receiving the handover request comprises a configuration to:
detect the user equipment over the OOB communications link utilizing an OOB identifier of the user equipment.
30. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
detect a loss of the OOB communications link between the user equipment and the femtocell; and
de-register the user equipment according to detecting the loss of the OOB communications link.
31. The femtocell of claim 28, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
transmit a handover response accepting the handover request as part of registering the user equipment.
32. The femtocell of claim 19, wherein the femtocell is one of a plurality of femtocells on a cellular network, each femtocell having a first femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is non-uniquely addressable by the macro network and a second femtocell identifier according to which the femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femto gateway.
33. A processor for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in, the processor comprising:
a communications management controller configured to:
detect a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link;
identify a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and
register the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
34. A computer program product for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in residing on a processor-readable medium and comprising processor-readable instructions, which, when executed, cause a processor to perform steps comprising:
detecting a user equipment in proximity to a femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link;
identifying a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and
registering the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
35. A system for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in comprising:
means for detecting a user equipment in proximity to the femtocell using an out-of-band (OOB) communications link;
means for identifying a user equipment identifier corresponding to the user equipment detected in proximity to the femtocell using the OOB communications link; and
means for registering the user equipment for hand-in from a macrocell to the femtocell by communicating, from the femtocell to a femtocell gateway, the user equipment identifier and indicating OOB proximity detection of the user equipment at the femtocell.
36. A method for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in, the method comprising:
receiving, at a femtocell gateway from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier;
determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and
communicating, from the femtocell gateway, the handover request to the designated femtocell.
37. The method of claim 36, wherein determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request comprises:
determining a registering femtocell from the plurality of femtocells that has registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request; and
determining that the registering femtocell is the designated femtocell with the first femtocell identifier.
38. The method of claim 37, further comprising:
receiving an acknowledgement message from the registering femtocell.
39. The method of claim 36, wherein determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the relocation request comprises:
determining that none of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request.
40. The method of claim 39, further comprising:
determining a set of candidate femtocells from the plurality of femtocells registered at the femto gateway, wherein the set of candidate femtocells is identified by at least the first femtocell identifier;
directing each of the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity;
receiving an indication from a successful femtocell of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity; and
determining that the successful femtocell is the designated femtocell.
41. The method of claim 40, further comprising:
monitoring an elapsed time subsequent to directing the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity; and
determining whether the indication from one of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity is received while the elapsed time is within a predefined time limit.
42. The method of claim 36, wherein determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request comprises:
determining whether an OOB proximity detection is received from any of the plurality of femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises a macro identifier of the user equipment.
43. The method of claim 36, wherein determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request comprises:
determining whether an OOB proximity indication is received from any of the plurality of femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises an OOB identifier of the user equipment; and
determining a macro identifier of the user equipment corresponding to the OOB identifier of the user equipment.
44. The method of claim 36, further comprising:
determining whether the designated femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier; and
wherein communicating, from the femtocell gateway, the handover request to designated femtocell utilizes the first femtocell identifier.
45. The method of claim 36, wherein determining, at the femtocell gateway, whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request comprises:
determining whether two or more femtocells of the plurality of femtocells are addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier; and
determining whether the designated femtocell is one of the two or more femtocells addressable according to the first femtocell identifier utilizing a second femtocell identifier.
46. The method of claim 39, further comprising:
determining a set of candidate femtocells from the plurality of femtocells; and
directing, using an OOB hand-in cause value in the handover request, each of the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity.
47. The method of claim 46, further comprising:
receiving an OOB accept message from one of the candidate femtocells, wherein the OOB accept message indicates that the one of the candidate femtocells detects the user equipment in its proximity; and
identifying one of the candidate cells associated with the OOB accept message as the designated femtocell.
48. The method of claim 46, further comprising:
receiving at least an OOB reject message from one or more of the candidate femtocells or an error indication message from one or more of the candidate femtocells and no OOB accept messages; and
transmitting to each of the candidate femtocells a handover request with a normal cause value.
49. The method of claim 48, further comprising:
receiving at least a blind accept or a blind reject from one or more of the candidate femtocells; and
identifying one of the candidate femtocells associated with a blind accept as the designated femtocell.
50. A femtocell gateway comprising:
a macro network interface subsystem configured to communicate with a core node of a macro network and configured to receive communications from the macro network;
a femtocell interface subsystem configured to communicate with a plurality of femtocells; and
a communications management subsystem, communicatively coupled with the macro network interface subsystem and the femtocell interface subsystem, and configured to:
receive, from the macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier;
determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and
communicate the handover request to designated femtocell.
51. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein to determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem is configured to:
determine a registering femtocell from the plurality of femtocells that has registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request; and
determine that the registering femtocell is the designated femtocell with the first femtocell identifier.
52. The femtocell gateway of claim 51, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
receive an acknowledgement message from the registering femtocell.
53. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein to determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem is configured to:
determine that none of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request.
54. The femtocell gateway of claim 53, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
determine a set of candidate femtocells from the plurality of femtocells, wherein the candidate femtocells are identified by at least the first femtocell identifier;
direct each of the candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity;
receive an indication from a successful femtocell of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity; and
determine that the successful femtocell is the designated femtocell.
55. The femtocell gateway of claim 54, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
monitor an elapsed time subsequent to directing the set of candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity; and
determine whether the indication from one of the candidate femtocells that the user equipment is in its proximity is received while the elapsed time is within a predefined time limit.
56. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein to determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
determine whether an OOB proximity indication is received from any of the plurality of femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises a macro identifier of the user equipment.
57. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein to determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request, the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
determine whether an OOB proximity detection is received from any of the plurality of femtocells prior to receiving the handover request, wherein the OOB proximity indication comprises an OOB identifier of the user equipment; and
determine a macro identifier of the user equipment corresponding to the OOB identifier of the user equipment.
58. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
determine whether the designated femtocell is uniquely addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier; and
wherein communicating the handover request to designated femtocell utilizes the first femtocell identifier.
59. The femtocell gateway of claim 50, wherein the communications management subsystem configured to determine whether any of the plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment prior to receiving the handover request comprises a configuration to:
determine whether two or more femtocells of the plurality of femtocells are addressable by the femtocell gateway according to the first femtocell identifier; and
determine whether the designated femtocell is one of the two or more femtocells addressable according to the first femtocell identifier utilizing a second femtocell identifier.
60. The femtocell gateway of claim 53, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
determine a set of candidate femtocells from the plurality of femtocells; and
direct, using an OOB hand-in cause value in the handover request, each of the candidate femtocells to detect whether the user equipment is in its proximity.
61. The femtocell gateway of claim 60, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
receive an OOB accept message from one of the candidate femtocells, wherein the OOB accept message indicates that the one of the candidate femtocells detects the user equipment in its proximity; and
identify the one of the candidate cells as the designated femtocell.
62. The femtocell gateway of claim 60, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
receive at least an OOB reject message from one or more of the candidate femtocells or an error indication message from one or more of the candidate femtocells and no OOB accept messages; and
transmit to each of the candidate femtocells a handover request with a normal cause value.
63. The femtocell gateway of claim 62, wherein the communications management subsystem is further configured to:
receive at least a blind accept or a blind reject from one or more of the candidate femtocells; and
identify one of the candidate femtocells associated with a blind accept as the designated femtocell.
64. A processor for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in in a femtocell gateway, the processor comprising:
a communications management controller configured to:
receive, from the macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier;
determine whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and
communicate the handover request to the designated femtocell.
65. A computer program product for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in residing on a processor-readable medium disposed at a femtocell gateway and comprising processor-readable instructions, which, when executed, cause a processor to perform steps comprising:
receiving, from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier;
determining whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and
communicating the handover request to the designated femtocell.
66. A system for macrocell-to-femtocell hand-in comprising:
means for receiving, from a macro network, a handover request configured to direct a user equipment to hand off active communications with the macro network from a macrocell to a designated femtocell with a first femtocell identifier;
means for determining whether any of a plurality of femtocells registered the user equipment with the femtocell gateway prior to receiving the handover request; and
means for communicating the handover request to the designated femtocell.
US13/223,103 2010-10-15 2011-08-31 Uniquely identifying target femtocell to facilitate femto-assisted active hand-in Abandoned US20120094666A1 (en)

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US13/223,048 US9072032B2 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-08-31 Femtocell indication of mobile device proximity and transmission of mobile identity to assist in resolving femtocell disambiguation
US13/223,103 US20120094666A1 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-08-31 Uniquely identifying target femtocell to facilitate femto-assisted active hand-in
KR1020137012545A KR101561190B1 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-11-01 Methods, apparatuses and system for identifying a target femtocell for hand-in of a user equipment
PCT/US2011/058782 WO2012051632A1 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-11-01 Methods, apparatuses and system for identifying a target femtocell for hand-in of a user equipment
EP11790687.5A EP2628335A1 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-11-01 Methods, apparatuses and system for identifying a target femtocell for hand-in of a user equipment
JP2013534074A JP5698369B2 (en) 2010-10-15 2011-11-01 The method for identifying a target femto cell for hand-in of the user equipment, devices and systems
CN2011800497019A CN103155643A (en) 2010-10-15 2011-11-01 Methods, apparatuses and system for identifying a target femtocell for hand-in of a user equipment
JP2014163827A JP2015008503A (en) 2010-10-15 2014-08-11 Method, device and system for identifying target femto cell for hand-in of user apparatus

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