Patent application title: CALIBRATION MODE
William Webb (Cambridge, GB)
IPC8 Class: AH04W2402FI
Class name: Multiplex communications diagnostic testing (other than synchronization) determination of communication parameters
Publication date: 2013-10-17
Patent application number: 20130272156
A communication device for communicating with a plurality of terminals
via a series of frames, the communication device being configured to
indicate to the terminals, at the commencement of a frame, that
communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame in order
for a calibration to be performed, and to perform said calibration during
the remainder of the time allotted to that frame.
1. A communication device for communicating with a plurality of terminals
via a series of frames, the communication device being configured to
indicate to the terminals, at the commencement of a frame, that
communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame in order
for a calibration to be performed, and to perform said calibration during
the remainder of the time allotted to that frame by transmitting a
constant power signal at a particular frequency or by measuring a
constant power signal transmitted at a particular frequency by another
2. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended by instructing the terminals not to transmit for the remainder of the frame.
3. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended by indicating to the terminals that it will not be transmitting for the remainder of the frame.
4. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to indicate in a header of the frame that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame.
5. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame by not including in the frame any allocations of time slots for one or more of the plurality of terminals.
6. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of a frame by including in the frame an indication that all timeslots in the remainder of the frame are reserved.
7. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to perform said calibration by determining a level of interference present on one or more frequencies.
8. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to perform said calibration by measuring a noise level across one or more frequencies.
9. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to instruct one or more of the terminals that are experiencing interference on a designated carrier frequency to monitor that frequency and transmit to the communication device an indication when it is no longer experiencing interference on that frequency.
10. A communication device as claimed in claim 9, configured to instruct said one or more terminals to transmit the indication via contended access.
11. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured to: report a result of said calibration to a network controller; receive a new frequency hopping sequence from the network controller; and communicate that new frequency hopping sequence to the plurality of terminals.
12. A communication network device as claimed in claim 1, configured to operate in whitespace.
13. A communication device as claimed in claim 1, configured for machine-to-machine communication.
14. A method for communicating with a plurality of terminals via a series of frames, the method comprising: indicating to the terminals, at the commencement of a frame, that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame in order for a calibration to be performed; and performing said calibration during the remainder of the time allotted to that frame by transmitting a constant power signal at a particular frequency or by measuring a constant power signal transmitted at a particular frequency by another communication device.
 The invention relates to an apparatus and method for calibrating a network that is subject to interference on one or more frequencies.
 A wireless network may be configured to operate without having been specifically allocated any part of the electromagnetic spectrum. Such a network may be permitted to operate in so-called whitespace: a part of the spectrum that is made available for unlicensed or opportunistic access. Typically whitespace is found in the UHF TV band and spans 450 MHz to 800 MHz, depending on the country. A large amount of spectrum has been made available for unlicensed wireless systems in this frequency range.
 A problem with operating in whitespace is that the available bandwidth is variable and cannot be guaranteed. These limitations are well-matched to the capabilities of machine-to-machine networks in which there is no human interaction. Machine-to-machine networks are typically tolerant of delays, dropped connections and high latency communications.
 Any network operating in the UHF TV band has to be able to coexist with analogue and digital television broadcast transmitters. The density of the active television channels in any given location is relatively low (resulting in the availability of whitespace that can be used by unlicensed systems). The FCC has mandated that systems operating in the whitespace must reference a database that determines which channels may be used in any given location. This is intended to avoid interference with the TV transmissions and certain other incumbent systems such as wireless microphones.
 For TV receivers (including those for digital TV (DTV), there will inevitably be adjacent channels on which a strong transmission close to the TV receiver will interfere with TV reception. For example, the TV receivers may have image frequencies and poor adjacent channel rejection (ACR) on certain frequencies due to spurs on their local oscillators and limitations in their receive filters. These frequencies are often dependent on the specific receiver implementation.
 Digital TV typically uses a channel bandwidth of 6 to 8 MHz. It also uses OFDM modulation in which the overall channel bandwidth is split into a large number of narrower channels (so-called sub-carriers), each of which is individually modulated. The system is designed so that, if a certain number of sub-carriers are subject to multipath fading, with the result that their signal-to-noise ratio is poor, the overall data can still be recovered. This is typically achieved by using interleaving and error correction codes, which mean that bit errors localized to a limited number of sub-carriers can be corrected. OFDM modulation can therefore achieve considerable robustness to multipath fading.
 OFDM is only able to recover the transmitted data when the interferer is relatively narrowband compared with the bandwidth of the overall TV signal, such that a limited number of sub-carriers are affected. OFDM does not provide a similar performance benefit when the interferer occupies a relatively large proportion of the DTV channel bandwidth because in this case the error control coding may be incapable of correcting the bit errors due to the higher proportion of bits that may be corrupt. If the bandwidth of the transmitted signal from the terminal can be reduced to a small fraction of the DTV channel bandwidth, there is a lower chance of the DTV receiver being unable to decode the signal correctly. Another perspective on this is that the narrowband whitespace transmitter can be located much closer to the DTV receiver before causing noticeable degradation of the decoded DTV signal. This can be of particular benefit for mobile or portable whitespace devices whose exact location and antenna orientation cannot be easily constrained.
 There is a potential issue with reducing the bandwidth occupied by the whitespace device's transmitter: transmitting on a narrow bandwidth channel makes the whitespace device sensitive to poor reception due to multipath fading. This is because the entire bandwidth could be in a long-term fade (lasting multiple frames), resulting in poor signal-to-noise ratio.
 Both of these problems may be addressed using frequency hopping. Frequency hopping minimizes the interference to TV reception, since no communication will be permanently causing interference to any given TV receiver. Frequency hopping also reduces the probability of the terminal being in a long-term fade. It provides a form of interleaving that enables more efficient error correction to be used.
 The channels used for frequency hopping may be selected by the base station based upon information from the whitespace database on the available channels and associated power levels (which in turn are based upon the licensed spectrum use in the area). However, the whitespace database does not include information about every possible source of interference.
 For example, a television transmitter may be intended to broadcast to only a particular coverage area, but may in fact leak into other nearby areas where the use of the frequencies in use by that transmitter are not prohibited in the whitespace database; major TV stations can be well above the thermal noise at distances of 100 km. Although the signal from this transmitter may not be strong enough to be reliably received by television antennas in those nearby areas, it is often strong enough to cause severe interference to whitespace base stations in those areas, particularly if they have elevated antennas (which they may have in order to increase their own coverage area). On nominally free channels, reception is far more likely to be dominated by distant TV broadcasts rather than thermal noise, especially in rural regions. This interference can render many of the whitespace channels unusable or severely compromised.
 Interference from other unlicensed whitespace networks can also be a problem as all whitespace networks compete for use of those frequencies the whitespace database marks as available.
 Interference may also be caused by the unintended emissions of devices that are not part of a wireless network, e.g. spurious emissions from faulty electric drills.
 Apart from all these interferers external to the network, there can also be problems for devices located close to the edge of cells. Neighboring base stations are likely to have similar whitespace channel assignments. (As the distance between base stations increases, the assignments tend to change as the base stations are located in different TV service areas.) Therefore, if base stations pick their own frequency hopping sequences based on only the frequencies available in the whitespace database, the base stations of neighboring cells are likely to make similar choices. If neighboring cells use the same frequency hopping sequences then terminals at cell edges may receive multiple weak signals from both the base station for their own cell, and any neighboring base stations in range, and have no way of distinguishing between them. Two neighboring base stations may use the same frequencies on approximately one in ten frames. Each base station is surrounded by a number of others, typically around six, meaning interference is likely to occur somewhere within each cell around fifty percent of the time. This can result in a significant loss in capacity.
 What is needed is a method and apparatus for monitoring the various types of interference suffered by devices in communication networks such as whitespace networks.
 According to a first embodiment of the invention, there is provided a communication device for communicating with a plurality of terminals via a series of frames, the communication device being configured to indicate to the terminals, at the commencement of a frame, that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame in order for a calibration to be performed, and to perform said calibration during the remainder of the time allotted to that frame.
 The communication device may be configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended by instructing the terminals not to transmit for the remainder of the frame.
 The communication device may be configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended by indicating to the terminals that it will not be transmitting for the remainder of the frame.
 The communication device may be configured to indicate in a header of the frame that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame.
 The communication device may be configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame by not including in the frame any allocations of time slots for one or more of the plurality of terminals.
 The communication device may be configured to indicate that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of a frame by including in the frame an indication that all timeslots in the remainder of the frame are reserved.
 The communication device may be configured to perform said calibration by determining a level of interference present on one or more frequencies.
 The communication device may be configured to perform said calibration by measuring a noise level across one or more frequencies.
 The communication device may be configured to perform said calibration by transmitting a constant power signal at a particular frequency.
 The communication device may be configured to perform said calibration by measuring a constant power signal transmitted at a particular frequency by another base station.
 The communication device may be configured to instruct one or more of the terminals that are experiencing interference on a designated carrier frequency to monitor that frequency and transmit to the communication device an indication when it is no longer experiencing interference on that frequency.
 The communication device may be configured to instruct said one or more terminals to transmit the indication via contended access.
 The communication device may be configured to report a result of said calibration to a network controller, receive a new frequency hopping sequence from the network controller and communicate that new frequency hopping sequence to the plurality of terminals.
 The communication device may be configured to operate in whitespace.
 The communication device may be configured for machine-to-machine communication.
 According to a second embodiment of the invention, there is provided a method for communicating with a plurality of terminals via a series of frames, the method comprising indicating to the terminals, at the commencement of a frame, that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of the frame in order for a calibration to be performed, and performing said calibration during the remainder of the time allotted to that frame.
 According to a third embodiment of the invention, there is provided a controller for a communication network, the communication network comprising: a plurality of cells, each cell comprising a communication device and at least one terminal and each communication device being configured to communicate with the at least one terminal in its respective cell according to a frequency hopping sequence associated with that cell; and the controller being configured to: instruct a communication device to perform a calibration; receive a result of that calibration; and generate a new frequency hopping sequence for the cell comprising the communication device in dependence on that result.
 The controller may be configured to communicate the new frequency hopping sequence to the communication device.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 Aspects of the present invention will now be described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings. In the drawings:
 FIG. 1 shows an example of a machine-to-machine network;
 FIG. 2 shows an example of a process that may be implemented by a controller;
 FIG. 3 shows an example of a process for monitoring interference;
 FIG. 4 shows an example of a frame structure;
 FIG. 5 shows an example of a central controller; and
 FIG. 6 shows an example of a communication device.
 A communication device may be arranged to communicate periodically with a plurality of terminals. Those periodic communications may take the form of frames. The communication device may be configured to indicate to the terminals, at the commencement of a particular one of those periodic communications, that communication is to be suspended for the remainder of that periodic communication in order for a calibration to be performed. The remainder of the time that would normally have been dedicated to terminal transmissions or routine base station traffic can then be used for calibration instead.
 Suitably the calibration operation involves communication devices throughout the network taking measurements on one or more frequencies that indicate what, if any, interference is being suffered on those frequencies at different locations within the network. Suspending communication for a limited period of time is beneficial because it enables those measurements to be made in the absence of routine terminal and base station traffic, enabling a more accurate picture of the underlying interference conditions to be obtained.
 A communication device may be configured to communicate with a plurality of terminals by means of a series of periodic communications having a predetermined structure. A single instance of that periodic communication structure may be termed a "frame". A typical frame may start with a preamble and end with an uplink section.
 An example of a wireless network is shown in FIG. 1. The network, shown generally at 104, comprises one or more base stations 105 that are each capable of communicating wirelessly with a number of terminals 106. Each base station may be arranged to communicate with terminals that are located within a particular geographical area or cell. The base stations transmit to and receive radio signals from the terminals. The terminals are suitably entities embedded or machines or similar that communicate with the base stations. Suitably the wireless network is arranged to operate in a master-slave mode where the base station is the master and the terminals are the slaves.
 The base station controller 107 is a device that provides a single point of communication to the base stations and then distributes the information received to other network elements as required. That is, the network is based around a many-to-one communication model. The network may be arranged to communicate with a client-facing portion 101 via the internet 102. In this way a client may provide services to the terminals via the wireless network.
 Other logical network elements shown in this example are:
 Core network. This routes traffic information between base stations and client networks.
 Billing system. This records utilization levels and generates appropriate billing data.
 Authentication system. This holds terminal and base station authentication information.
 Location register. This retains the last known location of the terminals.
 Broadcast register. This retains information on group membership and can be used to store and process acknowledgements to broadcast messages.
 Operations and maintenance center (OMC). This monitors the function of the network and raises alarms when errors are detected. It also manages frequency and code planning, load balancing and other operational aspects of the network.
 Whitespace database. This provides information on the available whitespace spectrum.
 Client information portal. This allows clients to determine data such as the status of associated terminals, levels of traffic etc.
 In practice, many of the logical network elements may be implemented as databases running software and can be provided on a wide range of platforms. A number of network elements may be physically located within the same platform.
 A network such as that shown in FIG. 1 may be used for machine-to-machine communications, i.e. communications that do not involve human interaction. Machine-to-machine communications are well-matched to the limitations of operating in whitespace, in which the bandwidth available to the network may vary from one location to another and also from one time instant to the next. As the network does not have any specific part of the spectrum allocated to it, even unallocated parts of the spectrum may become unavailable, e.g. due to a device in the vicinity that is operating outside of the network but using the same part of the spectrum. Machines are able to tolerate the delays and breaks in communication that can result from these varying communication conditions. Services can be provided in not real time; low latency is not important as long as data is reliably delivered.
 In order to increase the number of messages that are reliably delivered, a central controller may be provided to make intelligent frequency hopping allocations to cells in the network by analyzing frequency availability. A suitable process that may be performed by the controller is shown in FIG. 2. The process commences in step 201. In step 202, the controller determines, for each and every cell, which frequencies are permitted for whitespace use. The controller may perform this step by accessing the whitespace database to rule out those frequencies reserved for licensed users. The controller may then determine what frequencies are otherwise excluded as being unsuitable (step 203). It may, for example, rule out as being unsuitable frequencies on which an unacceptably high level of interference has been found. In step 204 the controller produces a finalized list of frequencies that are available to each cell. The controller uses this list to generate a frequency hopping sequence for each cell (step 205), which is then communicated to the appropriate base station (step 206). The process finishes in step 207.
 Once the controller has established which frequencies are available for use in each cell it can start to allocate frequency hopping sequences. It is preferable for the sequences to contain as many frequencies as possible to reduce the impact of fading etc., as discussed above. However, the sequences should also be generated so as to minimize the occasions on which neighboring cells will be transmitting on the same frequency, as this can cause interference to the terminals in each cell (particularly those located near to a cell boundary). The controller may employ an algorithm to determine every possible frequency sequence across the cells of the network to analyses which arrangement will generate the least amount of overlap between neighboring cells.
 A preferred option is for the available frequencies to be arranged in a predetermined order, with each cell starting its respective hopping sequence at a different frequency in the order from its neighboring cells. The predetermined order might be random or worked out according to some rule. For example, the available frequencies might simply be organized into ascending or descending order. Preferably, each cell commences its respective sequence at a different offset from its neighbor, so that at any given time each cell is using a different frequency in the sequence from its neighbor. Simulations have shown that cyclic frequency hopping sequences function very well with such an offset, without the unfeasible computational burden associated with looking at all possible frequency hopping sequences across all cells.
 Generating the sequences to simply comprise a list of available frequencies arranged in a predetermined order and then applying a respective offset for each cell works particularly well in networks arranged to operate in whitespace. This is because the frequencies available for use in whitespace are largely dictated by the frequencies that are already allocated to TV channels. Different TV transmitters may use different frequencies (which is why the spectrum available to whitespace networks is dependent on the location of that network); however, each TV transmitter is associated with a large geographical region. Typically, a transmitter may cover an area having a radius of around 50 miles. This means that neighboring cells will largely have the same set of frequencies available to them. When this is the case, neighboring cells can be prevented from overlapping in their frequency hopping sequences simply by applying an offset in each cell.
 The central controller is preferably arranged to review the frequency hopping sequences from time to time. This is recommended due to the variability of the frequency spectrum available to the network, which means that different frequencies will be subject to interference at different times and in different locations. A frequency hopping sequence will tend not to be optimal for long periods of time. The network is preferably arranged to periodically monitor what frequencies are subject to interference, and where.
 A preferred option is for the network to have a calibration mode, when different devices across the network are arranged to make interference measurements that can be used to develop a picture of interference across the network. This information may be used to adapt the frequency hopping pattern assigned to each base station to the interference conditions.
 It may be helpful for the network to specifically measure:
 1. The noise on each channel due to licensed users (e.g. the residual signal from distant TV transmitters); and
 2. The propagation from one base station to another to understand better which base stations can share frequencies.
 Preferably the calibration mode involves a period of `quiet` being established across all or part of the network so that interference measurements can be made without the presence of routine traffic between the base stations and the terminals. The base stations may therefore be configured to indicate to each of the terminals in their cells that communication will be suspended for some predetermined period of time in order for calibration to be performed. This may be indicated to the terminals directly, for example by broadcasting a `calibration mode` message to all of the terminals in the cell. Alternatively, it may be indicated indirectly by transmitting to the terminals a normal frame header, but without any resources allocated to the terminals. This may be achieved by marking all resources as being `reserved`. This ensures that there will be no terminal transmissions or routine base station traffic for the remainder of the frame. Additional information on a suitable frame structure for the network is given below.
 Calibration can then be performed according to one or more of the following:
 1. When all base stations are not transmitting, each base station can be instructed to measure its noise floor across a number of channels. Depending on how quickly a measurement can be made on each channel this could be performed across the network in just a few seconds.
 2. A selected base station can be asked to transmit a constant power carrier and all the others in the vicinity asked to make measurements on the frequency used. This can then be repeated for all base stations of interest. This could take some time but will typically only need to be performed once on initial network deployment. Assuming one measurement per frame and that clusters of around 100 base stations are analyzed, it is anticipated that the process is likely to take around 200 seconds.
 An example of a process that may be performed by a network in calibration mode is shown in FIG. 3. The process starts in step 301. In step 302 the central controller determines that the network should perform a calibration and instructs the base stations accordingly. The base stations then indicate to the terminals in their respective cells that a calibration is to be performed, so that communication will be suspended (step 303). Each base station then measures the noise floor across a range of channels (step 304), transmits a constant power signal on a designated carrier frequency (step 305) or measures the constant power signal being transmitted by another base station on a designated carrier frequency (step 306) in dependence on what the central controller instructed it to do. The relevant measurements are then reported back to the central controller by the base stations (step 307). The central controller may then determine a new frequency hopping sequence and communicate it to the base stations (step 308). The process terminates in step 309.
 Interference on a particular frequency in a particular cell may be detected in a number of ways. For example, a base station may measure a constant power signal being transmitted by another base station by measuring an indication of the strength of that signal at the receiving base station (e.g. by measuring an RSSI). If the RSSI increases above some predetermined threshold then an unacceptable level of interference may be determined to be present. The constant power carrier could be transmitted to include some predetermined bit sequence so that the bit error rate (BER) could be monitored and unacceptable interference could be determined to be present if it reaches a predetermined threshold. Similarly the constant power carrier might contain cyclic redundancy checks (CRCs). If less than a predetermined number of these fail within a predetermined time period or number of frames then, again, an unacceptable level of interference could be determined to be present since this would indicate the interfering signal is being strongly received. If there are periods when a frequency is not being used, interference could be determined more directly by measuring the noise floor on that frequency during a quiet period.
 Due to the dynamic nature of the whitespace environment, it may be necessary for the network to enter the calibration mode periodically so that the frequency hopping sequences can be updated where needed. The controller could alternatively, or in addition, cause the network to enter into calibration mode in response to information received from one or more of the base stations, or any other network device. For example, if a predetermined threshold associated with a number of missed ACKs or failed CRCs, or an RSSI or BER level, is crossed in one part of the network, this could trigger a redetermination of frequency hopping sequences across a greater part of the network.
 The base stations may also be configured to make their own adjustments to their frequency hopping sequence. Any adjustments may suitably involve the base station scheduling communications with particular terminals so as to avoid frequencies on which those terminals are suffering interference. If a large number of terminals are suffering interference on a particular channel, the base station may exclude that channel from the frequency hopping sequence for a time. This determination may be made, for example, in dependence on an RSSI or BER level measured by one or more terminals exceeding a predetermined threshold, or on a number of failed CRCs exceeding a predetermined threshold. Communications between a base station and its terminals could alternatively/also require acknowledgements (ACKs). If more than a predetermined proportion of ACKs are missed then this too could indicate an unacceptable level of interference. This raises the question of when to return to the channel. It channel should not be reinstated until the interference has ceased, which may typically take around 15 minutes or so. While the base station could try to measure the interference, it may be local to a particular part of the cell and so not visible at the base station. Therefore, the interference measurements are preferably made by the terminals.
 This may be achieved by instructing powered terminals in areas that had previously seen interference to periodically measure the noise level on the channel and report back to the base station when it had fallen to acceptable values. The base station may be configured to transmit a message to a particular terminal instructing it to measure a particular channel (e.g. during the time period between one frame header and the next) and to send a contended access message when the interference appears to have stopped.
 Preferably the frequency hopping sequences are communicated to each base station, and the base stations pass the information on to any terminals in their cells. This communication is suitably achieved by the base station including information defining the sequence in each frame it transmits, so that a terminal can obtain the frequency hopping sequence by listening to only one frame.
 The base station could inform terminals of the channels and hopping sequence to be used, and any changes, in a number of ways. A preferred embodiment is for the frequency hopping sequence to be communicated in every frame so that a terminal need only listen to one frame to obtain all the information about the frequency hopping sequence that it needs. One advantage of having each base station simply use an ascending or descending sequence of frequencies is that it can be particularly easily communicated to the terminals. For example, such a hopping sequence may be indicated simply by having a channel bitmap in every frame. For more complex sequences, it may be necessary for the base station to transmit the actual list of channels in the order in which hopping will occur. This can be transmitted in each frame, but with the risk that the resource requirement is high if there are a large number of channels.
 An alternative for more complex hopping sequences is to transmit the full hopping sequence as part of a broadcast control channel frame transmitted by the base station to all the terminals in the cell at regular intervals. This frame could inform terminals of a forthcoming change to the channel assignment/hopping sequence in the cell, and page terminals if they are required to respond outside of their normal allocated slot, amongst other things. In every other frame, the base station may transmit the periodicity of the hopping sequence, the frequency of the next frame and optionally the frequency that the next broadcast control channel frame will be on. This approach allows for greater flexibility in the hopping sequences that can be adopted, but does mean that the terminals cannot gain complete knowledge of the hopping sequence from simply listening to one frame.
 A further option is to transmit the hopping sequence as a combination of a 48-bit channel map (with a bit being set if that channel is in use in the base station), and a log2(n)-bit seed. In order to generate the sequence, a terminal may input the seed to a pseudo random noise generator. The chosen channel would then be the (MacFrame)'th value in the PRN sequence, modulo the number of bits set in the channel map. The base station might transmit the 48-bit channel map in a broadcast frame and the seed in every frame. This approach results in a relatively small amount of data being needed to characterize the hopping sequence, allowing it to be transmitted in each frame and hence ensuring devices can determine the future frequency usage from monitoring a single frame.
 The network may use medium access control (MAC) to share the same radio resource between multiple terminals. An example of a suitable frame structure is shown in FIG. 4. The frame (shown generally at 401) comprises time to ramp-up to full output power 402 (T_IFS), a synchronization burst 403 (DL_SYNC), an information field providing the subsequent channel structure 404 (DL_FCH), a map of which information is intended for which terminal 405 (DL_MAP), a field to allow acknowledgement of previous uplink transmissions 406 (DL_ACK) and then the actual information to be sent to terminals 407 (DL_ALLOC). There is then a guard period for ramp-down of the downlink and ramp-up on the uplink 408 (T_SW), followed by the allocated uplink data transmissions 410 (UL_ALLOC) in parallel with channels set aside for uplink contended access 409 (UL_CA).
 A suitable hopping rate for the downlink channels may be the frame rate, so that each frame is transmitted on a different frequency from the preceding frame. The frames for a network designed to operate in whitespace for machine-to-machine communication may be particularly long. In one example the frames may each be 2 seconds long, giving a frequency hop on the downlink every 2 seconds (which is 30 hops per minute).
 The DL_FCH may include information to enable the terminals to determine the hopping sequence. The DL_FCH may include a list of the frequencies that are included in the sequence. One efficient way of communicating this information is by means of a channel map, with a bit being set if the channel is in use in the base station. The DL_FCH may also include a MAC Frame count (16-bit) enabling terminals to determine where the base station is in its hopping pattern.
 The DL_MAP informs terminals as to whether there is any information for them in the frame and whether they have an uplink slot reserved for them to transmit information. It comprises a table of terminal identities, the number of slots that their information is spread over and the transmission mode and spreading factors used. All terminals monitoring the frame decode this field to determine whether they need to decode subsequent information. The length of the DL_MAP may be included as part of the DL-- FCH. A terminal can determine the position of its assigned slots from the DL_MAP by adding up the number of slots allocated in prior rows in the table.
 On the uplink the slots may be numbered from 0 to n on the first FDMA channel, then on the subsequent FDMA channel and so on. The terminal can determine how many slots there are each channel from the length of the frame available for the uplink (that remaining after completion of the downlink) divided by the length of each slot. If a terminal has data requiring multiple slots it would normally be given these consecutively on the same carrier as this both simplifies the terminal transmission and minimizes the control information required to describe the slot location. However, it is possible to give the terminal multiple allocations on different carriers (so long as they are not simultaneous) to achieve frequency hopping on the uplink.
 To indicate to the terminals that the network is entering a calibration mode, the DL_MAP preferably does not include any terminal allocations. Instead, the DL_MAP preferably indicates that all slots are reserved, thus providing for a period in which communications are effectively suspended. This results in the required `quiet period` during which the calibration measurements can be made.
 The communication links between the various components of the networks may be wired or wireless. The terminals may be located in fixed positions or mobile, roaming throughout and/or between cells.
 Interference between network devices in neighboring cells could also be reduced by the controller assigning different spreading codes for use in different cells. This can help to avoid complete packet loss in the event of direct frequency clashes between neighboring cells. Preferably neighboring cells are assigned orthogonal spreading codes.
 An example of the functional blocks that may be comprised in a controller according to one embodiment of the invention are shown in FIG. 5. The controller, shown generally at 501, comprises a communication unit 503 connected to an antenna 502 for transmitting and receiving messages. The controller might equally communicate the frequency hopping sequences to the communication devices via a wired connection. The controller further comprises an availability unit 504 for determining what frequencies are available in each cell, an analysis unit 505 for analyzing the data returned by the base stations and determining from this which available frequencies should be avoided in the frequency hopping sequences, and a generation unit 506 for generating the frequency hopping sequences. The communication unit may effectively act as a central controller and may pass information between the other functional blocks.
 An example of the functional blocks that may be comprised in a communication device according to one embodiment of the invention are shown in FIG. 6. The communication device, shown generally at 601, comprises a communication unit 603 connected to an antenna 602 for transmitting and receiving messages. The communication device further comprises a calibration unit 604 for ensuring that the relevant calibration indication is sent to the terminals and for making the appropriate measurements to return to the central controller. The base station also comprises an analysis unit 605 for analyzing the interference conditions in the cell in dependence on the information received from its own terminals and for adapting the frequency hopping sequence accordingly. The communication unit may effectively act as a central controller and may pass information between the other functional blocks.
 The apparatus in FIGS. 5 and 6 are shown illustratively as comprising a number of interconnected functional blocks. This is for illustrative purposes and is not intended to define a strict division between different parts of hardware on a chip. In practice, the communication controller and communication device preferably use a microprocessor acting under software control for implementing the methods described herein. In some embodiments, the algorithms may be performed wholly or partly in hardware.
 The applicant hereby discloses in isolation each individual feature described herein and any combination of two or more such features, to the extent that such features or combinations are capable of being carried out based on the present specification as a whole in the light of the common general knowledge of a person skilled in the art, irrespective of whether such features or combinations of features solve any problems disclosed herein, and without limitation to the scope of the claims. The applicant indicates that aspects of the present invention may consist of any such individual feature or combination of features. In view of the foregoing description it will be evident to a person skilled in the art that various modifications may be made within the scope of the invention.
Patent applications by William Webb, Cambridge GB
Patent applications in class Determination of communication parameters
Patent applications in all subclasses Determination of communication parameters