Quite recently T-Mobile has started to make use of the GPRS Network Mode of Operation (NMO) 1 feature in southern Germany. I haven’t seen any other operator using NMO-1 in Germany so far and only few in other countries so this came as quite a surprise. In this network operation mode, the circuit switched part of the network used for voice calls and SMS and the packet switched part of the network used for GPRS and EDGE data transmissions are connected via a signaling interface. This interface, referred to as the Gs interface, has a number of subtle but important advantages:
- During an ongoing GPRS / EDGE data transfer (TBF established), mobiles can’t detect incoming voice calls and SMS messages as they are focused on receiving packets and thus can not observe the paging channel. In NMO-1 (sometimes also abbreviated as NOM-1), the circuit switched part of the network forwards the paging message to the packet switched side of the network which then forwards the paging message between the user data blocks while a data transfer is ongoing. Mobiles can thus receive the paging message despite the ongoing data transfer, interrupt the session and accept the voice call or SMS.
- Location/Routing area updates when moving to a cell in a different location/routing area are performed much faster as the mobile only communicates with the packet switched part of the network. The packet switched network (the SGSN) then forwards the location update to the circuit switched part of the network (to the MSC) which spares the mobile from doing it itself. This is especially important for ongoing data transfers as these are interrupted for a shorter period of time.
- Cell reselections from UMTS to GPRS can be executed much faster due to the same effect as described in the previous bullet. Whithout NOM-1 an Inter RAT (Radio Access Technology) cell reselection with Location and Routing Area update requires around 10 to 12 seconds. With NOM-1 the time is reduced to around 5 to 6 seconds. An important difference as this reduces the chance to miss an incoming call during the change of the radio network. Also, ongoing data transfers are interrupted for a shorter time,an additional benefit that should not be underestimated.