A technical post today – Here's some background info on how users are scheduled on the LTE air interface:
In most cases, scheduling will be fully dynamic. In downlink direction resources are assigned when data is available. For data to be sent in the uplink, the mobile dynamically requests transmission opportunities whenever data arrives in the mobile's uplink buffer. Information about data being sent in downlink direction and uplink transmission opportunities are carried in the radio layer control channel which is sent at the beginning of each sub-frame.
While dynamic scheduling is great for bursty, infrequent and bandwidth consuming data transmissions (e.g. web surfing, video streaming, emails) it is less suited for real time streaming applications such as voice calls. Here, data is sent in short bursts while at regular intervals. If the data rate of the stream is very low, as is the case for voice calls, the overhead of the scheduling messages is very high as only little data is sent for each scheduling message.
The solution for this is semi-persistent scheduling. Instead of scheduling each uplink or downlink transmission, a transmission pattern is defined instead of single opportunities. This significantly reduces the scheduling assignment overhead.
During silence periods todays wireless voice codecs stop transmitting voice data and only send silence description information with much longer time intervals in between. During those silence times the persistent scheduling can be switched-off which is probably why it's called semi-persistent scheduling. In the uplink, the semi-persistent grant scheme is implicitly canceled if no data is sent for a network configured number of empty uplink transmission opportunities (see 3GPP TS 36.321, chapter 5.10). In downlink direction, semi-persistent scheduling is canceled with an RRC message.
The logical question that follows now is how the network can figure out when and for which packets to use semi-persistent scheduling. The answer is QCI and dedicated bearers. More about that in a follow up post.