The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 14 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our final granted patent report of the day we take a look at a secret patent that Apple acquired from France four years prior to the iPhone coming to market. The patent basically relates to a system for testing a mobile telephony network. By acquiring the patent in France, it never entered the US patent system for the press to get wind of Apple's secret iPhone project intentions – until now.
Apple Wins a Patent for Testing a Mobile Telephony Network
Apple has received a Granted Patent that relates to a system for testing a mobile telephony network. The patent was obviously acquired in France back in 2003/2004 as Apple was secretely preparing for the iPhone.
According to Apple's documentation, the invention pertains to a method and a system for testing a mobile telephony network, in which the selection or reselection parameters are preset in order to optimize the mobile telephony network or cell network. The method of the invention consists in assessing the geographical size of the different cells of the cell network, for different values of the selection and reselection parameters. It could be used to determine the values of parameters giving the network the desired optimum configuration. The system of the invention enables this method to be implemented.
The invention finds application in mobile telephony and, especially, in the maintenance and optimization of mobile telephony networks.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shown above illustrates a system for testing a mobile telephony network according to the invention; Patent FIG. 2 is a functional diagram of the different steps of the method of the invention.
The Patent Background
Mobile telephony uses networks known as cell networks or mobile telephony networks to link mobile telephones with other fixed or mobile telephone terminals. These cell networks comprise base stations, each governing geographical cells through which mobile telephones located in these cells can be linked up with other telephones that might be located outside these cells.
For the radio link between the mobile telephone and the network to be of adequate quality, the operator of the network places a set of base stations on the territory to be covered so that the mobile telephone is always within less than a few kilometers from one of these base stations. For this purpose, the territory divided into several cells each constituting an area in which a mobile telephone can set up a link with a base station.
In general, the operator of the network tries to cover the territory with a set of cells that are contiguous and at least partly overlap one another. The size of the cells and their positioning relative to one another, i.e. the sizing of the cells, depends on the number of call connections which it should be possible to set up simultaneously in a same cell. Thus, in urban zones which are particularly dense in mobile telephone communications, the operator chooses small cells with a radius of some hundreds of meters, to let through substantial traffic per surface unit. On the contrary, in rural zones with low-density telephone communications, the cells are larger-sized with a radius of the order of some kilometers.
To take account of these different criteria, the operator first of all prepares a theoretical network map on which he places the base stations at the most appropriate places and sizes the cells and the mutual overlapping of the cells. However, on the ground, the size of the cells does not necessarily correspond to what may be planned in the theoretical network map. The operator then seeks to optimize the network to make it resemble the theoretical network map as closely as possible or eliminate problems that have not been foreseen in the theoretical model.
Furthermore, traffic density is a criterion that fluctuates over time. It depends on different factors, such as vacation periods during which the traffic diminishes in urban areas and increases at the seaside or in the mountains. For the operator, it is therefore important not only to optimize his network but also to ascertain that the optimization is still valid and, if necessary, modify the sizing of the cells to make this optimization valid. The sizing of the cells could be optimized by modifying parameters, called selection parameters and reselection parameters, that are proper to each cell.
Tools for testing mobile telephony networks have been developed in order to obtain this optimization. The systems described in the patent applications EP1182897, EP1098546 or US20020155831 are examples.
These test tools could be used, after exploration of the zones to be studied, to determine the size of each cell. These testing apparatuses are, in practice, mobile telephones associated with a microcomputer which records the working parameters, along the network path, of the cell phone environment and the signal and service quality.
At present, to carry out this optimization, the operator uses a test system comprising one or more test mobile phones used in association with the control center of the network. The test telephone is put on board an automobile type of vehicle for example, by its user. It thus moves about in the geographical zones corresponding to the cells for which the user wishes to optimize the cell subdivisions and, for this purpose, optimizes the selection and reselection parameters. For each cell of the geographical zone to be measured, and for each selection or reselection parameter or set of parameters to be tried, the operator must telephone the control center of the network and ask this center to modify the selection or reselection parameters for the cells in which he is moving. Each time the parameters are modified, the user has to move in the cells and collect coverage data and then analyze the results obtained. If these results are not suitable, he must again telephone the network management center to ask for a new modification of parameters and then again make a data-collection journey and analyze fresh results.
This technique is a trial-and-error method, which necessitates restrictive coordination between the user and the operation and maintenance center (OMC); indeed, the user must transmit the list of the parameters to be configured for the different cells to be verified. This is a painstaking operation. It may be falsified by the data entry errors which the user cannot control and, above all, it causes disturbance in the entire network, each time that a parameter is modified by the OMC, and it may give rise to poor service quality during the testing of the different values of parameters.
Summary of the Invention
Apple's invention is aimed precisely at overcoming the drawbacks of the techniques explained here above. To this end, it proposes an autonomous system and an autonomous method for testing a mobile telephony network used to preset the selection and reselection parameters of the cells of the network, using a computer connected to the testing mobile telephone. The invention could thus be used for the simulation, solely at the level of the mobile test telephone, of a modification of the selection and reselection parameters of the network and enables the measurement of the effects of such a modification without action by the control center and without any disturbance of the network.
More specifically, the invention relates to a system for testing a mobile telephony network having a plurality of cells whose sizing depends on at least one selection or reselection parameter, of the type comprising one or more mobile test phones and an onboard computer connected to the mobile telephone or telephones. An object of the invention is essentially a system in which predefined values of the selection and reselection parameters are stored in the computer and in which the mobile telephones comprise, a presetting function to receive the predefined value of the selection and reselection parameters.
The invention also relates to a method for testing a mobile telephony network having a plurality of cells whose sizing is a function of at least one selection or reselection parameter, wherein the method comprises the following steps: the recording, in the computer, of predefined values of the selection and reselection parameters for each cell of the zone to be tested, the presetting, for each cell of the zone to be tested, of the predefined values of the selection and reselection parameters, and the capture of data obtained by the mobile telephone for each cell, the processing of the captured data and the determining of the sizing of each tested cell.
To review Apple's six patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,050,670. Apple credits Olivier Buyse of France as the sole inventor of this patent which dates back to 2003.
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