Inter-Access Point Handoffs

In a voice mobility network with Wi-Fi as a major component, we have to look at more than just the voice quality on a particular access point. The end-user of the network, the person with a phone in hand, has no idea where the access points are. He or she just walks around the building, going in and out of range of various access points in turn, oblivious to the state of the underlying wireless network. All the while, the user demands the same high degree of voice quality as if he or she had never started moving.
So now, we have to turn our focus towards the handoff aspect of Wi-Fi voice networks. Looking back on how Wi-Fi networks are made of multiple cells of overlapping coverage, we can see that the major sources for problems with voice are going to come from four sources:
  1. How well the coverage extends through the building
  2. How well the phone can detect when it is exiting the coverage of one access point
  3. How well the phone can detect what other options (access points) it has available
  4. How quickly the phone can make the transition from the old access point to the new one
Let's try to gain some more appreciation of this problem. Figure 1 shows the wireless environment that a mobile phone is likely to be dwelling within.

Figure 1: The Handoff Environment
As the caller and the mobile phone move around the environment, the phone goes into range and out of range of different access points. At any given time, the number of access points that a client can see, and potentially connect to, can be on the order of a dozen or more in environments with substantial Wi-Fi coverage. The client's task: determine whether it is far enough out of range of one access point that it should start the potentially disruptive process of looking for another access point, and then make the transition to a new access point as quickly as possible. The top part of Figure 1 shows the phone zigzagging its way through a series of cells, each one from an access point on a different channel. Looking at the same process from the point of view of the client (who knows only time), you can see how the client sees the ever-varying hills and valleys of the differing access points' coverage areas. Many are always in range; hopefully, only one is strong at a time.
The phone is a multitasker. It must juggle the processes of searching for new access points and handing off while maintaining a good voice connection. In this section, we'll go into details on the particular processes the phone must go through, and what technologies exist to make the process simpler in the face of Wi-Fi. But first, we will need to get into some general philosophy.

1 comment:

Paul Edison said...

I appreciate the Post and I would like to read more good stuff keep it up! This is very nice article and have great information.

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