Purdue University Graduate School
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Enhancing Mobility Support in Cellular Networks With Device-Side Intelligence

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posted on 2020-12-16, 15:18 authored by Haotian DengHaotian Deng
Internet goes mobile as billions of users are accessing the Internet through their smartphones. Cellular networks play an essential role in providing “anytime, anywhere” network access as the only large-scale wireless network infrastructure in operation. Mobility support is the salient feature indispensable to ensure seamless Internet connectivity to mobile devices wherever the devices go or are. Cellular network operators deploy a huge number of cell towers over geographical areas each with limited radio coverage. When the device moves out of the radio coverage of its serving cell(s), mobility support is performed to hand over its serving cell(s) to another, thereby ensuring uninterrupted network access.
Despite a large success at most places, we uncover that state-of-the-practice mobility support in operational cellular networks suffers from a variety of issues which result in unnecessary performance degradation to mobile devices. In this thesis, we dive into these issues in today’s mobility support and explore possible solutions with no or small changes to the existing network infrastructure.
We take a new perspective to study and enhance mobility support. We directly examine, troubleshoot and enhance the underlying procedure of mobility support, instead of higher-layer (application/transport) exploration and optimization in other existing studies. Rather than clean slate network-side solutions, we focus on device-side solutions which are compatible with 3GPP standards and operational network infrastructure, promising immediate benefits without requiring any changes on network side.
In particular, we address three technical questions by leveraging the power of the devices. First, how is mobility support performed in reality? We leverage device-side observation to monitor the handoff procedures that happen between the network and the device. We unveil that operator-specific configurations and policies play a decisive role under the standard mechanism and conduct a large-scale measurement study to characterize the extremely complex and diverse handoff configurations used by global operators over the world. Second, what is wrong with the existing mobility support? We conduct model-based reasoning and empirical study to examine network performance issues (e.g., handoff instability and unreachability, missed performance) which are caused by improper handoffs. Finally, how to enhance mobility support? We turn passive devices to proactive devices to enhance mobility support. Specifically, we make a showcase solution which exploits device-side inputs to intervene the default handoff procedure and thus indirectly influence the cell selection decision, thereby improving data speed to mobile devices. All the results in this thesis have been validated or evaluated in reality (over top-tier US carriers like AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, some even in global carrier networks).


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • Computer Science

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. Chunyi Peng

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Bharat K. Bhargava

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Sonia A. Fahmy

Additional Committee Member 4

Dr. Kihong Park