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Architecture of the EPC

Evolved Packet Core (EPC) is a framework for providing converged voice and data on a 4G Long-Term
Evolution (LTE) network.

EPC was first introduced by 3GPP in Release 8 of the standard.

It was decided to have a "flat architecture". The idea is to handle the payload (the data traffic) efficiently
from performance and costs perspective. Few network nodes are involved in the handling of the traffic
and protocol conversion is avoided.

It was also decided to separate the user data (also known as the user plane) and the signalling (also
know as the control plane) to make the scaling independent. Thanks to this functional split, the
operators can dimension and adapt their network easily.

Figure 2 shows a very basic architecture of the EPS when the User Equipment (UE) is connected to the
EPC over E-UTRAN (LTE access network). The Evolved NodeB (eNodeB) is the base station for LTE
radio. In this figure, the EPC is composed of four network elements: the Serving Gateway (Serving GW),
the PDN Gateway (PDN GW), the MME and the HSS. The EPC is connected to the external networks,
which can include the IP Multimedia Core Network Subsystem (IMS).

HSS
Basically, the HSS (for Home Subscriber Server)
is a database that contains user-related and subscriber-related information.
It also provides support functions in mobility management, call and session setup, user
authentication and access authorization.
It is based on the pre-3GPP Release 4 - Home Location Register (HLR) and Authentication
Centre (AuC).

Serving GW
The gateways (Serving GW and PDN GW) deal with the user plane.
They transport the IP data traffic between the User Equipment (UE) and the external networks.
The Serving GW is the point of interconnect between the radio-side and the EPC.
As its name indicates, this gateway serves the UE by routing the incoming and outgoing IP
packets.
It is the anchor point for the intra-LTE mobility (i.e. in case of handover between eNodeBs) and
between LTE and other 3GPP accesses.
It is logically connected to the other gateway, the PDN GW.
PDN GW
The PDN GW is the point of interconnect between the EPC and the external IP networks.
These networks are called PDN (Packet Data Network), hence the name.
The PDN GW routes packets to and from the PDNs.
The PDN GW also performs various functions such as IP address / IP prefix allocation or policy
control and charging.
3GPP specifies these gateways independently but in practice they may be combined in a
single "box" by network vendors.

MME

The MME (for Mobility Management Entity) deals with the control plane.
It handles the signaling related to mobility and security for E-UTRAN access.
The MME is responsible for the tracking and the paging of UE in idle-mode.
It is the termination point of the Non-Access Stratum (NAS).

PCRF

Policy and Charging Rules Function (PCRF)

The objective is to exploit the information produced by and already available in


the network to properly deploy, configure, and optimize network nodes.