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Title:
USING UNLICENSED AND LICENSED SPECTRUM
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2020/244792
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Methods and apparatus are provided. In an example aspect, a method in a network node is provided, the method comprising monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

Inventors:
PATEL DHRUVIN (DE)
DUDDA TORSTEN (DE)
HERTZ GUIDO ROLAND (DE)
KARAKI REEM (DE)
MUNZ HUBERTUS (DE)
PALAIOS ALEXANDROS (DE)
PHAN MAI-ANH (DE)
Application Number:
EP2019/074595
Publication Date:
December 10, 2020
Filing Date:
September 13, 2019
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
ERICSSON TELEFON AB L M (SE)
International Classes:
H04W36/26
Domestic Patent References:
WO2017014937A12017-01-26
Foreign References:
US20180288623A12018-10-04
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HASELTINE LAKE KEMPNER LLP (GB)
Download PDF:
Claims:
Claims

1. A method in a network node, the method comprising:

monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions; and

in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

2. The method of claim 1 , wherein monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts by the at least one UE comprises monitoring at least one of a number of access attempts by the at least one UE within a predetermined time, a total number of access attempts by the UEs in the first group within a predetermined time, a number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within a predetermined time, a length of a clear channel assessment, CCA, procedure performed by the at least one UE, and a total number of LBT failures by the UEs in the first group within a predetermined time.

3. The method of claim 2, wherein causing the UEs in the group of UEs to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions is performed in response to a total number of access attempts by the at least one UE or a plurality of UEs in the first group within a predetermined time exceeding a first threshold.

4. The method of any of claims 1 to 3, comprising:

monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one second UE in a second group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions; and

in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the second group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

5. The method of claim 4, wherein:

causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions is in response to the at least one UE in the first group performing unsuccessful unlicensed spectrum access attempts for a first clear channel assessment, CCA, period;

causing the UEs in the second group to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions is in response to the at least one UE in the second group performing unsuccessful unlicensed spectrum access attempts for a second CCA period; and

the first CCA period has a different length to the second CCA period.

6. The method of claim 5, comprising sending an instruction to the UEs in the first group to reconfigure the length of the first CCA period.

7. The method of claim 5 or 6, comprising sending an instruction to a UE in the first group to reconfigure the UE to be in the second group.

8. The method of any of claims 4 to 7, comprising:

selecting the first group or the second group for each of the UEs based on at least one of radio link quality experienced at the UE, traffic type of traffic sent by and/or received at the UE, a QoS parameter of the UE, and buffer size of the UE.

9. The method of any of claims 1 to 8, wherein causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions comprises scheduling the uplink and/or downlink transmissions in licensed spectrum.

10. The method of any of claims 1 to 9, wherein causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions comprises sending an instruction to the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum.

1 1 . The method of claim 10, wherein the instruction is sent to the UEs in the first group using licensed spectrum.

12. The method of any of claims 1 to 1 1 , wherein the UEs in the first group are configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions to a base station and/or receive downlink transmissions from a base station.

13. A method in a User Equipment, UE, the method comprising:

receiving an indication of a parameter from a network node; and

transmitting a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

14. The method of claim 13, wherein the indication of the parameter indicates one or more of the predetermined time, a maximum number of access attempts for the CCA procedure within the predetermined time, a maximum number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within the predetermined time, and a length of the CCA procedure.

15. The method of any of the claim 13 or 14, wherein, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is available within the predetermined period, transmitting the communication on the first channel in unlicensed spectrum.

16. The method of any of claims 13 to 15, wherein the communication is associated with a logical channel, and the method comprises, after transmitting the communication on the second channel in licensed spectrum, transmitting subsequent communications associated with the logical channel on the second channel in licensed spectrum.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the communication is transmitted to a base station.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein transmitting the communication on the second channel in licensed spectrum comprises transmitting a scheduling request to the base station, and transmitting the communication after receiving a scheduling grant from the base station.

19. The method of claim 17 or 18, wherein the network node comprises the base station.

20. The method of any of claims 13 to 19, wherein the CCA procedure is performed as part of a Listen Before Talk, LBT, procedure.

21 . A method in a network node, the method comprising:

sending, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

22. The method of claim 21 , wherein the indication of the predetermined period indicates one or more of the predetermined time, a maximum number of access attempts for the CCA procedure within the predetermined time, a maximum number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within the predetermined time, and a length of the CCA procedure.

23. The method of claim 21 or 22, wherein the network node comprises a base station.

24. The method of any of claims 21 to 23, wherein the at least one UE is in a first group of UEs, and the method comprises sending, to the UEs in the first group, an indication of the parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes each UE in the first group to perform a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmit the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

25. The method of claim 24, comprising sending, to UEs in a second group, an indication of a second parameter, wherein the indication of the second parameter causes each UE in the second group to perform a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmit the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum, wherein the parameter is different to the second parameter.

26. A computer program comprising instructions which, when executed on at least one processor, cause the at least one processor to carry out a method according to any one of the preceding claims.

27. A subcarrier containing a computer program according to claim 26, wherein the subcarrier comprises one of an electronic signal, optical signal, radio signal or computer readable storage medium.

28. A computer program product comprising non transitory computer readable media having stored thereon a computer program according to claim 26.

29. Apparatus comprising a processor and a memory, the memory containing instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to: monitor unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions; and

in response to the monitoring, cause the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

30. The apparatus of claim 29, wherein the memory contains instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to carry out the method of any of claims 2 to 12.

31 . Apparatus comprising a processor and a memory, the memory containing

instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to:

receive an indication of a parameter from a network node; and

transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

32. The apparatus of claim 31 , wherein the memory contains instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to carry out the method of any of claims 14 to 20.

33. Apparatus comprising a processor and a memory, the memory containing

instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to:

send, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

34. The apparatus of claim 33, wherein the memory contains instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to carry out the method of any of claims 22 to 25.

35. Apparatus configured to: monitor unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions; and

in response to the monitoring, cause the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

36. Apparatus configured to:

receive an indication of a parameter from a network node; and

transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

37. Apparatus configured to:

send, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

Description:
USING UNLICENSED AND LICENSED SPECTRUM

Technical Field

Examples of the present disclosure relate to using licensed and unlicensed spectrum, such as for example transmissions to and/or from a UE.

Background

3GPP radio technologies, such as for example Long Term Evolution (LTE) or New Radio (NR), may be used in licensed spectrum. Initiatives like Licence Assisted Access (LAA), MulteFire and NR-U are solutions to use LTE and NR in unlicensed spectrum. Using unlicensed spectrum may increase the overall capacity of a network if used in parallel to licensed spectrum.

Using unlicensed spectrum, such as for example industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) radio bands, may require the use of Clear Channel Assessment (CCA) or Listen Before Talk (LBT) Medium Access Control (MAC) schemes, in which a transmitter first senses that the transmission medium is free before using it for transmissions.

Summary

One aspect of the present disclosure provides a method in a network node. The method comprises monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

Another aspect of the present disclosure provides a method in a User Equipment, UE. The method comprises receiving an indication of a parameter from a network node, and transmitting a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum. If the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, the method also comprises transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. A further aspect of the present disclosure provides a method in a network node. The method comprises sending, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

A still further aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus comprising a processor and a memory. The memory contains instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to monitor unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, cause the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions

Another aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus comprising a processor and a memory. The memory contains instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to receive an indication of a parameter from a network node, and transmit a communication by: performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum

An additional aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus comprising a processor and a memory. The memory containing instructions executable by the processor such that the apparatus is operable to send, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by: performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

A further aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus configured to monitor unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, cause the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

A still further aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus configured to receive an indication of a parameter from a network node, and transmit a communication by: performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum.

An additional aspect of the present disclosure provides apparatus configured to send, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by: performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum

Brief Description of the Drawings

For a better understanding of examples of the present disclosure, and to show more clearly how the examples may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example only, to the following drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a flow chart of an example of a method in network node;

Figure 2 is a flow chart of an example of a method in User Equipment (UE);

Figure 3 is a flow chart of an example of a method in network node;

Detailed Description

The following sets forth specific details, such as particular embodiments or examples for purposes of explanation and not limitation. It will be appreciated by one skilled in the art that other examples may be employed apart from these specific details. In some instances, detailed descriptions of well-known methods, nodes, interfaces, circuits, and devices are omitted so as not obscure the description with unnecessary detail. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that the functions described may be implemented in one or more nodes using hardware circuitry (e.g., analog and/or discrete logic gates interconnected to perform a specialized function, ASICs, PLAs, etc.) and/or using software programs and data in conjunction with one or more digital microprocessors or general purpose computers. Nodes that communicate using the air interface also have suitable radio communications circuitry. Moreover, where appropriate the technology can additionally be considered to be embodied entirely within any form of computer-readable memory, such as solid-state memory, magnetic disk, or optical disk containing an appropriate set of computer instructions that would cause a processor to carry out the techniques described herein.

Hardware implementation may include or encompass, without limitation, digital signal processor (DSP) hardware, a reduced instruction set processor, hardware (e.g., digital or analogue) circuitry including but not limited to application specific integrated circuit(s) (ASIC) and/or field programmable gate array(s) (FPGA(s)), and (where appropriate) state machines capable of performing such functions.

Allowing networks to operate in shared spectrum (or unlicensed spectrum) is an approach that may increase network capacity. Although unlicensed spectrum does not match the qualities of licensed spectrum, for example in terms of reliability, bandwidth, availability and/or latency, solutions that allow an efficient use of unlicensed spectrum as a complement to licensed spectrum (such as, for example, solutions provided herein) have the potential to provide increased capacity while mitigating or avoiding at least some of the drawbacks.

Some features in a network technology, such as for example LTE or NR, may need to be adapted to comply with the special characteristics of the unlicensed band as well as also different regulations. When operating in unlicensed spectrum, a device may be required to sense the medium as free before transmitting. This operation is often referred to as Listen Before Talk (LBT). Sensing may be performed in a particular channel (corresponding to a defined carrier frequency) and over a predefined bandwidth. For example, in the 5 GHz band, the sensing is performed over 20 MHz bandwidth. Examples of LBT procedures are described in standards EN 301 .893, 5GHz RLAN, Harmonized standard covering the essential requirements of article 3.2 of Directive 2014/53/EU, which is incorporated herein by reference.

Using unlicensed spectrum and/or Listen Before Talk (LBT) procedures can in some cases cause problems for applications that have a fixed upper bound on the latency of related communications. Additionally or alternatively, applications supporting high reliability and deterministic latency, such as for example URLLC (Ultra Reliable Low-Latency

Communications) or HRLLC (Highly Reliable Low-Latency Communications) schemes, may not be suitable for unlicensed spectrum use, as exclusive or guaranteed use of the unlicensed wireless spectrum or unlicensed channels is not provided. URLLC, for example, has strict requirements on transmission reliability and latency, i.e., 99.9999% reliability within 1 ms one-way latency. However, it is not known at a particular time whether unlicensed spectrum is occupied (e.g. by other radio technologies such as Wi-Fi) or can be used for transmissions, and a transmitter may need to wait for a channel in unlicensed spectrum to be free (e.g. no usage of the channel is detected) before it can begin transmissions. Hence, the latency of communications using that channel cannot easily be predicted or controlled, and the reliability of communications using unlicensed spectrum cannot be guaranteed.

Embodiments disclosed herein may for example improve the latency and/or reliability of communications that are to be sent to or from one or more User Equipments (UEs) using unlicensed spectrum, for example by controlling one or more aspects of switching from using unlicensed spectrum to using licensed spectrum.

In licensed operation, uplink (UL) traffic can be scheduled with dynamic UL grants or configured UL grants. In case of dynamic grants, in the example of NR (though this may also be applied to other wireless communication technologies), the gNB may provide an UL grant to the UE for each UL transmission. Configured grants are pre-allocated, i.e. provided once to the UE, thereafter the configured UL grant is valid for usage for UL transmissions according to a configured periodicity. The UE does not need to transmit padding on those UL resources if no UL data is available for transmission, and may skip an UL transmission on such grants. The Logical channel Prioritization (LCP) procedure at the UE MAC determines the order of priority and amount of data from each logical channel to be multiplexed and transmitted in an UL transmission, i.e. when an UL grant is received.

Logical channel mapping restrictions can be defined, e.g. restricting certain logical channels to be transmitted on an UL grant referring to certain serving cells or being of certain transmission duration. This way, for example, URLLC traffic requiring a particular low latency can be restricted to be transmitted on long UL slots or unreliable serving cells.

Figure 1 is a flow chart of an example of a method 100 in a network node. The network node may be for example a base station, or any other suitable network node. The method 100 comprises, in step 102, monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions. For example, the monitoring may comprise monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts by the network node (or another network node such as a base station) for transmissions (e.g. downlink transmissions) to the at least one UE. Additionally or alternatively, the monitoring may comprise monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts by the at least one UE for transmissions, e.g. for uplink transmissions. In some examples, the first group of UEs may be connected to the same cell or base station. In some examples, the first group of UEs may be a subset of all UEs connected to the same cell or base station.

The method 100 also comprises, in step 104, in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions, by for example scheduling the uplink and/or downlink transmissions (and/or future transmissions) in licensed spectrum. For example, this may comprise sending transmissions to the UEs in the first group using licensed spectrum, or instructing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum for transmissions (e.g. one or more uplink channels) instead of licensed spectrum. Thus, in some examples, the network node may conclude from the monitoring that the unlicensed spectrum is congested or that communications sent using unlicensed spectrum may experience high latency and/or low reliability. Then, for example, the network node may cause transmissions to and/or from the UEs in the first group - including, in some examples, one or more UEs whose unlicensed spectrum access attempts were not monitored - to be made instead using licensed spectrum.

In some examples, monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts by the at least one UE comprises monitoring at least one of a number of access attempts by the at least one UE within a predetermined time (or, for example, a rate of access attempts), a total number of access attempts by the UEs in the first group within a predetermined time (or, for example, a rate of access attempts by all of the UEs), a number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within a predetermined time (or, for example, a rate of LBT failures), a length of a clear channel assessment, CCA, procedure performed by the at least one UE (where a longer CCA procedure may indicate a congested or used unlicensed spectrum or channel), and a total number of LBT failures by the UEs in the first group within a predetermined time (e.g. a rate of LBT failures for all UEs in the first group). For each parameter monitored for the at least one UE, in some examples the parameter may alternatively be monitored for multiple UEs or even all UEs in the first group. In particular examples, causing the UEs in the group of UEs to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions may be performed in response to a total number of access attempts (e.g. unsuccessful attempts) by the at least one UE or a plurality of UEs in the first group within a predetermined time exceeding a first threshold or, alternatively, a rate of access attempts (e.g. unsuccessful attempts) by multiple or all UEs in the first group.

In some examples, the UEs in the first group may be assigned a value for the predetermined time, also referred to in some examples as a delay budget. Each UE in the first group, when attempting to send a transmission using unlicensed spectrum, may perform a CCA procedure for the predetermined time, or attempt one or more LBT procedures during the predetermined time. If the procedure is not successful, and the UE has not achieved access to the unlicensed spectrum in the predetermined time, may then switch to using licensed spectrum to send the transmission. In some examples, this may comprise the UE

requesting an uplink grant, and sending the transmission using licensed spectrum having been granted the uplink grant. Additionally or alternatively, the network node or a base station may perform a CCA procedure for the predetermined time, or attempt one or more LBT procedures during the predetermined time, when attempting to send a transmission to one or more of the UEs using unlicensed spectrum. If unsuccessful, the node or base station may switch to using licensed spectrum to send the transmission. In some examples, monitoring of one of access attempts for unlicensed spectrum for uplink or downlink transmissions may cause the network node to take action to ensure that the other of uplink or downlink transmissions are subsequently sent using licensed spectrum.

In some examples, UEs may be grouped into two or more groups. Thus, for example, the method 100 may comprises monitoring unlicensed spectrum access attempts for

transmissions to and/or from at least one second UE in a second group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink

transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, causing the UEs in the second group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions.

In some examples, the UEs in the first group are associated with a predetermined time or delay budget that is different to a predetermined time or delay budget associated with the UEs in the first group. Thus, for example, the method 100 may comprise causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions is in response to the at least one UE in the first group performing unsuccessful unlicensed spectrum access attempts for a first clear channel assessment, CCA, period, and causing the UEs in the second group to use licensed spectrum to send transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions is in response to the at least one UE in the second group performing unsuccessful unlicensed spectrum access attempts for a second CCA period, wherein the first CCA period has a different length to the second CCA period. Each UE may be placed in a group beforehand (e.g. a group is selected for each UE) based on one or more criteria, such as for example at least one of radio link quality experienced at the UE, traffic type of traffic sent by and/or received at the UE, a QoS parameter of the UE, and buffer size of the UE. In some examples there may be more than two groups, each with an associated delay budget or predetermined time.

In some examples, the first group may be reconfigured. For example, the method 100 may comprise sending an instruction to the UEs in the first group to reconfigure the length of the first CCA period. Additionally or alternatively, the method 100 may comprise sending an instruction to a UE in the first group to reconfigure the UE to be in the second group.

In some examples causing the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions comprises sending an instruction to the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum. The instruction may be sent to the UEs in the first group using licensed spectrum, for example to ensure that the instruction can be received by the UEs in the event that the unlicensed spectrum is unavailable or congested.

Figure 2 is a flow chart of an example of a method 200 in a User Equipment (UE). The method 200 comprises, in step 202, receiving an indication of a parameter from a network node. In some examples, the network node may be a base station or another network node, such as a network node associated with a network to which the UE is connected. The method 200 also comprises, in step 204, transmitting a communication (e.g. to a base station) by performing a Clear Channel Assessment (CCA) procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum, for example to a base station. Thus, for example, the UE may switch from attempting to use the unlicensed spectrum to using the licensed spectrum based on the CCA procedure, and also based on a parameter configured by the network node or the network.

In some examples, the indication of the parameter indicates one or more of the

predetermined time, a maximum number of access attempts for a LBT procedure in the predetermined time (or, for example, a maximum access attempt rate), a maximum number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within the predetermined time (or, for example, a maximum LBT failure rate), and a length of the CCA procedure. If, for example, the CCA procedure exceeds the predetermined time, or the rate exceeds the maximum rate, the UE may switch to using the licensed spectrum for transmitting the communication, and also in some examples for transmitting subsequent communications.

In some examples, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is available within the predetermined period (e.g. following a successful or positive LBT procedure), the method 200 may comprise transmitting the communication on the first channel in unlicensed spectrum.

The communication may in some examples be associated with a logical channel, such as for example a particular uplink channel. The method 200 may then comprise for example, after transmitting the communication on the second channel in licensed spectrum, transmitting subsequent communications associated with the logical channel on the second channel in licensed spectrum. In some examples, transmitting the communication on the second channel in licensed spectrum comprises transmitting a scheduling request to the base station, and transmitting the communication after receiving a scheduling grant from the base station. In some examples, the network node comprises the base station.

Figure 3 is a flow chart of an example of a method 300 in a network node, such as for example a base station or other network node. The method 300 comprises, in step 302, sending, to at least one User Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. Thus, for example, the network node can control at least some aspects of the UE’s unlicensed spectrum access procedure. In some examples, the UE may performed the method 200 described above.

In some examples, the indication of the predetermined period indicates one or more of the predetermined time, a maximum number of access attempts for the CCA procedure within the predetermined time (or, for example, a maximum access attempt rate), a maximum number of listen before talk, LBT, failures by the at least one UE within the predetermined time (or, for example, a maximum LBT failure rate), and a length of the CCA procedure. Failing to keep to any one or more of these requirements may thus for example cause the UE to switch to using the licensed spectrum. In some examples, the at least one UE is in a first group of UEs, and the method comprises sending, to the UEs in the first group, an indication of the parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes each UE in the first group to perform a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmit the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. Thus, in some examples, the network node may also perform a method similar to the method 100 described above. In some examples, the method 200 may comprise sending, to UEs in a second group, an indication of a second parameter. The indication of the second parameter causes each UE in the second group to perform a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the second parameter, transmit the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. The parameter is different to the second parameter. Thus, for example, UEs may be grouped into two or more groups (e.g. using the criteria indicated above) with associated parameters, which could correspond for example to different delay budgets.

In some examples of any of the methods disclosed herein, a group of UEs may be associated with a respective group sum LBT threshold. Once the threshold is reached by the UEs in the group, e.g. during a predetermined time (or, alternatively, a predetermined LBT failure rate is met or exceeded), the group of UEs can switch over to another cell and/or switch from using unlicensed spectrum to using licensed spectrum.

At least some examples disclosed herein may enable the use of unlicensed bands for reliable type of communication, such as for example URLLC. In some examples, a group of UEs may be referred to as an Unlicensed Reliability Group (URG), and UEs may be grouped into one or more URGs. In some examples, the network controls one or more aspects of the UEs switching from using unlicensed spectrum to licensed spectrum, instead of for example being controlled by an application on the UE. Additionally, in some examples, the operator of the network may also predict how many devices should switch from using unlicensed spectrum, at the same time or around the same time, to using licensed spectrum.

Examples of this disclosure may assume that a base station or UE using 3GPP radio technology e.g. LTE or NR is being used in unlicensed spectrum along with licensed spectrum. This may be possible for example through deployment of multiple UEs on a single device, one for licensed (e.g. NR or LTE) connectivity and other for unlicensed (e.g. NR-U or LTE LAA) connectivity or any dual carrier connectivity solution. Where UEs are grouped into one or more groups (referred to here as URGs), the UEs in one group may in some examples be associated with a single value representing a delay budget within which a UE should transmit data on unlicensed spectrum, before switching to licensed spectrum (e.g. if the UE has not yet achieved access to the unlicensed channel due to unsuccessful CCA or LBT attempts). If a UE is able to transmit within that particular time period (delay budget), the switching to licensed channel will not occur. Else, the UE will switch from the unlicensed channel to licensed channel. This may also occur from the base station side, where the base station switching from using the unlicensed spectrum to using licensed spectrum for transmissions to a UE in the URG may occur.

In some examples, if a UE fails to transmit on the unlicensed channel due to congestion or unlicensed spectrum usage, the UE may instead transmit on preconfigured resources on the licensed spectrum, or preconfigured resources on another more reliable unlicensed carrier or channel. Alternatively, the UE may be granted a scheduling grant on the licensed spectrum, e.g. from a base station, and e.g. following a scheduling request from the UE.

One of the methods to assign UEs to groups can be for example to group the UEs based on the Buffer Status Report (BSR) and/or type of data UE is expected to transmit. An example of a method for URG assignment is as follows:

1 . Request: UE reports the BSR to a base station (e.g. NR-U BS) and also provides a reliability target required. This step can be optional.

2. URG calculation and assignment: Based on the requirements for each UE, the base station (or another network node) groups each UE in a URG. Assigning UEs to particular URGs can be repeated in some examples, e.g. in a periodic fashion. The base station further can update parameters associated with a new URG to UEs using e.g. control signaling.

3. URG assignment for uplink: The base station may assign URG parameters to the UE(s) in the URG, which may be used for the life time of an application on the UE for uplink transmission. For downlink the base station may have control over the transmissions.

After UEs are grouped into one or more URGs, for uplink a base station may in some examples schedule an UL transmission for a certain UE at a certain time in unlicensed spectrum. Before the UE can start transmission, it performs a CCA or LBT procedure. If the number of e.g. failed LBT operations equals or exceeds a respective parameter associated with the URG (or a respective predetermined time for gaining unlicensed spectrum access is met or exceeded for example), the UE will switch from unlicensed to the licensed channel, where the transmission (in terms of medium access) is assumed to be successful. Similar procedures may apply for example for the downlink, where the operations may be conducted at a base station.

In 3GPP, a UE configuration update procedure (e.g. as shown in ETSI TS 23.502, figure 4.2.4.2.1 , wherein ETSI TS 23.502 is incorporated herein by reference) can be utilized to provide parameter values associated with each URG to UE(s) in the URG. In addition to existing signaling, in some examples, new signaling may be used where a UE requests an assignment or update of the URG for initial setup. Later, in some examples, the network may update UE configuration. For example, if parameters for a URG are updated, or a UE moves from one URG to another, the parameter values at the UE(s) may be updated.

Considering a particular example case where performance using unlicensed spectrum is not insufficient to meet a reliability requirement, in some examples a base station (or other network node) may be able to indicate switching of all UEs in a particular group

simultaneously or substantially simultaneously. Alternatively, the base station (or other network node) may switch particular UEs from one group to another. In a particular example, that a parameter e.g. predetermined time or delay budget for a certain group may be fixed. Thus, for example, a set of UEs serving for robot control communication would have a high reliability requirement compare to UEs serving process control communication on same shop floor area under same NR-U BS, and thus may be placed into different groups (e.g. the UEs associated with the high reliability requirement may be placed into a group with a shorter delay budget or predetermined time).

Figure 4 is a schematic of an example of apparatus 400 comprising processing circuitry 402 (e.g. one or more processors) and a memory 404 in communication with the processing circuitry 402. The memory 404 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 402. The apparatus 400 also comprises an interface 406 in communication with the processing circuitry 402. Although the interface 406, processing circuitry 402 and memory 404 are shown connected in series, these may alternatively be interconnected in any other way, for example via a bus.

In one embodiment, the memory 404 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 402 such that the apparatus 400 is operable to monitor unlicensed spectrum access attempts for transmissions to and/or from at least one User Equipment, UE, in a first group of UEs configured to use unlicensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink transmissions and, in response to the monitoring, cause the UEs in the first group to use licensed spectrum to send uplink transmissions and/or receive downlink

transmissions. In some examples, the apparatus 400 is operable to carry out the method 100 described above with reference to Figure 1 .

Figure 5 is a schematic of an example of apparatus 500 compising processing circuitry 502 (e.g. one or more processors) and a memory 504 in communication with the processing circuitry 502. The memory 504 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 502. The apparatus 500 also comprises an interface 506 in communication with the processing circuitry 502. Although the interface 506, processing circuitry 502 and memory 504 are shown connected in series, these may alternatively be interconnected in any other way, for example via a bus.

In one embodiment, the memory 504 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 502 such that the apparatus 500 is operable to receive an indication of a parameter from a network node, and transmit a communication by: performing a Clear Channel Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. In some examples, the apparatus 500 is operable to carry out the method 200 described above with reference to Figure 2.

Figure 6 is a schematic of an example of apparatus 600 comprising processing circuitry 602 (e.g. one or more processors) and a memory 604 in communication with the processing circuitry 602. The memory 604 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 602. The apparatus 600 also comprises an interface 606 in communication with the processing circuitry 602. Although the interface 606, processing circuitry 602 and memory 604 are shown connected in series, these may alternatively be interconnected in any other way, for example via a bus.

In one embodiment, the memory 604 contains instructions executable by the processing circuitry 602 such that the apparatus 600 is operable to send, to at least one User

Equipment, UE, an indication of a parameter, wherein the indication of the parameter causes the at least one UE to transmit a communication by performing a Clear Channel

Assessment, CCA, procedure on a first channel in unlicensed spectrum and, if the CCA procedure indicates that the first channel is occupied for at least a predetermined period associated with the parameter, transmitting the communication on a second channel in licensed spectrum. In some examples, the apparatus 600 is operable to carry out the method 300 described above with reference to Figure 3.

It should be noted that the above-mentioned examples illustrate rather than limit the invention, and that those skilled in the art will be able to design many alternative examples without departing from the scope of the appended statements. The word“comprising” does not exclude the presence of elements or steps other than those listed in a claim,“a” or“an” does not exclude a plurality, and a single processor or other unit may fulfil the functions of several units recited in the statements below. Where the terms,“first”,“second” etc. are used they are to be understood merely as labels for the convenient identification of a particular feature. In particular, they are not to be interpreted as describing the first or the second feature of a plurality of such features (i.e. the first or second of such features to occur in time or space) unless explicitly stated otherwise. Steps in the methods disclosed herein may be carried out in any order unless expressly otherwise stated. Any reference signs in the statements shall not be construed so as to limit their scope.




 
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