Preventing RLC buffer sojourn delays in 5G

Irazabal, Mikel; Lopez-Aguilera, Elena; Demirkol, Ilker; Schmidt, Robert; Nikaein, Navid
IEEE Access, March 2021, Vol.9

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is investing a notable effort to mitigate the endogenous stack and protocol delays (e.g., introducing new numerology, through preemptive scheduling or providing uplink granted free transmission) to attain to the heterogeneous Quality of Service (QoS) latency requirements for which the fifth generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks (5G) is envisioned. However, 3GPP’s goals may become futile if exogenous delays generated by the transport layer (e.g., bufferbloat) and the Radio Link Control (RLC) sublayer segmentation/reassembly procedure are not targeted. On the one hand, the bufferbloat specifically occurs at the Radio Access Network (RAN) since the data path bottleneck is located at the radio link, and contemporary RANs are deployed with large buffers to avoid squandering scarce wireless resources. On the other hand, a Resource Block (RB) scheduling that dismisses 5G’s packet-switched network nature, unnecessarily triggers the segmentation procedure at sender’s RLC sublayer, which adds extra delay as receiver’s RLC sublayer cannot forward the packets to higher sublayers until they are reassembled. Consequently, the exogenously generated queuing delays can surpass 5G’s stack and protocol endogenous delays, neutralizing 3GPP’s attempt to reduce the latency. We address RLC’s related buffer delays and present two solutions: (i) we enhance the 3GPP standard and propose a bufferbloat avoidance algorithm, and (ii) we propose a RB scheduler for circumventing the added sojourn time caused by the packet segmentation/reassembly procedure. Both solutions are implemented and extensively evaluated along with other state-of-the-art proposals in a testbed to verify their suitability and effectiveness under realistic conditions of use (i.e., by considering Modulation and Coding Scheme (MCS) variations, slices, different traffic patterns and off-the-shelf equipment). The results reveal current 3GPP deficits in its QoS model to address the bufferbloat and the contribution of the segmentation/reassembly procedure to the total delay.

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