Self Contained Slot in 5G-NR?

What is self Contained Slot in 5G-NR?

The self Contained slot can be defined as a slot that contains the Downlink part, Uplink part, and a Guard period. It was introduced in 5G-NR and the design system was not available in LTE. This provides flexibility in NR which delivers significantly lower latency when compared to LTE.

In 5G New Radio (NR), “time slot” defines a specific time interval within the radio frame structure that facilitates data transmission and reception. Time slots play a crucial role in organizing the data flow in wireless communication systems like 5G NR, ensuring efficient data exchange between the base station (gNB) and user devices (UEs).

The structure of 5G NR divides the radio frame into subframes, where each subframe hosts a predetermined number of time slots. The allocation of slots per subframe varies with the 5G NR configuration’s numerology. For instance, with a 30 KHz Subcarrier Spacing (SCS), a typical subframe contains two time slots. These slots accommodate both uplink (UL) and downlink (DL) communications—where the gNB sends data to UEs in the DL, and UEs transmit data back to the gNB in the UL. Based on each UE’s communication requirements, the gNB dynamically assigns time slots for UL and DL transmissions.

Although 3GPP does not officially recognize the term “Self-Contained” type Slot, industry professionals often use it to describe a specific configuration, as shown in the referenced image.

Self Contained Slot

Traditional Slot Structure:

Prior to 5G NR, in 4G LTE, utilized a frame-based structure, where each frame was further divided into subframes. These subframes served as the basic units of transmission, carrying either Downlink (DL) or Uplink (UL) data within a single subframe. This meant that:

  • Scheduling: Downlink data scheduling information and the actual data transmission occurred in separate subframes.
  • Feedback: Acknowledgements (ACKs) or Negative Acknowledgements (NACKs) for received data were sent in subsequent subframes.

This traditional approach introduced a latency penalty due to the spread of information across multiple subframes.

Self-Contained Slot: A Paradigm Shift:

In the Self-contained Slot,

  • The downlink and uplink are separated by a Guard period.
  • Self-contained slots utilize mini-slots within the larger slot structure. These mini-slots can be configured for either DL or UL transmission.
  • Specific configuration of symbols within a self-contained slot depends on the type of data being transmitted (e.g., control information, data payload) and the chosen mini-slot configuration.
  • Downlink self-contained slot consists of downlink data and its corresponding HARQ feedback.
  • The uplink self-contained slot consists of uplink scheduling information and uplink data.

Technical Structure

A typical Self-Contained Slot consists of the following parts:

  • PDCCH (Physical Downlink Control Channel) carries the DL scheduling information within the self-contained slot.
  • PUCCH (Physical Uplink Control Channel) is used by the UE to transmit ACK/NACK signals within the same slot.
  • Downlink Control Information (DCI): Located at the beginning of the slot, DCI includes scheduling decisions, resource allocation, and other control instructions for both downlink and uplink transmissions.
  • Downlink Data(PDSCH): Follows the DCI and consists of the actual data being sent from the network to the device.
  • Uplink Control Information(HARQ:ACK/NACK): This can include acknowledgments (ACKs) or negative acknowledgments (NACKs) related to downlink data reception.
  • Uplink Data:(PUSCH) Data sent from the device back to the network, scheduled based on the control information received at the slot’s start.

The integration of both downlink and uplink transmissions within a single slot significantly reduces the transmission latency. This is because the device immediately knows when to send uplink feedback or data after receiving downlink transmissions without waiting for additional control information. The structure of Self-Contained Slots is flexible, allowing for configurations that can prioritize either downlink or uplink transmissions, depending on the network’s current needs.

The Self-Contained Slot design offers several key benefits:

  • Reduced Latency: By consolidating the communication process into a single slot, the time between sending data and receiving acknowledgment is minimized, which is critical for applications requiring low latency.
  • Enhanced Efficiency: The clear demarcation of downlink, uplink, and control information within a single slot optimizes the use of radio resources, improving overall network efficiency.
  • Flexibility: Self-Contained Slots can be dynamically configured to adapt to varying traffic demands, supporting a mix of URLLC, eMBB, and massive Machine Type Communications (mMTC) within the same cell.
  • Improved Reliability: Fast acknowledgment of data reception and the ability to quickly adjust scheduling and resource allocation enhance the reliability of transmissions, crucial for URLLC applications.
Technical Challenges

Implementing Self-Contained Slots requires careful management of network resources and precise timing to ensure that devices can accurately interpret and respond to control information. Additionally, the dynamic nature of Self-Contained Slots necessitates advanced algorithms for scheduling and resource allocation to fully leverage their advantages.

While self-contained slots offer significant benefits in 5G NR, implementing them poses specific challenges, particularly for the User Equipment (UE).

Complex Signal Processing: Self-Contained Slots require the UE to process a significant amount of data within a single slot, including decoding downlink control information, processing downlink data, generating uplink control information, and encoding uplink data. This involves complex signal processing algorithms such as channel estimation, equalization, modulation, and error correction coding

Real-Time Constraints: Self-Contained Slots operate within tight timing constraints, requiring the UE to process incoming data and generate responses within a specified time window. Meeting these real-time requirements becomes challenging, especially when the UE is handling multiple concurrent tasks or experiencing fluctuations in processing load.

Adaptation to Channel Conditions: Effective utilization of Self-Contained Slots necessitates the UE’s ability to adapt to varying channel conditions, including changes in signal strength, interference levels, and multipath propagation effects. Implementing dynamic algorithms for channel estimation, equalization, and interference mitigation is essential for optimizing performance under different operating conditions.

Due to the very tight timelines that needs to be supported by both UE and the network for self-contained slots, implementing it requires advancements in both UE hardware and baseband processing capabilities. Initially very few UE’s might support this feature due to the complexity of implementing this feature.