Limitations and sidelink-based extensions of 3GPP cellular access protocols for very crowded environments
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An experience common to smartphone users is the difficulty in accessing services in crowded scenarios, such as a rock concert or a football match. In these cases, to (partially) mitigate frustration, users generically claim that network congestion is occurring, and try again and again to access the network with their smartphones: the result is that user frustration and network congestion reinforce each other! This paper investigates the root causes of poor performance of cellular networks in crowded environments and shows that the commonly adopted random access procedure can prevent full utilization of wireless resources. We develop a simple yet accurate analytical model to analyze why attempting random access to wireless resources can become a problem even when access congestion avoidance is enforced, e.g., with the Access Class Barring technique. The model we propose suggests that cluster-based network ac- cess, leveraging device-to-device communications, significantly alleviates access problems. Moreover, it sheds light on scalability laws that govern network utilization and quality of experience, in terms of cell capacity, number of access channels, and cluster size.