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2010 Ninth International Conference on Networks

Impact of Control Channel Limitations on the LTE VoIP Capacity


Jani Puttonen , Hannu-Heikki Puupponen , Kari Aho ,
Tero Henttonen and Martti Moisio
Magister

Solutions Ltd, Rautpohjankatu 8,


40700 Jyvskyl, Finland. Email: firstname.lastname@magister.fi
University of Jyvskyl, Department of Mathematical Information Technology,
P.O. Box 35, 40014 University of Jyvskyl, Finland. Email: firstname.lastname@jyu.fi
Nokia, P.O. Box 407, 00045 Nokia Group,
Finland. Email: firstname.lastname@nokia.com

allowing the scheduler in the Base Station (BS) to make


optimal scheduling and link adaptation decisions based on
e.g. Channel Quality Indicator (CQI) information. Multi-user
and Frequency Domain (FD) scheduling gains are achievable
also for VoIP UEs; with a limited extent due to small packet
sizes and strict delay bounds. However, the high degree of
flexibility in dynamic scheduling of users is obtained at the
cost of high control signaling overhead. First of all, the BS
needs frequency-selective CQI to be reported in Physical
Uplink Control Channel (PUCCH) by each UE. However,
since PUCCH capacity is limited, only non-frequencyselective wideband CQI may be feasible, especally for
VoIP with high number of active users. Secondly, as the
data channel is shared, the BS needs to signal in PDCCH
which users are being scheduled every TTI. This signalling
information includes the Physical Resource Blocks (PRBs),
Modulation and Coding Scheme (MCS) and related Hybrid
ARQ (HARQ) information for each UE scheduled in either
UL or DL. Also PDCCH capacity is limited restricting
the amount of multiplexed users per TTI. For LTE with
high VoIP capacity requirements, the PUCCH and PDCCH
consumption/limitations might become the bottlenecks for
VoIP performance. Thus, a semi-persistent packet scheduling
(SPS) scheme for VoIP has been specified for 3GPP Release
8 to battle against the control channel constraints.
VoIP service in 3G LTE has been studied e.g. in [2],
[3], [4], [5] and [6]. However, the VoIP capacity has not
been studied with realistic PDCCH, despite it clearly has
a critical effect of the VoIP performance. Impact of CQI
compression and reporting mechanism on VoIP capacity has
been studied in [7]. However, realistic PDCCH and semipersistent PS were not taken into account. In [8] the PDCCH
and its impact on the packet scheduling performance has
been studied. However, the study considers only a full buffer
traffic model and the effect on the frequency domain packet
scheduling performance. But, the effect of PDCCH restrictions on the multiplexed users per TTI is presumably much
higher with VoIP traffic due to small packet sizes and strict
delay bounds. The objective of this article is study the VoIP

AbstractIn this paper, we present a fully dynamic simulative analysis of the Downlink (DL) Voice-over-IP (VoIP)
performance in 3G Long Term Evolution (LTE) with both
Uplink (UL) and DL control channel constraints. In UL the
Physical Uplink Control Channel (PUCCH) capacity affects
the Channel Quality Indicator (CQI) resolution and in DL the
Physical Downlink Control Channel (PDCCH) capacity has an
impact to the amount of multiplexed users per Transmission
Time Interval (TTI). The results indicate that with realistic
control channel assumptions, semi-persistent packet scheduling
outperforms dynamic packet scheduling.
Keywords-LTE; VoIP; semi-persistent scheduling; PDCCH;
CQI, capacity;

I. I NTRODUCTION
UTRAN Long Term Evolution (LTE) (also called Evolved
UTRAN) Release 8 specifications are being finalized in
3GPP. LTE aims at ambitious goals of e.g. peak data rate
of 100 Mbps in Downlink (DL) and 50 Mbps in Uplink
(UL), increased cell edge user throughput, improved spectral
efficiency and scalable bandwidth from 1.4 MHz to 20 MHz.
[1]. Voice-over-IP (VoIP) capacity of LTE has to be as good
as UMTS Circuit Switched voice performance. However, it
is clear that LTE should be at least as good as the High
Speed Packet Access (HSPA) evolution track also in voice
traffic. These targets should be met up to 5 km cell range
and up to 30 km should be supported with slight degradation
in capacity.
LTE is optimized for packet data transfer and the core
network is purely packet switched, thus speech is also
transmitted purely with VoIP protocols. LTE is expected to
support very high number of VoIP users and the Qualityof-Service (QoS) of VoIP is determined by maximum Endto-End delay and tolerable packet loss. These facts set challenges to the VoIP User Equipment (UE) resource allocation:
Packet Scheduling (PS), Link Adaptation (LA) and Physical
Downlink Control Channel (PDCCH).
Dynamic PS is specified to be the default scheduling
mechanism in Release 8. This means that the allocation may
change from Transmission Time Interval (TTI) to another
978-0-7695-3979-9/10 $26.00 2010 IEEE
DOI 10.1109/ICN.2010.21

77

performance in DL with realistic PDCCH including different


packet scheduling schemes and CQI reporting resolution.
The analysis is performed with fully dynamic system level
simulator, thus also mobility and handovers are accurately
modelled.
The rest of the paper is organized in four sections. Section
II presents the main modeling issues related to VoIP over 3G
Long Term Evolution. Section III provides a description of
the simulation scenario and results analysis. Finally, section
IV concludes the article.

Transport format information, such as multi-antenna


information, modulation scheme and payload size
HARQ information, such as process number and redundancy version

PDCCH must be reliable enough to get the transmissions


through without the need for HARQ, also in the cell edge
area. The BLER target for PDCCH has been set to 1 %. To
achieve the performance target, both power control and link
adaptation as been defined for PDCCH. QPSK modulation
with 4 different coding rates can be used based on reported
wideband CQI information and 1 % BLER target SINRs 1
for each coding rate. Outer Loop Link Adaptation may be
utilized to compensate the CQI measurement errors, delays
and other inaccuracies. Transmission power for each control
channel can be either increased or decreased within certain
limits depending on wideband CQI and 1 % BLER target
SINR. Each scheduling grant is defined based on fixed size
Control Channel Elements (CCE) which are combined in a
predetermined manner using a tree structure to achieve different coding rate. The coding rates of QPSK2/3, QPSK1/3,
QPSK1/6 and QPSK1/12 stand for 1, 2, 4, 8 combined
CCEs, respectively. Each CCE is comprised of Resource
Elements (REs) which are distributed throughout time (to
three symbols) and frequency (the whole system bandwidth).
The number of CCEs available for control channel assignment depends on e.g. carrier bandwidth, number of transmits
antennas, number of OFDM symbols used for PDCCH in
each subframe, and the CCE size. A CCE size depends
on the Downlink Control Information (DCI) format and the
system bandwidth resulting a fixed size in REs. Since both
the amount of REs and transmit power is limited per TTI,
the amount of schedulable UEs in UL and DL is determined
by the channel conditions of scheduled UEs.
In PDCCH reception the SINR is calculated and the
BLER acquired using Exponential Effective SIR Mapping
(EESM) link-to-system level tables. If PDCCH is not decoded, the PDU will not be decoded and the HARQ will
not be able to gain from the transmission. More detailed
PDCCH analysis is presented e.g. in [8] and [11].

II. VOICE - OVER -IP AND RELATED MODELING


A. Voice-over-IP traffic
The characteristics of VoIP traffic can be described as
bursty with strict delay requirements. VoIP traffic is considered to be provided by AMR codec with Discontinuous
Transmission, Voice Activity Detector and Comfort Noise
Generation. AMR provides small packets transmitted with a
constant rate depending on speech activity: One VoIP packet
at 20 ms intervals during active period (talk-spurt) and one
Silence Description (SID) packet at 160 ms intervals during
silent period. Also, in LTE the IP, UDP and RTP headers
are compressed with Robust Header Compression (ROHC)
to improve the spectral efficiency. This kind of traffic type
leads to a fact that the amount of UEs needed to be scheduled
might vary drastically per TTI.
According to [9], the maximum acceptable mouth-to-ear
delay for voice is on the order of 250 ms; assuming that
the delay for Core Network is approximately 100 ms, the
tolerable delay for Radio Link Control (RLC) and Medium
Access Control (MAC) buffering, scheduling and detection
should be strictly lower than 150 ms. Hence, assuming that
both end users are LTE users, tolerable delay for buffering
and scheduling is lower than 80 ms. A delay bound of 50 ms
(for delay from eNB to UE) has been chosen for the 3GPP
performance evaluations to better account for variability in
network end-to-end delays.
Evolved UTRAN is targeted to support a high number of
VoIP users. The maximal VoIP capacity for LTE is limited
by the outage limit defined in TR 25.814 [10] and updated in
contribution R1-070674 ([10]). Thus, we define the system
VoIP capacity according to the following clauses:
The system capacity is defined as the number of users in
the cell when more than 95 % of the users are satisfied
A VoIP user is satisfied if more than 98 % of its speech
frames are delivered successfully within 50 ms (air
interface delay).

C. Channel quality indicator


Channel Quality Indicator (CQI) is measured by every
UE and reported in PUCCH periodically or on request to
the serving BS. Note, that in this article we concentrate on
the DL performance, thus CQI reports are assumed to be
sent either in PUCCH or Physical Uplink Shared Channel
(PUSCH) and no CQI transmission errors are assumed. CQI
information is used for both PDCCH and Physical Downlink
Shared Channel (PDSCH) resource allocation by the serving
BS. CQI measurement model consists of three basic steps:
measuring SINR for each all individual PRBs from reference

B. Physical downlink control channel


Physical Downlink Control Channel carries the DL and
UL scheduling grants. Information fields in the grant can be
divided into distinct categories as follows
Resoure allocation information, such as PRBs and
assignment duration

1 Obtained

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from EESM link level simulations

symbols, processing the ideal SINR values into discrete CQI


values and finally reporting CQI values.
CQI is measured at parameterized time intervals and reported with a parameter defined delay. We define two parallel
CQI mechanisms: wideband and fullband CQI. Wideband
CQI is produced by averaging all the ideal SINR values from
the whole bandwidth, adding measurement error and finally
quantifying into a certain parameter defined resolution. Thus,
wideband CQI provides information on the propagation
conditions of a certain UE. On the other hand, fullband CQI
provides frequency dependent channel quality information to
be used by e.g. frequency domain packet scheduler and link
adaptation. Fullband CQI is produced by averaging the ideal
CQI values based on the CQI subband size and then adding
measurement error and quantifying each CQI subband. E.g.
in this study we utilize the 2 PRBs subband size. More
details on the CQI modelling can be found from [12].

HARQ retransmissions and SID frames during silent periods


are always scheduled dynamically using PDCCH resources
to allow the benefits of asynchronous HARQ and frequency
domain PS. Wideband CQI may be sufficient for SPS even
though HARQ retransmissions and SID frames could utilize
also the frequency domain scheduling gain using PRBspecific CQI.
3) Scheduler framework: The used simulator uses a decoupled time domain (TD) and frequency domain (FD)
packet scheduler presented in [13]. The framework has been
extended to support SPS and PDCCH.
TD-PS selects a subset of users for potential allocation
for the next TTI based on the TD scheduling metric. For
VoIP, the TD scheduling metric is typically based on buffering delay to match the strict delay bounds. The PDCCH
resources management is performed between TD and FD
scheduling. PDCCH lets through the UEs in the TD-PS
priority order and with an equal share for both UL and
DL UEs. Note that since in this study we study only DL,
50 % of all PDCCH resources are reserved for UL. Semipersistent transmissions do not consume PDCCH resources
except for the SP resource assignments. Only the UEs that fit
into PDCCH will be passed on to the FD scheduler, which
does the actual resource alloction for each UE together with
link adaptation. FD scheduling priority order is as follows:

D. Packet scheduling and resource allocation


1) Dynamic packet scheduling: LTE is a packet based
system where by default each packet is scheduled using
PDCCH, thus the allocation may change from TTI to another. Dynamic scheduling of VoIP packets require a lot
of PDCCH resources, which may become a problem due
to high VoIP capacity demand and small packet sizes of
AMR codecs. However, dynamic scheduling has also several
benefits, such as multi-user and frequency selective scheduling, fast (per-TTI) link adaptation and packet bundling (PB).
Scheduled PRBs and MCS may be selected to be the optimal
for each allocation based on PRB-specific CQI (e.g. fullband
CQI) reported in UL. With packet bundling more than one
packet may be bundled to one L1 PDU enabling better LA
gain and thus spectral efficiency. According to [2] packet
bundling can provide up to 80 % gain to VoIP capacity
together with LA. However, the gain in spectral efficiency is
achieved through considerable PDCCH consumption in DL
and high CQI overhead in UL.
2) Semi-Persistent packet scheduling: Talk-spurt based
semi-persistent packet scheduling has been defined for 3GPP
Release 8 for VoIP traffic. The objective is to schedule each
UE less frequently and thus to maintain the same allocation
(PRBs and MCS) for a longer period of time. This reduces
significantly the control channel consumption, but at the
same time lacks the frequency domain scheduling gain. The
semipersistent (SP) assignment is done separately for each
talkspurt and is valid for the duration of the talk-spurt (active
period). The allocation is the same for all first VoIP packet
transmissions for the duration of the talk-spurt. Thus only
the initial transmission of a talk-spurt requires a PDCCH
control channel. Slow link adaptation based on wideband
CQI may be utilized to compensate the pathloss and slow
fading. The persistent allocation may also be re-assigned
(i.e., MCS reselected) during a talk-spurt using PDCCH
resources, if connection quality is not satisfactory. Possible

1) Reserve resources for HARQ retransmissions


2) Schedule semi-persistent UEs on pre-assigned resources
3) Schedule dynamic UEs
4) Schedule HARQ transmissions on the reserved resources
III. S IMULATION SCENARIO AND RESULTS ANALYSIS
We have used a fully dynamic time driven system simulator for studying the VoIP performance. The simulator consists of a system level modeling using commonly accepted
models for e.g., mobility, propagation, call generation and
fading. General modeling issues are presented briefly in [13]
and VoIP specific issues e.g., in [2].
The VoIP capacity evaluation is based on the UTRAN
LTE downlink parameters and assumptions described in
[14]. All the evaluated simulations are performed in a three
tier diamond-pattern hexagonal macro cellular scenario with
19 3-sector sites, i.e., a total amount of 57 cells. Users are
created and move within the 21 cells (two inner tiers) in
the middle. Outer tier BSs are generating interference at
the same magnitude as the average load in the inner tiers.
The 3GPP simulation case 1 has been utilized with 5 MHz
system bandwidth, 500 m inter-site distance and 3 kmph
UE velocity. We assume Discontinuous Reception (DRX)
to be disabled and Robust Header Compression (ROHC) to
be ideal in these simulations. Main simulation parameters
have been presented in Table I.

79

Table I
S IMULATION PARAMETERS

RLC
ROHC
DRX
CQI

Segmentation
Handovers

PDCCH

VoIP AMR 12.20

Value
57 macro cells
Asynchronous reuse 1
Downlink
5 MHz
500 m
3 kmph
MRC 1x2
Typical Urban 20
107 seconds
1 ms
FDD
Asychronous with
Chase Combining
8 SAW channels
Max 6 retransmissions
Unacknowledged mode
Ideal
Off
Measurement period: 5 ms
Error variance: 0.6 dB
Quantization step: 1 dB
Reporting delay: 2 ms
Off
Hard handovers
Sliding window size: 200 ms
Handover margin: 3 dB
Time to trigger: 200 ms
Payload size: 39 bytes
CCE size in REs: 36
Symbols for PDCCH: 3
50 percent of REs used for DL
VoIP packet size: 38 bytes
SID packet size: 14 bytes
Mean call length: 20 s
Average activity period: 2 s
Average silence period: 2 s

VoIP capacity [UEs per cell]

250

200

150

100

50
LA off, wbCQI
LA off, fbCQI
LA on, wbCQI
LA on, fbCQI
0

Dynamic

Semipersistent
Packet scheduler

Figure 1.

VoIP capacities with packet bundling


DL VoIP capacity without packet bundling

300

250

VoIP capacity [UEs per cell]

Parameter
Scenario
Network
Direction
System bandwidth
Inter-site distance
UE velocity
Receiver type
Channel model
Simulation length
Subframe lenght (TTI)
Duplexing
HARQ

DL VoIP capacity with packet bundling

300

200

150

100

50
LA off, wbCQI
LA off, fbCQI
LA on, wbCQI
LA on, fbCQI
0

Dynamic

Semipersistent
Packet scheduler

Figure 2.

VoIP capacities without packet bundling

A. VoIP capacity
cannot chooce the allocation and MCS dynamically based
on CQI, the amount of HARQ retransmissions is increased
due to lower allocation SINR. If the FD allocation is
random, the only gain from dynamic PS comes from LA and
packet bundling. However, in this case the FD scheduling
gain is not anymore that distinguishable due to PDCCH
resources restrictions. On the other hand, the SPS is utilizing
neither the fullband CQI nor the packet bundling, thus the
wideband CQI gain is only visible in more efficient HARQ
retransmission and SID frame FD scheduling.
The VoIP capacities with packet bundling disabled are
presented in Fig. 2. Now, the SPS provides quite clear
VoIP capacity gain compared to dynamic PS. The packet
bundling provides clear VoIP capacity gain with dynamic
packet scheduling for two reasons: PDCCH consumption
is reduced and spectral efficiency is improved. E.g. with
fullband CQI the gain of packet bundling is about 83
%. Without packet bundling SPS provides about 40-67 %
capacity gain depending on a simulation case. Note, that
with SPS the assignment is given to only one VoIP packet

The VoIP capacities comparing the dynamic and semipersistent packet scheduling with packet bundling enabled
are presented in Fig. 1. The two scheduling mechanisms are
compared utilizing both wideband and fullband CQI, with
and without LA. For SPS the LA stands for talk-spurt based
link adaptation, where MCS and PRB allocation is chosen
individually for each talk-spurt using wideband CQI. LA off
(disabled) means that CQI is not utilized for MCS selection,
but we use always a static MCS of QPSK2/3. Note that
with fullband CQI also wideband CQI is reported, since it is
utilized for for semi-persistent link adaptation and PDCCH
resource allocation.
In general, it can be seen that dynamic PS provides better
VoIP capacity than SPS with packet bundling. Dynamic PS
provides about 10 % capacity gain with LA and fullband
CQI. However, with only wideband CQI, the gain drops
already to 2 %. The gain from dynamic PS stems from
a combination of link adaptation and packet bundling, but
the gains are clearly dependent on FD scheduling gain
achievable only with fullband CQI. If the FD scheduler

80

Scheduled users per TTI with 200 UEs/cell

RB load with 200 UEs/cell

60

0.9

50
0.8

0.7

40

RB load [%]

CDF

0.6

0.5

30

0.4

20
0.3
DynPS, PB: off
DynPS, PB: on
SPS dyn scheduled, PB: off
SPS SP scheduled, PB: on
SPS dyn scheduled, PB: off
SPS SP scheduled, PB: on

0.2

0.1

10

10

WB CQI, PB: off


WB CQI, PB: on
FB CQI, PB: off
FB CQI, PB: on

15

Dynamic

Scheduled users per TTI []

Figure 3.

Semipersistent
Packet scheduler

Scheduled users per TTI with 200 UEs/cell

Figure 4.

PDCCH load with 200 UEs/cell


PDCCH load with 200 UEs/cell

regardless of whether packet bundling is disabled or enabled.


This can be seen as almost identical VoIP capacities with
SPS in Figs. 1 and 2.

DynPS, PB: off


DynPS, PB: on
SPS, PB: off
SPS, PB: on

0.9

0.8

0.7

0.6
CDF

B. Scheduled users vs. load


The amount of scheduled users per TTI is presented in
Fig. 3, scheduled RB load in Fig. 4 and PDCCH load in
Fig. 5. Since with SPS some packets are also scheduled
dynamically, dynamic and SP scheduled users are separated
in the figure. RB load is defined as average number of
scheduled PRBs per TTI and PDCCH load as total amount
of consumed REs per TTI. Note, that with SPS the semipersistent allocations do not consume PDCCH resources,
except for the initial resources assignments, SID frames and
HARQ retransmissions.
With dynamic packet scheduling all UEs are scheduled
dynamically resulting in clearly more UEs being dynamically scheduled than with SPS. However, if we combine the
dynamically and semi-persistently scheduled users with SPS,
it provides more schedulable users per TTI than dynamic
PS. This can be very well seen also from the RB load Fig.
4. With SPS about 55-60 % of the resources are utilized
regardless of whether we utilize wideband or fullband CQI
or packet bundling, while with dynamic packet scheduling
the RB load varies quite a lot based on these functionalities.
Besides, with SPS the amount of scheduled UEs per TTI is
not varying that much based on the radio channel conditions
improving the transmission delay distributions.
On the other hand, with SPS the PDCCH load is clearly
lower than with dynamic PS. With dynamic PS the PDCCH
already overloaded with 200 UEs per cell, while with SPS
about 25 % (median value) of the resouces are still unused.
Thus, from these figures in can be clearly conluded that
the PDCCH load is the bottleneck for VoIP capacity with
dynamic packet scheduling.

0.5

0.4

0.3

0.2

0.1

50

Figure 5.

100

150
200
250
Totally consumed REs per TTI []

300

350

400

Consumed REs with 200 UEs/cell

C. Scheduled PRB SINR


Scheduled RB SINRs with both dynamic PS and SPS are
presented in Fig. 6. Here can be seen one clear benefit from
utilizing dynamic packet scheduling. The FD scheduling
gain is clearly visible with the usage of fullband CQI.
The median of PRB SINR is about 7 dB with SPS, while
with dynamic PS and fullband CQI it is about 15 dB.
Also, with only wideband CQI the dynamic PS provides
some SINR gain over SPS, since the allocation may still
be changed every TTI even if we do not have the PRB
specific CQI available. On the other hand, with SPS the
SINR gain from utilizing a fullband CQI is clearly lower
than with dynamic PS, since the fullband CQI is utilized
only for SID frames and HARQ retransmissions. However,
with higher UE velocities than 3 kmph, the fullband CQI
information is getting more and more outdated due to faster
channel varitions. It is expected that then the SINR gain from
dynamic PS is diminishing and approaching to the SINR
with wideband CQI.

81

Scheduled RB SINR with 200 UEs/cell

[3] F. Persson, Voice over IP Realized for the 3GPP Long


Term Evolution, in Proceedings of the 66th IEEE Vehicular
Technology Conference (VTCF07), September 2007.

0.9

DynPS, WB CQI
DynPS, FB CQI
SPS, WB CQI
SPS, FB CQI

0.8

[4] D. Jiang, H. Wang, E. Malkamki, and E. Tuomaala, Principle and Performance of Semi-Persistent Scheduling for
VoIP in LTE System, in Proceedings of the International
Conference on Wireless Communications, Networking and
Mobile Computing (WiCom07), September 2007, pp. 2861
2864.

0.7

CDF

0.6

0.5

0.4

0.3

[5] J. Puttonen, N. Kolehmainen, T. Henttonen, and M. Moisio,


Persistent Packet Scheduling Performance for Voice-overIP in Evolved UTRAN Downlink, in Proceedings of the
International Symposium on Personal, Indoor and Mobile
Radio Communications (PIMRC08), September 2008.

0.2

0.1

0
20

10

Figure 6.

10
20
RB SINR [dB]

30

40

50

[6] Y. Fan, P. Lunden, M. Kuusela, and M. Valkama, Efficient


Semi-Persistent Scheduling for VoIP on EUTRA Downlink,
in Proceedings of the IEEE Vehicular Technology Conference
(VTCF08), September 2008.

Scheduled RB SINR with 200 UEs/cell

IV. C ONCLUSION
In this paper, we have analyzed the downlink VoIP capacity with different packet scheduling schemes with realistic
control channel constraints. Both the effect of realistic Physical Downlink Control Channel (PDCCH) as well as reported
Channel Quality Indicator (CQI) mechanism are studied in
terms of fully dynamic system simulations including also
the mobility and handover effects.
According to this paper it can be concluded that:
Semi-persistent packet scheduling provides about 40-67
% VoIP capacity gain over dynamic packet scheduling
with realistic control channel assumptions and without
packet bundling.
Dynamic packet scheduling may provide gain over
semi-persistent packet scheduling only with the use of
frequency selective fullband CQI, which is unrealistic
in real systems due to high uplink overhead in Physical
Uplink Control Channel, especially for VoIP service.
When higher UE velocity than 3 kmph is considered,
the fullband CQI is getting more erroneous due to faster
channel variation in the end eating up even the gains
shown in this study.
Semi-persistent packet scheduling provides more efficient use of the scarce PDCCH resources resulting
in higher number of multiplexed users per TTI and
Physical Downlink Shared Channel resource utilization
(i.e. resource blocks).

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