5G NR RLC PDU

An RLC PDU contains header plus RLC SDU or its segment. Source: ETSI 2021b, fig. 6.6-1.
An RLC PDU contains header plus RLC SDU or its segment. Source: ETSI 2021b, fig. 6.6-1.

An RLC PDU (Protocol Data Unit) consists of an RLC header and data. From an upper layer, RLC receives an RLC SDU (Service Data Unit). The data part of an RLC PDU is either a complete RLC SDU or an SDU segment. A single RLC PDU maps to a single MAC SDU.

RLC has three transmission modes: TM, UM and AM. Each mode has its own data PDU formats. STATUS PDU, which is an RLC control PDU sent as part of AM RLC entity, has its own formats.

Every RLC SDU coming from an upper layer is byte aligned, that is, multiple of 8 bits. First bit of RLC SDU becomes first bit of RLC PDU. UMD and AMD headers are byte aligned but not the STATUS PDU header.

Discussion

  • What are some essential details when constructing an RLC PDU?

    RLC's upper layer is either PDCP or BAP. If RLC SDU is from PDCP, the maximum data field size in an RLC PDU is the maximum size of a PDCP PDU.

    Unlike LTE RLC, 5G NR RLC supports SDU segmentation but not concatenation. This means that an RLC SDU can be sent as multiple segments, each segment going in a separate RLC PDU. But a single RLC PDU can't carry multiple SDUs or their segments.

    Since there's no concatenation at RLC, RLC can start preparing the header for each RLC SDU before transmission grant is received from MAC. This reduces overall latency. If the grant received is smaller than desired, RLC will segment the SDU, update the RLC header and construct the final RLC PDU.

    The standards don't specify a value for segment size. If the grant is big enough, the entire SDU shall go in a single PDU. Otherwise, the SDU shall be segmented, with RLC maximizing the segment size given the grant.

  • What's the format of a TMD PDU?
    TMD PDU format. Source: ETSI 2021a, fig. 6.2.2.2-1.
    TMD PDU format. Source: ETSI 2021a, fig. 6.2.2.2-1.

    A TM RLC entity sends and receives data using the TM Data (TMD) PDU format. Since no RLC header is used by TM RLC entity, and no segmentation is done, RLC SDU becomes an RLC PDU. This is the most trivial of all RLC PDU formats.

  • Could you describe header fields common to UMD and AMD RLC PDUs?

    Segmentation is one of the essential features of UM and AM RLC entities. The following header fields assist the receiving RLC entity to reassemble a complete SDU from its segments:

    • Segmentation Info (SI): Indicates if the PDU contains a complete SDU or first/last/middle segment. Length is 2 bits.
    • Segment Offset (SO): Indicates the position of the current segment in bytes within the original RLC SDU. Numbering starts from zero. Length is 16 bits.
    • Sequence Number (SN): Indicates the sequence number of the corresponding SDU. Note that numbering is for SDUs, not for their segments. Length is configured by RRC: 6 or 12 bits for UMD PDU, and 12 or 18 bits for AMD PDU.
  • What's the format of a UMD PDU?
    UMD PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.3.
    UMD PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.3.

    A UM RLC entity sends and receives data using UM Data (UMD) PDU formats. UMD PDU has five formats: containing a complete SDU without SN; containing 6-bit or 12-bit SN with or without SO.

    For groupcast and broadcast on sidelink channels, 6-bit SN is used.

    SN is included only if an RLC SDU is segmented. UMD PDU carrying the first segment doesn't include the SO field. When an RLC SDU is not segmented, SN is not incremented. This makes sense since an RLC PDU carrying a complete SDU doesn't include SN.

  • What's the format of an AMD PDU?
    AMD PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.4.
    AMD PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.4.

    An AM RLC entity sends and receives data using AM Data (AMD) PDU formats. AMD PDU has four formats: containing 12-bit or 18-bit SN with or without SO.

    Similar to UMD PDU, AMD PDU header includes SI, SN and SO. Additional fields for AMD PDU are:

    • Data/Control (D/C): 1-bit field. 0 indicates control PDU and 1 indicates data PDU. This is necessary since an AM RLC entity has both data and control PDUs.
    • Polling (P): Set by the transmitting side to 1 if requesting a STATUS report from its peer entity.

    Unlike UM, AM doesn't have a dedicated format for complete SDU transmission. However, a complete SDU can still be sent in a single RLC PDU by setting SI=00. Even so, AMD PDU always includes SN field, which is necessary for ARQ retransmission procedure.

    Like UMD PDU, AMD PDU carrying the first segment doesn't include the SO field.

  • What's the format of the STATUS PDU?
    STATUS PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.5.
    STATUS PDU formats. Source: Adapted from ETSI 2021a, sec. 6.2.2.5.

    STATUS PDU is a control PDU applicable only to AM RLC entity. The header consists of 1-bit Data/Control (D/C) field and and 3-bit Control PDU Type (CPT) field. STATUS PDU is indicated with D/C=0 and CPT=000.

    Following the header, the STATUS PDU contains ACK_SN, NACK_SN, extension bits (E1/E2/E3), SOstart, SOend, and NACK range. ACK_SN and E1 are mandatory in every STATUS PDU. Other fields are used only when there's a need to indicate incorrectly received RLC SDUs and segments.

    ACK_SN and NACK_SN are 12 or 18 bits as configured by RRC. SOstart and SOend occupy 16 bits. NACK range field is 8 bits.

  • How are extension bits used in the STATUS PDU?
    Examples of STATUS PDUs and use of E1/E2/E3 bits. Source: Devopedia 2021.
    Examples of STATUS PDUs and use of E1/E2/E3 bits. Source: Devopedia 2021.

    There are a few ways to indicate missing SDUs or their segments, controlled by extension bits:

    • E1: E1=1 if NACK_SN/E1/E2/E3 fields follow. In this context, all SDUs prior to ACK_SN except those indicated by NACK_SN have been correctly received. E1=0 implies all SDUs prior to ACK_SN have been correctly received, common if communication is going smoothly without requiring retransmissions.
    • E2: E2=1 if SOstart/SOend fields follow. Whereas E1 and NACK_SN specify a lost SDU, E2 and SOstart/SOend specify lost segments. SOend=0xFFFF is a special case to indicate that all bytes from SOstart are lost.
    • E3: E3=1 if NACK range field follows. This is the number of consecutive RLC SDUs lost from and including NACK_SN. This is useful when handling burst errors. E3 can be used together with E2, that is, to inform loss from SOstart of NACK_SN to SOend of NACK_SN+NACK range-1. Special value SOend=0xFFFF is applicable.

    In the figure, we illustrate a few loss scenarios and their corresponding STATUS PDUs. We don't show retransmissions or re-segmentation. We assume 12-bit SN and 1024-byte SDUs segmented equally into four 256-byte segments.

Milestones

Apr
2017

An early draft of 5G NR RLC specification TS 38.322 is released. This evolves to version 1.0.0 by September.

Dec
2017

3GPP publishes Release 15 "early drop". RLC specification TS 38.322 is updated to version 15.0.0. This version includes header fields SI, SN, SO, D/C and P for data PDUs; header fields D/C and CPT for STATUS PDU; data fields ACK_SN, NACK_SN, SOstart, SOend, NACK range, E1, E2 and E3 for STATUS PDU.

Jul
2020

3GPP publishes Release 16 specifications. RLC specification is TS 38.322 version 16.1.0. From Release 15, there are no changes to RLC PDU formats.

References

  1. 3GPP. 2017. "TS 38.322: NR; Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol specification." V15.0.0, December. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  2. 3GPP. 2020a. "Release 16." 3GPP. Accessed 2021-03-09.
  3. Dahlman, Erik, Stefan Parkvall, and Johan Skold. 2018. "5G NR: The Next Generation Wireless Access Technology." Academic Press. Accessed 2021-02-23.
  4. Dano, Mike. 2019. "Another set of 5G standards was just released, but no one really cares." LightReading, April 5. Accessed 2021-02-25.
  5. ETSI. 2021a. "TS 138 322: 5G; NR; Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol specification." V16.2.0, January. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  6. ETSI. 2021b. "TS 138 300: 5G; NR; NR and NG-RAN Overall description; Stage-2." V16.4.0, January. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  7. ETSI. 2021c. "TS 138 321: 5G; NR; Medium Access Control (MAC) protocol specification." V16.3.0, January. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  8. EventHelix. 2019. "5G NR RLC Acknowledged Mode." 5G NR, on Medium, October 5. Accessed 2021-03-20.
  9. Jaji, Mangala and Prerit Jain. 2020. "5G NR Layer 2 – Radio Link Control (RLC) Overview." Techplayon, October 13. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  10. ShareTechnote. 2021. "5G/NR - RLC." ShareTechnote. Accessed 2021-03-18.

Further Reading

  1. ETSI. 2021a. "TS 138 322: 5G; NR; Radio Link Control (RLC) protocol specification." V16.2.0, January. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  2. ShareTechnote. 2021. "5G/NR - RLC." ShareTechnote. Accessed 2021-03-18.
  3. Jaji, Mangala and Prerit Jain. 2020. "5G NR Layer 2 – Radio Link Control (RLC) Overview." Techplayon, October 13. Accessed 2021-03-18.

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Cite As

Devopedia. 2021. "5G NR RLC PDU." Version 6, March 20. Accessed 2021-03-28. https://devopedia.org/5g-nr-rlc-pdu
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Last updated on
2021-03-20 17:00:19