LTE has been designed as a completely packet-oriented multi service system, without the reliance on circuit-switched connection-oriented protocols prevalent in its predecessors. In LTE, this philosophy is applied across all the layers of the protocol stack.

The route towards fast packet scheduling over the radio interface was already opened by HSDPA, which allowed the transmission of short packets having a duration of the same order of magnitude as the coherence time of the fast fading channel, as shown in Below Figure .

This calls for a joint optimization of the physical layer configuration and the resource  management carried out by the link layer protocols according to the prevailing propagation conditions.

This aspect of HSDPA involves tight coupling between the lower two layers of the protocol stack – the MAC (Medium Access Control layer ) and the physical layer.

In HSDPA, this coupling already included features such as fast channel state feedback, dynamic link adaptation, scheduling exploiting multi-user diversity, and fast retransmission protocols. In LTE, in order to improve the system latency, the packet duration was further  reduced from the 2 ms used in HSDPA down to just 1 ms.

This short transmission interval,together with the new dimensions of frequency and space, has further extended the field of cross-layer techniques between the MAC and physical layers to include the following techniques in LTE:

  • Adaptive scheduling in both the frequency and spatial dimensions;
  • Adaptation of the MIMO configuration including the selection of the number of spatial layers transmitted simultaneously;
  • Link adaptation of modulation and code-rate, including the number of transmitted
  • codewords;
  • Several modes of fast channel state reporting.

These different levels of optimization are combined with very sophisticated control signalling.