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Jan 14, 2014

Combined Attach in LTE/4G

Some time ago I'v covere the Attach Procedure, from then many times I saw questions about the Combined Attach.
So here it is, the Combined Attach himself.

First it has to be addressed what is the Combined Attach and why it's so different from Attach procedure already covered.

What Combined Attach is?

It's attach for both EPS and non-EPS services, or both EPS services and "SMS only".
The combined attach procedure is also used by a UE in CS/PS to attach for EPS services if it is already IMSI attached for non-EPS services.

How Combined Attach is triggered?

When the UE initiates a combined attach procedure, the UE shall indicate "combined EPS/IMSI attach" in the EPS attach type IE.


If the UE is in EMM state EMM-DEREGISTERED, the UE initiates the combined attach procedure by sending an ATTACH REQUEST message to the network, starting timer T3410 (More about EMM timers? Check the EMM timers or ESM timers article) and entering state EMM-REGISTERED-INITIATED.

If timer T3402 is currently running, the UE shall stop timer T3402. If timer T3411 is currently running, the UE shall stop timer T3411.


If the UE supports neither A/Gb mode nor Iu mode, the UE shall handle the EPS mobile identity IE in the ATTACH REQUEST message as follows:

  • The UE shall include in the ATTACH REQUEST message a valid GUTI together with the last visited registered TAI, if available. If there is no valid GUTI available, the UE shall include the IMSI in the ATTACH REQUEST message.
If the UE supports A/Gb mode or Iu mode, the UE shall handle the EPS mobile identity as follows:

  • If the TIN indicates "P-TMSI" and the UE holds a valid P-TMSI and RAI, the UE shall map the P-TMSI and RAI into the EPS mobile identity IE. If a P-TMSI signature is associated with the P-TMSI, the UE shall include it in the Old P-TMSI signature IE. Additionally, if the UE holds a valid GUTI, the UE shall indicate the GUTI in the Additional GUTI IE.



  • If the TIN indicates "GUTI" or "RAT-related TMSI" and the UE holds a valid GUTI, the UE shall indicate the GUTI in the EPS mobile identity IE.
  • If the TIN is deleted and
    • the UE holds a valid GUTI, the UE shall indicate the GUTI in the EPS mobile identity IE; or
    • otherwise, if the UE holds a valid P-TMSI and RAI, the UE shall map the P-TMSI and RAI into the EPS mobile identity IE. If a P-TMSI signature is associated with the P-TMSI, the UE shall include it in the Old P-TMSI signature IE.
  • Otherwise the UE shall include the IMSI in the EPS mobile identity IE.
If the UE is attaching for emergency bearer services and does not hold a valid GUTI, P-TMSI or IMSI as described above, the IMEI shall be included in the EPS mobile identity IE.

The UE shall send the ATTACH REQUEST message together with a PDN CONNECTIVITY REQUEST message contained in the ESM message container information element to request PDN connectivity.

If UE supports A/Gb mode or Iu mode or if the UE wants to indicate its UE specific DRX parameter to the network, the UE shall include the UE specific DRX parameter in the DRX parameter IE in the ATTACH REQUEST message.

If a valid NAS security context exists, the UE shall integrity protect the ATTACH REQUEST message combined with the PDN CONNECTIVITY REQUEST message. When the UE does not have a valid NAS security context, the ATTACH REQUEST message combined with the PDN CONNECTIVITY REQUEST message is not integrity protected.


Fig. 1. Combined Attach simplified view

The UE shall include the TMSI status IE if no valid TMSI is available. Furthermore, if the UE has stored a valid location area identification, the UE shall include it in the Old location area identification IE in the ATTACH REQUEST message.
If the UE initiates a combined attach procedure for EPS services and "SMS only", the UE shall indicate "SMS only" in the Additional update type IE.

EMM common procedure


The network may initiate EMM common procedures, e.g. the identification, authentication and security mode control procedures, depending on the received information such as IMSI, GUTI and KSI.

Combined attach outcome


Depending on the value of the EPS attach result IE received in the ATTACH ACCEPT message, the following different cases can be distinguished:

  1. The EPS attach result IE value indicates "combined EPS/IMSI attach": attach for EPS and non-EPS services, or for EPS services and "SMS only" have been successful.
  2. The EPS attach result IE value indicates "EPS only": attach for EPS services has been successful but attach for non-EPS services or "SMS only" has failed.
Of course not everything have to be accepted in other words things can go wrong, and the Combine Attach be also rejected. Will cover the possible outcomes different time.


Source(s):
3GPP TS 24.301