GPRS Technology

The difficulties the international industry standard bodies have had in approving all of the necessary standards has led to a delay in the deployment of 3G wireless systems. To lessen the impact of these delays, General Packet Radio Service is being introduced as an intermediate step to efficiently transport high-speed data over the current GSM wireless network infrastructures.

GPRS is a packet-based data bearer service for GSM and TDMA networks. It is being rolled out by operators around the world as the first vital step towards 3G. GPRS gives mobile users faster data speeds and is particularly suitable for bursty Internet and intranet traffic. It makes mobile data faster, cheaper and more user-friendly than ever before. With GPRS-enabled mobile devices, users can be always on the Mobile Internet, so that, for example, emails arrive instantaneously. It also permits users to receive calls simultaneously when sending and receiving data calls.

GPRS provides end-to-end IP connectivity that can be used to connect corporate LANs, ISPs and operators’ own service LANs via interfaces to TCP/IP and X.25. GPRS gives almost instantaneous connection set-up, and allows charging on the basis of data transmitted rather than connection time. As a packet data technology, GPRS only uses network resources and bandwidth when data is actually transmitted. This makes extremely efficient use of available radio bandwidth. Supported data rates range from 14.4 Kbps using just one TDMA slot, up to 115 Kbps and higher using all eight.

GPRS can be implemented by simply adding new packet data nodes in GSM/TDMA networks, and upgrading existing nodes to provide a routing path for packet data between the mobile terminal and a gateway node. The gateway node provides interworking with external packet data networks for access to the Internet and intranets, for example, and requires few or no hardware upgrades to existing GSM/TDMA nodes.

Between 2000 and 2002, upgrades to existing GSM, GPRS and TDMA networks are planned that will allow single-slot rates of 38.4 Kbit/s for HSCSD and 60 Kbit/s for GPRS – allowing rates as high as 384 Kbit/s by joining multiple time slots. Known as Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution (EDGE) these upgrades represent the final evolution of data communications within the GSM standard and will enable operators with existing 2G networks to evolve to 3G services on existing network frequencies, using current network infrastructure. Consequently, EDGE services are sometimes referred to as 2.5 Generation services.

GPRS is ideal for Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) services. WAP over GPRS brings cost savings to both mobile operators and consumers, because GPRS radio resources are only needed while transferring the message. For the end user, that means you only pay for the time it takes to download. WAP content is optimised for thin-client devices, such as mobile phones and is also future proof, enabling it to be deployed on 2.5G, 3G and other networks. While GPRS features efficient use of resources, instant access, fast delivery of information and innovative charging models. WAP and GPRS therefore represent a winning combination for the mobile end users, operators, service providers, enterprises as well as application developers.

By mid-2001, the high price paid for 3G licences during 2000 (£22 billion in the UK alone), the worldwide downturn in the technology sector in general and the public relations fiasco that so badly damaged WAP in particular, had together left the telecommunications industry under intense pressure, bordering on a crisis of confidence. With G3 still some years away for most parts of the world, the importance of GPRS succeeding had never been greater.