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GPRS, faster than a speeding bullet!
Member Name: Mcdaddy
Date: 28/07/01, updated on 28/07/01 (330 review reads)
Advantages: Will allow for more interative use of data services!, Will allow people to use the sort of technology that they have been dreaming about!
Disadvantages: Current technologies are not up to scratch to allow GPRS to be realised fully!
So what’s it all about then? No it’s not another rock band or superhero. GPRS is going to revolutionise the use of mobile phones.
GPRS stands for General Packet Radio Service, and what it allows is a faster connection to the Internet. This allows the user to access services such as WAP faster than what is currently available, and also download/upload faster if they are using their mobile to create a data connection with either a PDA or a P.C/laptop.
The way in which this is done is by slightly modifying existing mobile phone cell sites (those big steel towers that we see a lot of). This modification enables the faster transmission of data using existing time slots that make up cell structure (all starts to get a bit technical).
What this will allow for Mobile operators is a higher demand for their data services; these include their WAP services and data connection to external devices such as Laptops and Personal Digital Assistants (PDA’s).
The current trend for most customer's usage, across all of the networks, only accounts for around 11% of all calls being data originated, over the next 2 years, and with the introduction of new GPRS compatible phones, mobile companies hope to increase this to 75%. This may seem like a large amount, however Japan already has an 81% data call base across all of their networks. The reason for this is that people are constantly using I-Mode, which is their faster equivalent to our WAP services, and also use data calls to send information over their P.C’s/Laptops, and Handheld devices when they are on the move.
This may seem like a tall order due to the data speeds that network's currently run on, which is about 9.6 KBPS (with the exception of Orange who offer HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) which runs at speeds up to 48.8KBPS), and this is where GPRS comes into play. GPRS has the proposed ability to transfer data at 115KBPS over a mobile network an
d device. In comparison you will be getting the same sort of speed out of your handset as you would if you were connected to the Internet at home using the upgraded ISDN service. So in retrospect GPRS will allow handsets to receive and send data faster than existing connections with a normal 56K-modem and landline connection.
However at this current moment in time, the highest achieved speed by any of the networks has been 28.8 KBPS. This is not due to the network that they offer, but instead due to the current standard of GPRS handsets that are available. The reason being that if you currently wanted to make one of the existing GPRS handsets run at 115 KBPS you would have to have it attached to a battery the size of a Volvo in order to achieve the power needed. This is down to the issue that keeping a GPRS session open uses a lot of power. Also at the moment handsets work on what is known as a 2 + 1 chipset. This means that the phone downloads from 2 of the existing 8 available time slots, and uploads to one. This is currently the maximum chipset available in the current handset range. However Ericsson are working on a 4 + 1 chipset that will all be able to connect at speeds of up to 48.6KBPS.
In addition GPRS will be much more reliable than the existing data transfer method which is currently based on CSD (Circuit Switched Data) transfer, running at the 9.6KBPS, GPRS will run via PSD (Packet Switched Data). The difference between the two is that CSD sends information in different KB size bursts, and in no set time pattern, so the information that you request may take longer to get to you, as in some cases information will get lost, or is being sent at different transfer rates. With PSD the data is sent in equal packets at a set interval apart, this makes transfer faster, and more reliable. PSD will also track all data to the handset so that first time delivery will be guaranteed up 95% of the time. It will bring an end to the error messages cur
rently seen on WAP that requires the user to re-request the information that they requested (or refresh as we know it on the Internet).
So what does GPRS mean for us the customer? The misconception behind GPRS is that it is the start of videophones and handheld Internet browsers, unfortunately at the time being this is not the case. GPRS only allows faster connectivity to the Internet or to currently existing data services, but it is the inclusion of the first element of the UMTS 3G Licence, which all the UK networks bided for and acquired. What GPRS will do is complement services that are already offered to mobile users at the moment. The main one being access to WAP services.
Currently WAP runs at 9.6 KBPS, and any of you who have used the service know that it takes quite some time to connect, and longer still to then retrieve or send any information. With GPRS this will happen instantly, as with GPRS you are always connected to the Internet, and at a faster speed. This is done by the handset keeping a constant connection to the cell. But how does this work and wouldn’t it cause congestion and more ‘network busy’ message and dropped calls? The answer is no, the reason being is that the handset maintains a ‘Ghost Connection’ to the cell.
A timeslot within a network cell is split into two halves, one for voice calls, and one for data calls. And it is within the data half of the slot that the connection sits idle until the customer makes a data call/request. Previously when you retrieve or send information via WAP, you get the connecting please wait message on screen for a few seconds before you get back or send what you want. With GPRS this will be a thing of the past. As WAP only sends small pieces of information at any one time it takes its time to load with existing CSD technology. GPRS will process and display the results a split second after the request has been sent due to permanent connection it maint
ains, and the speed at which the data is streaming. I predict that by eventually introducing GPRS to a commercial market more people will connect to WAP, as it will be much faster and more efficient than what is currently on offer, making it more interactive and user friendly. This will lead to a massive growth in data traffic on all of the existing networks.
The second benefit that GPRS will give to consumers is the faster connectivity to the Internet. For those that use their phones to create a connection by linking them up to their P.C they will be able to benefit from the capabilities of GPRS a great deal. They can download files, e-mail attachments into work, or just browse the Internet on their way home on the train. And with the proposed speeds of GPRS it will make working whilst on the move so much more easier and possible.
The actual cost of GPRS is still a bit of a grey area at the moment, networks are still unsure as to what stance to take. The current billing methods that mobile network providers use are as follows.
BT Cellnet have decided to offer their GPRS service on a line rental basis. You pay £15 a month and are given a 50MB download allocation. If you download more than 50MB then you pay extra for each MB after that.
Vodafone however are charging per KB downloaded/sent, and are not introducing a specific price plan for GPRS access. Out of the two it is Vodafone’s billing method which seems to make sense, as realistically you are not going to use your handset to download or send 50MB, which is quite a large amount of data. In effect you are paying extra with BT Cellnet for a data allocation which you will never end up using, and with no rollover of data allowance either, it just goes to waste. Whilst with Vodafone you only pay for what you use, and as the data usage for an average 10 minute session on WAP will only come to about 60 KB’s of information, it will work out far cheaper than what BT Celln
et are offering. I believe that this will be the approach that the other networks, such as One 2 One and Orange, will also decide to adopt (from what can be seen these networks plan to launch their GPRS services in the beginning of 2002). This way they insure that the customer only pays for the amount of information that they download and send, rather than a monthly line rental for an allocation that they are never likely to use.
So is this the future of mobile technologies? Personally I think it is a great step towards a more interactive mobile service, allowing networks to soon offer seamless data calls allowing you to have live video calls with relatives over seas. However, for the time being I guess we will just have to put up with the method open to use, but trust me people, the future is coming. With 3G devices already in construction, and being made available by handset manufacturers, this dream will become an impressive reality by the end of 2005. Watch this space!
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