What does GPRS stand for
|The Timeport 260|
A. GPRS stands for General Packet Radio Services.
Q. What is GPRS and why has there been so much hype about it
A. GPRS has been heralded as the future of mobile technology because it will provide all of the services currently not available, or that don't work properly, on your mobile phone. Basically this means that it will have an "always on" facility so you won't have to dial up to the internet every time you want a connection, and while your WAP phone may be slow or not support HTML a GPRS phone will be fast and the picture quality and functionality will be the same as using a PC.
Q. Where does GPRS fit in with the Third Generation of mobile phones that I am always reading about
A. GPRS is part of the third generation (3G) that you're always reading about. The second generation of mobile phone technology was completed with a worldwide recognition and uptake of the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) phone. But whereas GSM phones really only worked well with for voice transmissions (it had the capability to transmit data, but realistically data transfer via GSM was really expensive, slow and unreliable) GPRS can handle data properly.
The main advantages of GPRS are that it is fast, cheap and convenient.
FAST: The first GPRS devices (due in the UK this summer) will deliver a realistic speed of around 20Kbit/s, much faster than the typical 9.6Kbit/s available in a standard mobile phone. It is believed that it will eventually reach speeds ten times faster than current GSM networks.
CHEAP: A standard GSM network has to create a dedicated connection whenever you want to exchange data, whereas GPRS only sends bits of data when it is needed, making it a lot cheaper to use. In other words, GPRS is a packet switched service (the Internet is also a packet switched service) and this is important to the development of mobile phone technology because it fits well with the way current data networks operate i.e. it uses bandwidth efficiently.
Its ace card is that it only uses bandwidth while it is sending packets and it is cheap to use because there is nothing to charge for unless packets are being transmitted. So you can be connected for long periods of time and only be charged when data is transmitted, instead of being charged for the actual connection.
It also connects to existing base stations, so it is relatively cheap for mobile networks to install.
CONVENIENT: It is convenient because GPRS eliminates the need to dial up a service provider so you no longer have to wait for a connection, exchange data and then log off, all the time being charged for your connection time. In addition, because you are always logged on your handset or terminal can be sending and receiving data even when you're not using it.
Q. What is UMTS
A. UMTS stands for the Universal Mobile Telecommunication System. Achieving a universal advanced mobile system is the aim of all telecommunications networks worldwide, and GPRS is a stepping-stone to this final goal. When UMTS is achieved, and it is estimated to happen in 2003 (commercially), the third generation of mobile communications will be complete. UTMS will make transmission speeds of up to 2Mbit/s standard which in real terms means that you can have live two way video (similar to video conferencing) on your handset - and although you may not want this function it demonstrates just how far mobile phone technology will advance over the next two years.
Q. So if the future is so rosy why are the mobile phone manufacturers and operators in so much trouble
A. It seems that the industry has overstretched itself. Manufacturers and operators alike have invested billions in the uptake of 3G and really have to make it work as they have invested too much money in it.
But the timescale is very short, and the technology has not been explained well enough to the general public. There is general apathy in the marketplace as consumers think they have a good mobile phone, so why do they need another one - a factor that the communications industry does not seem to have considered in its planning stages.
This is why manufacturers like Ericsson and Motorola are making redundancies in Europe. BT has also just announced that it is splitting its business in half and asking its shareholders for more money to counteract the damage to the company profits caused by the huge amount it paid to the UK government for the 3G licences last year. The current problems will be ironed out over the next two years; the question is whether the communications industry can ride the storm.
Q. What types of GPRS phones will be on the market
A. The CeBit technology exhibition in Germany was the main event for the leading mobile phone manufacturers to showcase their new GPRS products - which will all be available in the UK this year. Some of the new launches included:
Ericsson launched its T68 WAP-enabled GPRS mobile phone, with full colour display that supports MMS (multimedia messaging service) and Bluetooth for transferring data. This phone, along with its T39 can be used on all standard GSM systems.
Motorola, the first manufacturer to market a GPRS handset with its Timeport 260, also launched four additional products at CeBit. Its Timeport 280 will utilise four GSM slots to download information (the 260 only uses three) giving it faster connection speeds. It also launched the stylish V66, the Talkabout 192 an entry level GPRS phone, and the Accompli 008 (a combined phone and PDA).
Nokia launched its 6310 model with built-in Bluetooth capabilities, aimed at business users in addition to its consumer model, the 8310. The 8310 has an integrated FM radio that Nokia customers can apparently listen to while browsing the Internet.
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By Karen Anderson