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What is GPRS?

By S21

Whilst GSM (2G) networks are excellent for voice calls, they are limited when it comes to sending and receiving data. GSM phones use a technology called CSD (Circuit Switched Data) to transfer data. CSD requires the phone to make a special connection to the network before it can transfer data (like making a voice call) which can take up to 30 seconds. Once connected, the data is sent or received and the user is billed for the time spent online. Data transfer is relatively slow: 14.4 kbps (kilobits per second) for GSM 1800 networks (Orange and T-Mobile) and 9.6 kbps for GSM 900 networks (Vodafone and O2).

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is a method of enhancing 2G phones to enable them to send and receive data more rapidly. With a GPRS connection, the phone is "always on" and can transfer data immediately, and at higher speeds: typically 32 - 48 kbps. An additional benefit is that data can be transferred at the same time as making a voice call. GPRS is now available on most new phones.

GPRS is part of a series of technologies that are designed to move 2G networks closer to the performance of 3G networks. The key characteristic of a 3G network is its ability to transfer large amounts of data at high speed (up to 2 Mbps), enabling applications like video calling, video downloads, web browsing, email, etc. By increasing the speed of a 2G network, some of these applications become possible, e.g. web browsing and sending or receiving emails with large attachments. These technologies are called 2.5G and include enhancements to the CSD technology, such as HSCSD and EDGE.

GPRS Class Types

The class of a GPRS phone determines the speed at which data can be transferred. Technically the class refers to the number of timeslots available for upload (sending data from the phone) or download (receiving data from the network). The timeslots used for data are in addition to the slot that is reserved for voice calls. These timeslots are available simultaneously, so the greater the number of slots, the faster the data transfer speed. Because GPRS transmits data in packets, the timeslots are not in use all the time, but are shared amongst all users of the network. That increases the overall data capacity of the network, and it also means that you are billed for the quantity of data transmitted, not the time that you are online. It may mean that during busy times, data transfer rates slow down, because the network will give priority to voice calls.

The most common GPRS classes in use are as follows:

GPRS Class
Slots
Max data transfer speed
Class 2
3
8 - 12 kbps upload / 16 - 24 kbps download
Class 4
4
8 - 12 kbps upload / 24 - 36 kbps download
Class 6
4
24 - 36 kbps upload / 24 - 36 kbps download
Class 8
5
8 - 12 kbps upload / 32 - 40 kbps download
Class 10
5
16 - 24 kbps upload / 32 - 48 kbps download
Class 12
5
32 - 48 kbps upload / 32 - 48 kbps download

Generally speaking, the higher the GPRS class, the faster the data transfer rates.

HSCSD

HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) enables data to be transferred more rapidly than the standard GSM (Circuit Switched Data) system by using multiple channels. The maximum number of timeslots that can be used is four, giving a maximum data transfer rate of 57.6 kbps (or 38.4 kbps on a GSM 900 network). HSCSD is more expensive to use than GPRS, because all four slots are used simultaneously - it does not transmit data in packets. Because of this, HSCSD is not as popular as GPRS and is being replaced by EDGE.

EDGE

EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) or EGPRS provides data transfer rates significantly faster than GPRS or HSCSD. EDGE increases the speed of each timeslot to 48 kbps and allows the use of up to 8 timeslots, giving a maximum data transfer rate of 384 kbps. In places where an EDGE network is not available, GPRS will automatically be used instead. EDGE offers the best that can be achieved with a 2.5G network, and will eventually be replaced by 3G.

User comments

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Comment by @ActonNoel from Trinidad on 17th Feb 2014
My GPRS runs about 45 to 80kbps my phone on GPRS will do 144kbps but i dont get that, but some parts of the world using multplie gprs antenas can give you over 300 kbps. The 3g HSPA here runs about 750 kbps to 1600 kbps my phone can handle 7Mbps.

Comment by Mohmmad yusuf from India on 1st Feb 2014
It's really informative

Comment by Ashish Verma from India on 27th Dec 2013
It was very much understandable

Comment by David Evans from UK on 9th Dec 2013
Very informative and well written for the layman to understand

Comment by Saroj from Nepal on 21st Nov 2013
Good inforamtive article.

Comment by b s ghasil from india on 17th Nov 2013
It is a very helpfull guide for a technical person who want to gain knowledge about gprs

Comment by Amenkuh Atnafe from Ethiopia on 5th Nov 2013
It is very nice guid about Gprs

Comment by Stuart Addy from England on 20th Oct 2013
Has anyone else bought a smart phone for payg to find it is as much good as a chocolate fireguard. Metoo. The sales girl set it up and after reading the meagre handbook, I turned it on to try it only to find it had gobbled the 20 pounds of credit I had to pt in it.Countless phone calls to Oxxxxx were ignored or treat with disdain. I evEN GOT THE IMPRESSION THEY WERE TREATING IT WITH AN "IT'S THE NUTTER AGAIN" ATTITUDE. I finally compromised by using it at home with my BT hub and buying against my better judgement a glorifid Pay Monthly 10Top up with the ludicrous name DOLPHIN,it worked ok while I was away in Summer bUT NOW it has just eaten another 7 in the name of GPRS. I give in. Any Advice?

Comment by Lucille from TRinidad & Tobago on 13th Oct 2012
What would limit a device to operate on GPRS - but not on EDGE or vice versa?

Comment by Roshan from India on 16th Sep 2012
V.good info. I would like to add here that mobile co. Should mention slot and maximum speed that can b achieved while giving edge info on their sites.

Comment by Asaha Desmond from Cameroon on 5th Sep 2012
Thanks a million for this educative piece of work you guys have left here, it really helped me a lot. I had no idea about GPRS(General Packet Radio Service) but i felt enlightened after i read through this documentation.

Comment by John Anderson from Scotland on 24th Aug 2012
As 3G is not available over most of rural Scotland, I phoned Apple to ask if their iPhone 4S is able to use GPRS. Unfortunately their advisor had not heard of GPRS and could not answer my query. Can anyone else?

Reply by Mobile Phones UK from UK on 24th Aug 2012
Yes, the iPhone 4S is capable of receiving data via EDGE, so it will still send and receive data on a 2G network.

Comment by Harry Whitecross from United States on 14th Jul 2012
This reinforces what I thought I remembered about GPRS. My carrier AT&T has severe network problems where I live, so it never seem to keep EDGE up and running, or uniform tower coverage whilst driving on the highway. They have not done too well here at all. Data rates in their Jot Spots can drop to 8 kbps at times. The Verizon wifi at my rooms has given over 48Mbps. How does that rate on the internation market?

Comment by Tao from China on 5th Jul 2012
Very useful information for me.
Does this mean that the Max EDGE (class 12) speed can be up to 48 * 5 kbps?

Reply by Mobile Phones UK from UK on 5th Jul 2012
EDGE Class 12 gives you 4 download slots and 4 upload slots, with a maximum of 5 active slots. So the maximum download speed is 48 * 4 kbps = 192kbps. There is a theoretical maximum of 236.8 kbps under optimum conditions, but in real world conditions, the actual speed achieved may be less than 192 kbps.

Comment by JIM from ENGLAND on 6th May 2012
ON MY MOBILE PHONE ,IF I PRESS "BACK" A COUPLE OF TIMES I GET A MESSAGE WHICH SAYS "ESTABLISHING A GPRS LINK" DOES THIS INCUR A CHARGE IF I ENGAGE IT.

Comment by Www.diolt.com from Pak on 23rd Apr 2012
This is really great information. Thanks to sharing with us..

Reply by Mobile Phones UK from UK on 23rd Apr 2012
Thank you, but please don't write any more "thank you" comments, as they are boring for visitors!!

Comment by K.Netha from Sri lanka on 17th Apr 2012
Thanks you very much for your clear explanation.

Comment by deepakhs from india on 25th Mar 2012
good basic explaination

Comment by amin from iran on 3rd Mar 2012
"In 2G systems, GPRS provides data rates of 56114 kbit/second".(Wikipedia) not 32-48 kbps as you said

thanks

Reply by Mobile Phones UK from UK on 5th Mar 2012
Our article was written in 2003 and we said "typically." It is now possible to find GPRS classes higher than 12, and these are faster - typically up to 60kbps. The theoretical faster speeds referred to in the Wikipedia article are not in regular use. Read the Wikipedia article more carefully.

Comment by Srikanth reddy from India on 26th Feb 2012
What is most speed class12 or class 32. Please answer

Reply by akin from United Kingdom on 20th Apr 2012
Your question is why is most speed between class 12 and 32? It usually depends on the architecture of phone,especially the processor or chip used in relation to power management.

Comment by lucky from Botswana on 14th Feb 2012
Thanks a lot,the info really helped me

Comment by Sandhya from on 5th Feb 2012
Thanx,its help me

Comment by Aggrey from Uganda on 29th Jan 2012
a well composed piece of information.Thanks so much

Comment by edlyn from philippines on 20th Jan 2012
do i pay for this edge thing? if it's on, will my mobile bill me?

Comment by yogendra from nepal on 15th Jan 2012
thank you so much. it helped me a lot.

Comment by Emily from England on 13th Jan 2012
Thankyou so much for uploading this - it has helped me a lot with my IT GCSE. Thanks.

Links

GSM World Guide to GPRS
Nokia GPRS Guide
Nokia EDGE Guide

 
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