General Packet Radio System (GPRS)


GPRS is a Mobile Data Service available to users of GSM and IS-136 mobile phones. GPRS is packet-switched and multiple users share the same transmission channel for transmitting the data.

GPRS stands for General Packet Radio System. GPRS provides packet radio access for mobile Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and time-division multiple access (TDMA) users.

GPRS is important as a migration step toward third-generation (3G) networks and allows network operators to implement an IP-based core architecture for data applications, which will continue to be used and expanded for 3G services for integrated voice and data applications.

GPRS is a new bearer service for GSM that greatly improves and simplifies wireless access to packet data networks, e.g., to the Internet. It applies a packet radio principle to transfer user data packets in an efficient way between GSM mobile stations and external packet data networks. Packets can be directly routed from the GPRS mobile stations to packet switched networks.

Networks based on the Internet Protocol (IP) (e.g., the global Internet or private/corporate intranets) and X.25 networks are also supported in the current versions of GPRS.

Who owns GPRS?

The GPRS specifications are written by the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI), the European counterpart of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI).

Key Features:

The following three key features describe wireless packet data:

  • The always online feature: Removes the dial-up process, making applications only one click away.
  • An upgrade to existing systems: Operators do not have to replace their equipment; rather, GPRS is added on top of the existing infrastructure.
  • An integral part of future 3G systems: GPRS is the packet data core network for 3G systems EDGE and WCDMA.

Goals of GPRS:

GPRS is the first step toward an end-to-end wireless infrastructure and has the following goals:

  • Open architecture
  • Consistent IP services
  • Same infrastructure for different air interfaces
  • Integrated telephony and Internet infrastructure
  • Leverage industry investment in IP
  • Service innovation independent of infrastructure

Benefits of GPRS:

Higher Data Rate:

Users of GPRS benefit from shorter access times and higher data rates. In conventional GSM, the connection setup takes several seconds and rates for data transmission are restricted to 9.6 kbit/s. GPRS in practice offers session establishment times below one second and ISDN-like data rates up to several ten kbit/s.

Easy Billing:

GPRS packet transmission offers a more user friendly billing than that offered by circuit switched services. In circuit switched services, billing is based on the duration of the connection. This is unsuitable for applications with bursty traffic. The user must pay for the entire airtime, even for idle periods when no packets are sent (e.g., when the user reads a Web page).

In contrast to this, with packet switched services, billing can be based on the amount of transmitted data. The advantage for the user is that he or she can be “online” over a long period of time but will be billed based on the transmitted data volume.


To sum up, GPRS improves the utilization of the radio resources, offers volume-based billing, higher transfer rates, shorter access times, and simplifies the access to packet data networks.


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Tauseef Emraj Shehan

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