General packet radio service (GPRS) is a data transfer specification used by Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA), and Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), networks. The GPRS system makes use of the entire coverage area and frequency of its host networks to transmit data packets. Data packets are segments of data sent between computers or network devices. These mobile technologies work together to handle most of the world's mobile communications.
The GPRS system sits on top of the TDMA and GSM networks to provide subscribers uninterrupted data connection instead of a dial-up connection. This gives subscribers the ability to access data without the need to dial up and authenticate. A packet control unit is present in a GPRS cellphone. This control unit provides a bridge for data to travel across mobile networks and the Internet by making use of radio channels.
Eliminating the need to use voice channels to transmit data, GPRS gives network providers a more efficient way to deliver data to their users. Using a GPRS connection ensures subscribers four times the speed of most traditional dial-up connections. Dial-up data services offer an average speed of 9.6 kbps while GPRS offers a speed of 40 to 172.2 kbps. GPRS communication also gives subscribers the ability to stream rich media applications and content. There is no need to download the content before it can be viewed or used. This makes the GPRS system ideal for web browsing from mobile devices.
Rich media applications are made available through mobile connection because of the GPRS system. These applications were previously unavailable in GSM networks due to the speed limitations of circuit switched data and the message length of short message service (SMS) which is 160 characters. The GPRS system allows applications that were previously exclusive to desktop computers and laptops to be used in mobile networks. It opens up a whole lot of possibilities in terms of new technology and fresh ideas.
A GPRS network also enables mobile Internet functionality. This means that the services available on the Internet such as web browsing, email, chat and file transfer protocol (FTP) can be accessed through mobile devices. Using the same protocols, the GPRS network can be considered as a sub-network of the Internet while the GPRS cellphones can be viewed as mobile hosts. Technically, every GPRS device can be assigned its own Internet Protocol (IP) address. GPRS works on cellphones, laptops and other portable devices with a GPRS modem or a GPRS Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card. In using a computer to send and receive messages, a GPRS modem is recommended.