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The Pros and Cons of GPRS

written by: Karishma Sundaram•edited by: Simon Hill•updated: 7/5/2011

GPRS has become part of everyday jargon, like calls or SMS. This article looks at the nuts and bolts of this once popular technology.

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    Understanding General Packet Radio Service

    GPRS is a mobile telephony service, which simply put allows mobile phone users to connect to the Internet using their phones. It was widely used, before mobile phones started becoming Wi-Fi enabled. It is very much in the backseat as of now, although it presents a viable alternative in emergencies, when other means of connecting to the Internet are not available.

    The technology uses the unused portions of the GSM bandwidth to transmit and receive data packets. The different between a conventional connection and GPRS is that in a conventional connection, a certain level of quality is guaranteed. In GPRS, there is no such guarantee; it operates within a best possible attempt scenario.

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    Advantages of GPRS

    GPRS brought mobile phone users out from the world of WAP, and into a world where Internet was finally available on mobiles. This in itself was a monumental feat, and hence GPRS took off with quite a bang. With GPRS, large amounts of data can be transferred to and from the mobile device over the Internet.

    GPRS-enabled mobile phones also double up as portable Internet connections for laptops. In some cases, where Internet access is not readily available but a mobile network is, GPRS can be a lifesaver. Most phones can be used as a modem once connected to a laptop.

    The advantage of GPRS, in today’s technological environment, is that it is a great backup option. The portability factor has diminished somewhat, with the advent of much faster data cards, which plug directly into the laptop.

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    Since GPRS uses the cellular network’s GSM band to transmit data, more often than not, when a connection is active, calls and other network-related functions cannot be used. The data session will go on standby. This is a characteristic typical of the Class B GPRS device. There are Class A devices as well, where there are two radios incorporated into the device, allowing both features to run simultaneously. However, Class A devices tend to be more expensive, and by extension, less popular. Most mobile phones fall in the Class B category.

    GPRS is usually billed per megabyte or kilobyte, depending on the individual service provider. However, this has changed in many places, where GPRS downloads are no longer charged as per usage, but are unlimited, and there is merely a flat fee to be paid every month.

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    Enhanced GPRS goes by many monikers, but is essentially the next generation GPRS. It employs much the same technology from the user’s end; however it requires some basic modification at the transmitter’s base stations. Theoretically, EDGE can transmit and receive data three times as fast as a normal GPRS connection, subject of course to ideal conditions.

    EDGE and GPRS are still used in lesser developed countries across the globe, mainly because Wi-Fi hotspots are not as prolific as other more developed nations. Additionally, 3G technology has not spread across the globe, making GPRS a very viable option as of now.