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GSM, Global System for Mobile communications, is the most popular standard for mobile phones in the world. Its promoter, the GSM Association, estimates that 82% of the global mobile market uses the standard.[1] GSM is used by over 3 billion people across more than 212 countries and territories.[2][3] Its ubiquity makes international roaming very common between mobile phone operators, enabling subscribers to use their phones in many parts of the world. GSM differs from its predecessors in that both signaling and speech channels are digital, and thus is considered a second generation (2G) mobile phone system. This has also meant that data communication was easy to build into the system.

The ubiquity of the GSM standard has been an advantage to both consumers (who benefit from the ability to roam and switch carriers without switching phones) and also to network operators (who can choose equipment from any of the many vendors implementing GSM[4]). GSM also pioneered a low-cost (to the network carrier) alternative to voice calls, the Short message service (SMS, also called "text messaging"), which is now supported on other mobile standards as well. Another advantage is that the standard includes one worldwide Emergency telephone number, 112[5]. This makes it easier for international travellers to connect to emergency services without knowing the local emergency number.

Newer versions of the standard were backward-compatible with the original GSM phones. For example, Release '97 of the standard added packet data capabilities, by means of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). Release '99 introduced higher speed data transmission using Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE).


GPRS, General Packet Radio Service, is a packet oriented Mobile Data Service available to users of the 2G cellular communication systems Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), as well as in the 3G systems. In the 2G systems, GPRS provides data rates from 56 up to 114 kbit/s.

GPRS data transfer is typically charged per megabyte of traffic transferred, while data communication via traditional circuit switching is billed per minute of connection time, independent of whether the user actually is using the capacity or is in an idle state. GPRS is a best-effort packet switched service, as opposed to circuit switching, where a certain Quality of Service (QoS) is guaranteed during the connection for non-mobile users.

2G cellular systems combined with GPRS are often described as "2.5G", that is, a technology between the second (2G) and third (3G) generations of mobile telephony. It provides moderate speed data transfer, by using unused Time division multiple access (TDMA) channels in, for example, the GSM system. Originally there was some thought to extend GPRS to cover other standards, but instead those networks are being converted to use the GSM standard, so that GSM is the only kind of network where GPRS is in use. GPRS is integrated into GSM Release 97 and newer releases. It was originally standardized by European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), but now by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP).

A GPRS connection is established by reference to its Access Point Name (APN). The APN defines the services such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) access, Short Message Service (SMS), Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), and for Internet communication services such as email and World Wide Web access.