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General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a service that enables data to be transmitted across a cellular network, such as Internet browsing and text messaging. In a GPRS connection, data is relayed and received in units called packets. This data transfer method contrasts with the traditional circuit switched relay method — in circuit-switched networks, users pay for the amount of time they spend transferring information; in a GPRS connection, users pay based on the volume of data they transmit and receive.
A GPRS connection can be used to upgrade a second-generation cellular network, also known as a 2G, to a 2.5 G network. The application of the connection to an existing cellular network can enhance usability and the speed of service. Theoretically, a GPRS can access data at a rate of more than 170 kB per second, assuming that all time slots get used simultaneously and no other users compete for bandwidth. In practice, however, this kind of ultra-fast connectivity can rarely be achieved. Networks typically allocate capabilities based on user demand to regulate traffic and keep data flowing.
A GPRS connection can provide constant Internet access, instant messaging capabilities, and enhanced Short Message Service (SMS) text transmission. Using ordinary Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology, for instance, one can typically send and receive only 10 SMS messages every minute. With the SMS enhanced GPRS transmission, on the other hand, one can send three times that many messages per minute. In addition, a GPRS connection provides push to talk capabilities, like a walkie-talkie, and multimedia messaging. That being said, this type of connection cannot transmit large audio files effectively. For example, a person would not be able to upload dictated text to a transcription service using this technology, as the voice files would be far too large to be transmitted at serviceable speeds.
Users can leverage GPRS technology to connect to networks in a variety of ways. One can simply buy or upgrade a cellular phone or other mobile device with GPRS capabilities. Alternatively, a user can employ a traditional desktop computer to link to a mobile phone with GPRS technology to connect to the Web and other online services. GPRS also allows users to browse Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) pages, basically an Internet browser specifically set up for a cell phone.
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