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A GPRS connection is a cellular data platform that connects a mobile wireless device, such as a smartphone, to an information network with the use of general packet radio service (GPRS) frequencies. It allows basic data downloading and web access, and will also support text messages, commonly known as short message service (SMS) transmissions. At one time, GPRS was the fastest network available. This is no longer the case; both 3G and 4G networks outperform it both in speed and reliability. It is still used in many places, though, particularly rural areas or developing countries that haven’t yet invested in progressively more advanced technologies. Most modern phones will use a GPRS connection when available, though people used to faster networks will usually notice the much slower speeds and longer wait times.
Mobile devices are only able to access data and online information when connected to some sort of network. Wireless Internet connections, also known as “wifi” in many places, are some of the simplest to understand. In these instances, phones and other devices connect to an established Internet connection being broadcast from a modem the same as a computer would. These networks are some of the most secure and reliable, but they’re geographically limited. People can usually only connect when their device is within a certain radius of a modem or base station.
Networks provided by cellular service companies are more ubiquitous. Most of the time these are supported by specific wireless carriers, though, and are accessible only by devices that have paid connectivity. Speeds and download capabilities are improving almost constantly. Some of the first networks were known as 2G, followed by 3G; starting in 2012, 4G became available in many places as well. GPRS is usually thought of as a bridge between 2G and 3G, and as such it is somewhat out of date in many places. Each evolution typically requires a lot of infrastructure upgrades, though, which can be expensive and time consuming for service providers. As such, higher speeds usually come in waves, with certain high-density communities getting access faster.
A GPRS connection can provide constant Internet access, instant messaging capabilities, and enhanced SMS transmissions. At the time it was introduced, it was the fastest network ever seen. Using ordinary Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) technology, for instance, one could typically send and receive only 10 SMS messages every minute. With the SMS enhanced GPRS transmission, on the other hand, one could send three times that many messages per minute. By comparison, capabilities on a 4G network usually reach at least ten times those of the GPRS platform.
This packet-based platform was also one of the first to provide push to talk capabilities, like a walkie-talkie, and multimedia messaging. That being said, devices using GPRS cant usually 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.
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.
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.