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What Is a GPRS Network?

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  • Written By: Jean Marie Asta
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 20 September 2016
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A GPRS network is an advancement in wireless technology that extends the amount of information that is exchangeable between wireless devices. The acronym "GPRS" stands for general package radio service. It is used for cell phone and wireless Internet communications.

Phone or Internet connections using a GPRS network communicate with other forms of wireless technology over the existing radio channels that are used by cell phones. Radio signals have been used by older forms of wireless communication but GPRS represents a significant advancement in the wireless field. More information can be exchanged using a GPRS network. Information can be exchanged simultaneously as well. For example, a cell phone could be using an Internet connection to check a user’s email while at the same time being available to accept a phone call.

The GPRS network organizes and transmits information in the form of packets. When a device sends a packet to another device it can be stored for future reference by the device and the user. This is useful because it doesn’t require two devices to maintain a constant connection. Due to this feature, a GPRS network is said to be "always on." This term refers to the fact that a user may be able to use the Internet while only having to establish a connection whenever he or she navigates to a new webpage.

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Packets of information from the GPRS network are sent through what are called "time slots." Up to four are available to be used by a system at one time. This is a more efficient system than previous versions of this technology which allowed for only one channel of communication to be used between devices for the exchange of information.

Another useful feature of GPRS networks is that they can allow for the Internet to be accessed on other devices that are incapable of getting a strong wireless Internet signal. This is possible if the two devices are connected physically by a USB cord or connected together using another form of wireless communication such as Bluetooth®. This process is called tethering.

GPRS networks are very commonly used today on cell phones worldwide. Their high speed allows them to be compatible with the most modern technology devices. The "always on" function is an affordable option for users since they are only charged for the brief moments they need to connect to the Internet to reach a new webpage, as opposed to each moment they use their Internet browser. 3G networks are a newer, more advanced form of technology that perform similar functions. They may eventually replace GPRS, but this is not expected to happen for many years due to GPRS’ popularity.

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