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General packet radio service, also known as GPRS service, has a slightly misleading name. It does not deal with radios at all but instead improves a mobile phone's ability to receive and send data over the Internet. It primarily is used to boost the performance of slower-functioning phones. It provides many advantages over a traditional mobile phone network connection but also has limitations.
As of 2010, most mobile phones utilized a third-generation (3G) phone network. This network allows for users, such as those with an Apple iPhone or a Blackberry®, to quickly surf the Internet, view videos, download music and hold real-time chats in addition to making standard telephone calls. The previous level of second-generation (2G) technology is useful only for making phone calls and not for transferring data.
Second-generation networks lack the ability to handle online data quickly and easily because it used circuit switched data service (CSDS). This service allowed internet connections only in 30 second bursts, often making something as basic as sending an email take several minutes to complete. GPRS service was created as a way to boost 2G phones and make them more like 3G phones. The resulting GPRS technology is referred to as 2.5G.
GPRS service is an addition to a mobile phone that allows for online data to be transferred faster. The biggest change from 2G technology is GPRS service's ability to stay connected constantly instead of in 30-second bursts. This allows data to be transferred at a rate of 56 to 114 kilobytes per second (kbps), which is fast enough to allow users to surf the Internet, chat and download videos and music without a 3G capable phone.
The GPRS service networks generally offer a unique method of billing, compared to other phones. Transferring data with a traditional second-generation phone could be expensive because it was charged by the minute, much like a long distance call, but 2.5G works differently. Billing for data usage is charged by the kilobyte of data sent or received and can help give a more accurate bill of activity.
GPRS service is a step up for users who have an older network and want to utilize the Internet, but it is not without its drawbacks. Some users find it difficult to keep connections when traveling, because 2.5G networks are not as full as other networks. The other major drawback is speed. The service has the ability to work at 114 kbps, but that does not mean it will always operate at that level, and it often functions at notably slower rates.