The world is moving toward third-generation (3G) mobile communications systems that are capable of bringing highquality mobile multimedia services to a mass market. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has put together a 3G framework known as International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000). This framework encompasses a small number of frequency bands, available on a globally harmonized basis, that make use of existing national and regional mobile and mobile-satellite frequency allocations.
Along the way toward 3G is a 2.5G service known as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which offers true packet data connectivity to cell phone users. GPRS leverages Internet Protocol (IP) technologies, adding convenience and immediacy to mobile data services. GPRS is ideal for wireless data applications with bursty data, especially WAPbased information retrieval and database access.
GPRS enables wireless users to have an “always on” data connection, as well as high data transfer speeds. Although GPRS offers potential data transfer rates of up to 115 kbps, subscribers will only really notice faster service at the initial connection. The faster speed is in the connect time. At present, users connect at a maximum of 19.2 kbps. GPRS packet-based service should cost users less than circuit-switched services, since communication channels are shared rather than dedicated only to one user at a time.
It also should be easier to make applications available to mobile users because the faster data rate means that middleware currently needed to adapt applications to the slower speed of wireless systems will no longer be needed. To take advantage of GPRS, however, mobile users will have to buy new cell phones that specifically support the data service.
Cellular phones are getting more intelligent, as evidenced by the combination of cellular phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), Web browser, and always-on GPRS connection into one unit. These devices not only support data communications, they also support voice messaging, e-mail, fax, and micropayments over the Internet as well. Third-party software provides the operating system and such applications as calendaring, card file, and to-do lists.
With more cellular phones supporting data communications, cellular phones are available that provide connectivity to PC desktops and databases via Bluetooth, infrared, or serial RS-232 connections. Information can even be synchronized between cell phones and desktop computers to ensure that the user is always accessing the most up-to-date information.