The GPRS provides a set of GSM services for data transmission in packet mode within a PLMN. In packet-switched mode, no permanent connection is established between the mobile and the external network during data transfer. Instead, in circuit-switched mode, a connection is established during the transfer duration between the calling entity and the called entity. In packet-switched mode, data is transferred in data blocks, called packets.
When the transmission of packets is needed, a channel is allocated, but it is released immediately after. This method increases the network capacity. Indeed, several users can share a given channel, since it is not allocated to a single user during an entire call period. One of the main purposes of GPRS is to facilitate the interconnection between a mobile and the other packet-switched networks, which opens the doors to the world of the Internet.
With the introduction of packet mode, mobile telephony and Internet converge to become mobile Internet technology. This technology introduced in mobile phones allows users to have access to new value-added services, including:
- Client-server services, which enable access to data stored in databases. The most famous example of this is access to the World Wide Web (WWW) through a browser.
- Messaging services, intended for user-to-user communication between individual users via storage servers for message handling. Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is an example of a well-known messaging application.
- Real-time conversational services, which provide bidirectional communication in real-time. A number of Internet and multimedia applications require this scheme such as voice over IP and video conferencing.
- Tele-action services, which are characterized by short transactions and are required for services such as SMS, electronic monitoring, surveillance systems, and lottery transactions.
GPRS allows for radio resource optimization by using packet switching for data applications that may present the following transmission characteristics:
- Infrequent data transmission, as when the time between two transmissions exceeds the average transfer delay (e.g., messaging services);
- Frequent transmission of small data blocks, in processes of several transactions of less than 500 octets per minute (e.g., downloading of several HTML pages from a browsing application);
- Infrequent transmission of larger data blocks, in processes of several transactions per hour (e.g., access of information stored in database centers);
- Asymmetrical throughput between uplink and downlink, such as for data retrieval in a server where the uplink is used to send signaling commands and the downlink is used to receive data as a response of the request (e.g., WEB/WAP browser).
As the GPRS operator optimizes radio resources by sharing them between several users, he is able to propose more attractive fees for data transmission in GPRS mode than in circuit-switched mode. Indeed, the invoicing in circuit-switched mode takes into account the connection time between the calling user and the called user. Studies on data transmission show that data are exchanged from end to end during 20% of a circuit-switched connection time.
For example, a user browses the WWW, downloads an HTML page identified by a uniform resource locator (URL), reads the content of the HTML page, then downloads a new HTML page to read. In this example no data is exchanged from end to end between the two HTML page downloads. For this type of application, a more appropriate invoicing would take into account the volume of data exchanged instead of the circuit-switched connection time. In packet mode, the GPRS user may be invoiced according to the requested service type, the volume of data exchanged.