GSM and GPRS Gain Momentum

One of the factors slowing down wireless handhelds in the U.S. is the fractured state of the networks. There are at least three major "standards": GSM/GPRS, CDMA, TDMA. Earlier this week, Cingular announced it was doing its part to clean up this mess by installing GSM/GRPS on top of its TDMA and analog networks. AT&T is doing something similar. Though this change is likely to create millions new GSM users, most mobile phones in the U.S. still connect with CDMA.

According to Cnet, GSM might get another convert soon. Verizon Wireless, the biggest wireless carrier in the U.S., is under pressure from its parent company, Vodafone, to switch from CDMA to GSM.

Though GSM is in second place in the U.S., it dominates Europe and Asia. If it catches on more in the U.S., the process of creating handhelds with built-in wireless modems could be greatly simplified.

The upcoming Handspring Treo will use GSM, though there are reports that a CDMA version is in the works.

GPRS is the next generation of GSM, offering 144 Kbps connections and always-on access.

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next generation of 'GSM'

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 11:49:13 AM #
looks like a typo on the last line.

RE: next generation of 'GSM'
Ed @ 11/4/2001 1:26:29 PM #

News Editor

About time

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 12:43:19 PM #
Its about time we caught up with the rest of the world and go GSM.

RE: About time
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 2:41:39 PM #
I agree. I'm sick of the US lagging behind everyone because of a standards war. We should take GSM, as the rest of the world is doing, and move forward. We could get some pretty sweet products if the entire US economy was behind GSM.

RE: About time
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 7:43:01 PM #

I hear ya,

If it ever does, it has the potential of becoming a technological revolution. Image having your PDA being able to ream word wide and always remains "connected" !? ;) That would blow my mind :)

The US telecoms are finally getting the big picture...

Thank you for answering this

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 1:41:18 PM #
Can anybody tell me:

The Cingular PCS Wireless (uses SIM card) is GSM or CDMA?


RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 1:58:32 PM #
Cingular has a mixed network, ergo the announcement to convert everything to GSM/GPRS. On the west coast (and a few other parts of their network) however, they are already GSM and, yes, the devices on those GSM parts of the Cingular network use a SIM card.

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 2:22:21 PM #
It use GSM 1900 network
I am using it now..

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 8:17:03 PM #
I had a Cingular GSM Nokia 8290 (not postive on number) in the Bay Area CA and the service was so bad I took it back. I can't imagine being stuck with a GSM phone if you had to travel. There would be zero coverage in a lot of places with no Analog serivce to back it up.

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 8:19:29 PM #
I have Cingular in Atlanta and it is strictly TDMA. What ticks me off is that there is absolutely no GSM, CDMA or any type service available anywhere in Georgia for surfing around with a PDA (Palm VIIx is the exception). It SUCKS!

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 9:30:31 PM #
I use SprintPCS in Atlanta and it works fine, if you are willing to pay the price of the service. With Sprint wireless data goes against the minutes in your rate plan. It is not perfect but it gets the job done...

Final word
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 11:36:46 PM #
I worked for Cingular not too long ago and here's the facts as they were when I worked there (like 4-5 months ago). Cingular is TDMA everywhere except for the state of California. In California it is GSM but there have been a ton of complaints against them in California. Voicestream is the only pure GSM/analog provider in the US and they really only exist in large markets. On a side note if you are a Cingular customer in California, you roam on Voicestream outside of CA. If you are a voicestream customer you roam on cingular in CA.

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 5:48:57 AM #
So is it correct if I say "if the phone (no matter Cingular or VoiceStream) uses SIM card, it is GSM" ?


RE: Thank you for answering this
digilaw @ 11/5/2001 2:36:14 PM #
Yes it is safe to say that. For the current technologies anyway.

RE: Thank you for answering this
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 10:03:06 PM #
>So is it correct if I say "if the phone (no matter Cingular or VoiceStream) uses SIM card, it is GSM" ?

In general yes, but some iDen (Motorola) models use a SIM card as well. Not surprising as it has it's roots in GSM, in fact Mike service in Canada by Telus (Formerly by Clearnet), is run on GSM switches.

RE: Thank you for answering this
boythanh @ 10/24/2003 4:21:10 AM #
Hi there :)

Well, i just changed from GSM to CDMA because it is WAY better, clear voice quality, high speed data....... and my network (Hutch Thailand) also uses SIM cards!
It is CDMA 2000-1x, and my phone is a Sanyo SCP 550 with a SIM card in it. I ca also put this SIM into another SIM enabled CDMA 2000-1x, such as the Motorola v680 or Nokia 2280 and it works right away on this network :)

Not all SIM's are GSM.... just in CDMA they are called "R-UIM" (removable user identity module).
Thanks for reading this....


CDMA because it's better!

GSM and GPRS for Voicestream...

quake97 @ 11/4/2001 2:44:04 PM #
Voicestream (owned by Deutsche Telekom) has always been the best quality cell phone company, in my opinion. Must better quality and whatnot than CDMA and TDMA, but with a smaller area of use. I have been with them for about two years. Their only failing is that their customer service stinks and their bills are sometimes hard to understand.

Voicestream is now selling three new GPRS phones from Motorola (2) and Samsung (1). They are very cool and they also offer a laptop/PDA solution for more money. The drawback is that the PDA option is only for Windows CE, I hope that changes soon.


RE: GSM and GPRS for Voicestream...
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 11:29:29 PM #
You can use your Voicestream phone as a wireless modem and dial in to a special number (their own ISP, as I understand it) to get a net connection for your Palm device via IR (I use a Clie and a Motorola P280, though Voicestream came out with another Motorola phone that I think would work as well (besides Nokia phones)). However, I don't think it accesses their iStream network when you do this, unfortunately.

RE: GSM and GPRS for Voicestream...
ajf @ 11/5/2001 2:00:53 PM #
i use voicestream because i travel outside the US frequently. i'm actually quite happy with their customer service -- they've been very friendly and helpful.

i've got an older triband timeport w/IR that i use as a modem for my palm when i'm travelling in the US -- i dial my own ISP, and connect that way. not bad, when you've got LD and country-wide roaming included in your plan.

AT&T going is GSM / EDGE ???

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 3:10:04 PM #
So what is AT&T going to switch over to. Currently they run TDMA but I thought I read they were switching to EDGE for high speed date, not GPRS. I hope its not another lame upgrade for TDMA.

RE: AT&T going is GSM / EDGE ???
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 5:09:29 PM #
Edge is an upgrade to GPRS, not an upgrade to TDMA.

it won't matter soon enough anyway

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/4/2001 3:47:28 PM #
GSM is technically an inferior technology to CDMA... that won't matter though in the post 2.5G era if we get there... both the CDMA2000 and WCDMA spec is owned and licensed by qualcomm so there will be interoperability

The benefits of goiing edge and gsm are that it is easier to get there and less expensive for a carrier but it will not allow as much capacity so in the long run you run out of steam vs CDMA

RE: it won't matter soon enough anyway
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 1:27:54 AM #
Nope, sorry. The WCDMA spec is not owned by Qualcomm.

They (Qualcomm) have a few patents in the standard. But like Motorola in the GSM case, Ericsson is the major patent holder for WCDMA.

Furthermore, most of Qualcomms assets in this area was in the infrastructure company which was bought by Ericsson.

Is not CDMA superior to GSM?

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 1:33:36 AM #
I read a few years ago that CDMA is superior to GSM. Where I go to school, a few people have service from Sprint, AT&T, and Verizon. So far it seems Verizon has the best connection in our school. Sprint and At&t (which is what I have) does not seem to get good coverage. I struggle to get a signal out in the parking lot, whereas verizon customers can make phone calls inside our buildings. My pager also gets good coverage, as a side note, in buildings.

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 3:55:07 AM #

Signal strength is not a measure of the quality of a particular phone standard, be it GSM, TDMA or CDMA.

Your problem is due to poor coverage from your provider. If every building/hill/bridge/whatever in the United States had a GSM mast stuck on it, you'd get perfect GSM coverage across the country. Even here in Europe where mobile phone ownership is as high as 80% of the population, we still have the odd blackspot.

As for the poster who said GSM was inferior, I'd like to see some evidence to back that up.... Having used GSM in Scandinavia and the UK and PCS in the Eastern US, I have found that GSM is the superior in terms of connection quality. Add to that GSM short messaging service, SMS, which isn't provided under TDMA and CDMA and the fact that if I want to use my visorphone one day and my Nokia 8210 the next all I have to do is swap the SIM card over... My number stays the same, my phone book gets transferred across because its the same account.

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 4:18:22 AM #
CDMA uses CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) while GSM (and TDMA) uses TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and FDMA (Frequencies Division Multiple Access). Those are methods to allow multiple persons to be on the same frequency band(s) simultaneously.
The us TDMA networks uses 3 time slots, while the GSM network uses 7, allowing more costumers per channel and frequency band. GSM is far supperior to the old analoge netowkrs, and the US TDMA ones however CDMA is, technology wise, more complex. 3G will use WCDMA (Wide-Band CDMA) in conjunction with FDMA.

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 1:40:14 PM #
CDMA is a better standard in many experts' opinion. That is why 3G is all CDMA. It has a much lower probability of blocking and it does not suffer the same latency problems during handoff. For other standards, there is a fixed number of customers that can be served, based on the amount of spectrum. With CDMA, another user can always be added. The limit is determined by the noise floor, which is also flexable.

As for the European/Asian market being ahead of the US... That has been true for a while (probably not post 3G.) One could argue, though, that it is much easier to provide a better service if you are not the pioneer. The US has consistiently let the charge into the wireless arena. The rest of the world has been good about letting the US take the lumps. Once they see where there are problems, the improvise and then release their new standard.

Just my $.02 worth,
Tip DS

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 10:12:06 PM #
>I read a few years ago that CDMA is superior to GSM.

Let's not confuse the air interface with the protocols.
What SprintPCS and others in the US selling CDMA service are actually selling is IS-95A, IS-95B, which is more correctly referred to as CDMAOne rather than just CDMA. And CDMAOne's migration path to IMT-2000's 3G is being rolled out now in it's incremental phases CDMA2000 1xRTT, 1xEV, 3x... All are over an air interface called CDMA. Indeed, no one can argue against the spectral efficiency of CDMA and that's why 3 of the 5 accepted adaptations under the ITU's IMT-2000 "3G" umbrella are CDMA. But that's just the air interface.

Likewise GSM used a TDMA air interface, as does Motorola/Nextel's iDEN service. What most people refer to as "TDMA" cellular service in the US and Canada, is actually IS-136 over a TDMA air interface.

Think of CDMA like Ethernet. Over that ethernet you can run, TCP/IP, Apple's AppleTalk, Netware's IPX/SPX, Microsoft's NetBEUI, etc. Saying a network runs ethernet for communication is a little inprecise.

Most migration paths do in fact evolve to a CDMA air interface in the ITU's IMT-2000 3G specification. And there is some increased interoperability built into that spec. Qualcomm does indeed manufacture chipsets for both WCDMA (UMTS), and the various CDMA2000 flavors, so you'd expect some interoperability there.

>They (Qualcomm) have a few patents in the standard. >But like Motorola in the GSM case, Ericsson is the >major patent holder for WCDMA.

Qualcomm's patents are for the CDMA Air interface. The migration path to 3G for GSM providers is WCDMA, but now you're referring to protocol not air interface. You can't DO WCDMA without licensing the CDMA air/radio interface from Qualcomm.

>Signal strength is not a measure of the quality of a >particular phone standard, be it GSM, TDMA or CDMA.

While that's true, the standard does have something to say on the subject. IS-95A and IS-95B (CDMA) run with lower signal strength requirements, and higher number of maximum users per sector. This means the network is more spectrally effecient and cheaper the build out. It follows that you're more likely to be in a better coverage area with a CDMA system, cost and capacity taken into effect. The advantage gets even stronger with CDMA2000 where the power/signal requirements are even less, and the capacity is greater still. If that wasn't the case, GSM and IS-136 would stay TDMA based.

>Add to that GSM short messaging service, SMS, which >isn't provided under TDMA and CDMA

SMS might not be offered over IS-136 "TDMA" in the US but it is in Canada. Further SMS IS offered on virtually all CDMA networks. The thing is that usually it's only implemented in receive only mode. That's not to say that SMS-MO (Mobile originated) isn't in the IS-95 CDMA spec, because it is, as any one can read for themselves in Motorola's online CDMA spec archives. Further, Mobile Originate SMS has been enabled on certain large corporate clients handsets with at least one provider here in Canada.

>the fact that if I want to use my visorphone one day >and my Nokia 8210 the next all I have to do is swap >the SIM card over... My number stays the same, my >phone book gets transferred across because its the >same account.

No disputing that advantage. Better yet though is the day which is nearing where the "SIM" card becomes the essence of the phone. We already have in prototype form Field Programmable DSP's which can be programmed to be a GSM transceiver, or a CDMA transceiver, or to function on a given frequency. Imagine how small your cellphone would be if it didn't have a display, antenna, keyboard, battery, and support circuitry. It would likely be the size of a Compact Flash card or so. Now imagine that you could choose the user interface that you liked, be it a Nokia handset, or a Palm or whatever. The point is you provide the card to the cellular carrier to program to their networks parameters. Then you insert it into your device which just provides the display, interface, battery etc, and voila. You could just as easily present that programable DSP card to another carrier running a different network, and now the SAME handset runs on a totally different network. That makes even more sense to me. That way the providers keep the control over the operational parameters of the devices on their network, as they deserve, and you don't end up with a $500 paperweight because you move out of their coverage area, or their rate plans loose touch with reality. True you have SOME of that benefit with a GSM handset and it's SIM card, but only if the handset isn't subsidy locked, and you can only move to another GSM network on a compatible frequency band.

>The us TDMA networks uses 3 time slots, while the GSM >network uses 7, allowing more costumers per channel >and frequency band.

And it needs them, especially with 2.5G data loads. From the GSMWorld site:
"At the current stage of development most are offering one timeslot upstream and two/three timeslot downstream operations-although the Ericsson R450 will provide four timeslots downstream. At 14.4kbit/s per timeslot, this gives potential data throughput speeds of 28.8kbit/s or 43.2kbit/s downstream-under ideal conditions and where there is sufficient network capacity."

Imagine the fun trying to find enough timeslots for 144Kbps, over and above the voice timeslots.

Hence the CDMA benefit, which get spectrally more efficient with it's evolutions, and high speed data additions, not less so.

>3G will use WCDMA (Wide-Band CDMA) in conjunction >with FDMA.

Not so simple. If you're a GSM provider, then your 3G implementation will likely be WCDMA yes, but your migration path and end implementation of 3G IMT-2000 will be different for CDMAOne (IS-95) providers.
See for a brief look at the flavors of IMT-2000. It's not the best source, just the nearest one I could lay my browser on while I type.

-Craig Bowers

Abolish CDMA and TDMA
I.M. Anonymous @ 1/17/2002 10:35:39 AM #
All carriers in the United States should abolish CDMA and TDMA and joing the rest of the world. They are already lagging behind (Like 6 years behind!) They have bad coverage *ONLY BECAUSE* they have too many systems. They must use only one system and that system must be GSM. This is obvious.
I travel around the world and the U.S. looks like a third world country when it comes to mobile phone and all because people or companies or whomever is sticking to this CDMA and TDMA blindly and for no good reason that I have heard so far.
Prices will go down and converage will get better only when the carriers in U.S. adopt GSM and GPRS.
It is inevitable anyway for us to convert to GSM. We are just paying more and getting less the longer we wait.
Anybody important hearing this message?

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
WhoControlsTheMedia? @ 5/31/2002 2:56:54 PM #
Most of the world is ruled by dictatorships, so should we join them too? Relax. CDMA is as good as, if not better than, GSM. There is no need for every wireless carrier in the US to switch.

RE: Is not CDMA superior to GSM?
boythanh @ 10/24/2003 4:46:15 AM #
This discussion is like "What is better - driving on the right side of the road or on the left?".....

I am from germany (steering wheel left, traffic right, like in the U.S.). Now i live in Thailand since three years, here: Steering wheel right, traffic left! Like England, Australia and several asian countries. Now, which is better? Which is "correct"..???

I used GSM for the last 6 years, in germany and here too. Both GSM 900 and 1800, with GPRS too lately. Now i switched to CDMA because it offers me far greater data possibilities (153 kb/s vs. 43 kb/s with GPRS) AND the voice quality is clearer, better than with GSM. Small side effect, too... the phone doesn't produce this noise when coming close to a radio, TV set or any other audio-reproducing thing.
I don't want to convert anyone to anything, but switching all CDMA's or TDMA's toGSM is, in my opinion, the wrong way. Better stick to what they have and extend the coverage areas. Better and multi-mode phones will come available to allow roaming... and CDMA-SIM-cards are already available (my network and my phone use them, Hutch Thailand CDMA 2000-1x) and when that standard gets more used, it is as easy as wwith GSM.


CDMA because it's better!

GSM and frequency

I.M. Anonymous @ 11/5/2001 4:34:49 PM #
There is another impediment to using a US GSM phone abroad. US GSM phones operate on 1900 Mhz, while almost all other networks (Europe and Asia) operate on 900 Mhz and/or 1800 Mhz.

If the US start adopting GSM nationwide, why not adopt the encoding standard AND the frequency ?

RE: GSM and frequency
I.M. Anonymous @ 5/23/2002 5:34:18 PM #
Frequency was already allocated and cost of relocation of services like paging etc. is prohibitive.

Palm M500 and Motorola P280

I.M. Anonymous @ 2/25/2002 4:22:38 PM #
Anyone know where one gets the phone driver for the P280 so my Palm and cell phone can talk via IR?
I can go on-line ok with the data cable but I can't import phone numbers and such.

RE: Palm M500 and Motorola P280
I.M. Anonymous @ 8/7/2002 3:33:25 AM #
Please, would you let me know if you found the driver for the Palm and Motorola P280?
My e-mail is

Help to connect

chrisabraham @ 6/23/2002 7:22:50 PM #
Hi -- I have the p280 and I would like help on getting my palm online.



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