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gsmGeneral Packet Radio Service / Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution 

GSM is a circuit-switched network; ideal for the delivery of voice but with limitations for sending data. However, the standard for GSM was designed to evolve and in 2000 the introduction of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) added packet-switched functionality, kick-starting the delivery of the Internet on mobile handsets.

GPRS adds packet-switched functionality to GSM networks

Based on specifications in Release 97, GPRS typically reached speeds of 40Kbps in the downlink and 14Kbps in the uplink by aggregating GSM time slots into one bearer. Enhancements in Releases R’98 and R’99 meant that GPRS could theoretically reach downlink speeds of up to 171Kbps.

EDGE… almost 3G

The next advance in GSM radio access technology was EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution), or Enhanced GRPS.

With a new modulation technique yielding a three-fold increase in bit rate (8PSK replacing GMSK) and new channel coding for spectral efficiency, EDGE was successfully introduced without disrupting the frequency re-use plans of existing GSM deployments.

The increase in data speeds to 384Kbps placed EDGE as an early pre-taste of 3G, although it was labeled 2.75G by industry watchers.


Ongoing standards work in 3GPP has delivered EDGE Evolution, which is designed to complement high-speed packet access (HSPA) coverage.

EDGE Evolution has:

  • Improved spectral efficiency with reduced latencies down to 100ms
  • Increased throughput speeds to 1.3Mbps in the downlink and 653Kbps in the uplink

GPRS (Release 97) and EDGE (Release 98) are largely maintained in the RAN6 Working Group of 3GPP, which succeeded TSG GERAN when it was closed in 2016.

Reading should start with the 44 series and 45 series of the 3GPP specifications.

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