GPRS tops the agenda at TMA

General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) mobile phone provision was top of the agenda for the big players in mobile telephony at this...

General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) mobile phone provision was top of the agenda for the big players in mobile telephony at this year's TMA2000 show, writes Antony Adshead.

The annual showcase hosted by the Communications Management Association in Brighton also gave the mobile firms a chance to give hints of a more distant future, unveiling uses such as media streaming over third generation (3G) devices.

Vodafone, One2One and Orange demonstrated mobile GPRS - promising UK-wide availability by January 2001. Only BT Cellnet claims to have its network up and running now - though it says it will only be "initially servicing large organisations".

GPRS is a stopgap means of providing higher bandwidth than GSM networks prior to the introduction of true 3G bandwidth of up to 2mbps. It is "always on", so making a call is not necessary and new billing methods can be devised which are based on packet traffic volume.

The main GPRS applications being pushed by mobile suppliers at the show were Wap services that go some way to fulfilling the hype as a result of the increased bandwidth available. Applications included remote access to office communications and productivity tools such as e-mail and scheduling systems, as well as the possibility of multiple users amending documents in real time.

Orange will be offering GPRS from January 2001 but, customers can sign up to its 2.5G technology offering, Orange Data Access. The service is based on HSCSD (High Speed Circuit Switched Data) which Orange claims will provide data rates of up to 28.8kbps. HSCSD is a means of compressing mobile signals by combining simultaneous channels.

BT claims to be taking advantage of GPRS's higher speeds with its Pocketnet Office service, which gives remote users e-mail, Internet and Lan access.

One2One, smallest of the big four mobile carriers, is also offering GPRS services in the near future, but distinguished itself at TMA with its offering of GSM over IP. This connects a small GSM network to a business Lan to aid integration of PBX, wireless and data networks.

Ericsson's offerings centred on its range of GPRS Wap-capable phones, most with Bluetooth wireless networking capability. The R520 will be Ericsson's first GPRS phone while the T36 is its newest tri-band Bluetooth-capable offering.

The recently-released R380 is a combination of a handset and a personal digital assistant (PDA) which is dual band and has Wap, SMS messaging and e-mail.

Read more on Wireless networking