General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), unofficially nicknamed 2.5G and also called just “G”, is a packet switching-based mobile data service that made cellular technology Internet-friendly. In other words, GPRS made mobile Internet a reality since it partitioned Internet data into small packets, which made sending the information across online destinations much more efficient. Back then, before GPRS’ introduction in 2000, accessing Internet on the go was not possible.
GPRS succeeded 2G, which was based on circuit switching (telecommunication networking method) technology, and preceded Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE). GPRS offers a maximum speed of 114 kbps, in theory. Real data yields usually are, however, not more than 40 kbps since mobile data speed is based on device location, service provider and the number of users consuming the bandwidth at the particular time.
GPRS can be used for online messaging, basic web browsing, short message service (SMS), multimedia messaging service (MMS), etc. It is, in fact, considered the reason why PDA (personal digital assistant) devices became relevant. However, GPRS is still not speedy enough to load complex web pages and is barely sufficient to retrieve text emails. The web pages would typically load slowly, malfunction, or timeout. It’s believed GPRS, along with EDGE, helped lay the foundation for 3G services.
Both Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) and GPRS can go hand-in-hand. However, not all GSM devices can facilitate GPRS connectivity. This is because (as aforementioned) the fresh packet data modes of GPRS would not work on older devices. In such cases, new GPRS-compatible devices are needed. This unique hardware requirement applies to 3G and 4G networks as well.