GSM (the Global System for Mobile communications) is a relatively old (late 1980s) standard for a second-generation (2G) digital cellular system. It is also the most popular cellular system deployed today, with perhaps 80% of all cell phones worldwide based on it. GSM supports voice, fax and circuit data -- but not packet. That's where GPRS (the General Packet Radio Service) comes in. It can be thought of as a packet data overlay on GSM. GPRS is still in service, but is being replaced by EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution), which yields average performance about three times that of GPRS. And EDGE itself is being replaced by UMTS (3G) data services, and its evolutionary path HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access). And we're not done yet -- 4G is on the way, with the 4G evolution of GSM being LTE (Long-Term Evolution). I'll stop here, but it's safe to say that wireless has more acronyms than any other field!
This was first published in September 2007