GSM North America

The GSM Advantage

The overwhelming success of this technology is based on several key factors:

Total Systems Specification

The GSM standard was developed through an unparalleled exercise in technological cooperation between standards committees, operators and equipment manufacturers. The end result is that GSM is one of the most powerful and evolutionary telecommunications platforms ever developed.

Both GSM North America, the North American Interest group of the GSM MoU Association, and the North American GSM Alliance L.P. are taking that one step further with its mission of bringing operators and manufacturers together to jointly address issues that guarantee that GSM-based PCS 1900 will stay at the forefront of North American PCS technologies.

Two of the major advantages that GSM has over other PCS technologies are that it is a total system specification and it has "open" standards.

The GSM technology includes the functionality provided by the switching centers, location registers, base station controllers and base transceiver stations as well as the Smart Card and handsets.

Since the interfaces are "open", equipment from multiple vendors can co-exist in the same network. This provides operators with the option to purchase equipment from multiple suppliers. Only an open system foster competition between the equipment manufacturers and ultimately benefits PCS operators.

Advanced Services Functionality

One of the objectives for the GSM-based platform was to offer advanced services and functionality from a single network. To meet this goal, the designers made it part of the standard and based the architecture on the Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) call model. GSM operators have the flexibility to offer integrated voice, high speed data, fax and short message services capabilities from one network.

GSM also has the Intelligent Network (IN) functionality required to offer advanced subscriber features needed for private virtual networks such as call forwarding, abbreviated dialing, restrictions on incoming or outgoing calls and call handling procedures based on location or time of day.

The versatility and advanced feature functionality of GSM allows operators to be extremely creative and diverse with their marketing strategies and service offerings. This is crucial for success in what promises to be a very competitive PCS market.

Time To Market

For many operators, "time to market" is a critical issue. Operators have already expended the capital required to purchase licenses and they need to begin generating a revenue stream to recoup their investment as soon as possible. Additionally, the sooner operators have their networks in place, the larger the pool of potential subscribers will be.

GSM is a proven, established technology with a track record of success with more than 200 operators in over 100 countries. Manufacturing efficiencies and economies of scale make this technology a robust, cost effective investment for PCS operators. Worldwide manufacturers include Alcatel, AT&T, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, Nortel, Philips, Siemens and many others.

In addition to the field-proven network equipment and handsets, experienced personnel provide a tremendous "time to market" advantage for GSM operators. To support network roll outs, personnel experienced in operations, network management and cell planning are available from around the world.


The rapid growth of GSM-based systems and the handsets "open" standard have created a mass market for manufacturers. There are currently more than 15 companies that manufacture lightweight, easy to use GSM handsets under 45 brand names. Many of these companies are already manufacturing handsets for the North American GSM market.

Nationwide Roaming

GSM architecture supports full-featured seamless roaming between GSM systems in North America. This inherent roaming capability allows operators to easily exchange common services, billing records and location information. Roaming agreements are already being established between the various North American GSM operators. GSM coverage can be supplemented further through roaming agreements between GSM operators and current cellular providers. Roaming between GSM and AMPS systems is achieved through network inter-working. Using Smart Cards, subscribers can use handsets in any of the over 100 countries that have selected GSM-based systems. This is a key feature for people who travel internationally. All they have to do is insert their Smart Card into the phone and all their subscriber information is programmed automatically into the phone.

Voice Quality

Excellent voice quality is one of the primary requirements for PCS subscribers. The current GSM vocoder provides the best voice quality of any digital wireless standard in the world today. GNA is taking that one step further and has proposed a 13 kbps Enhanced Full Rate (EFR) vocoder which has been adopted as the industry standard. It will provide voice quality that is competitive with wireline service. From the onset, the selection of the vocoder was a cooperative effort between GNA and the GSM equipment manufacturers. The goal was to select one common vocoder for GSM handsets and to establish an open standard so that any manufacturer could produce the handsets. The equipment manufacturers are jointly responsible for ensuring that the vocoder progresses through the final testing and development phases required for it to become an open standard. This teamwork approach demonstrates the common commitment that GSM operators and manufacturers have to the standardization and continuing evolution of this technology.

Secure Communications and Personal Safety

By design, GSM digital technology has several inherent features which ensure the privacy, integrity and confidentiality of all calls.

Smart Cards

GSM handsets incorporate a "Smart Card" which contains the subscriber's personal identification and service profile information such as billing, predefined speed dial numbers and calling services. For added security, the subscriber may also request that the Smart Card require the use of a Personal Identity Number (PIN). Smart Cards come in two formats. One version resembles a small chip and is semi-permanently placed inside the phone. The second version is similar to a credit card and can be used in phones that are equipped with a slot for the Smart Card. If the subscriber wants to rent a phone for a weekend, all they have to do is insert their Smart Card into the phone and it will automatically contain all their personal information.

Secure Communications

GSM communications is 100% digital and provides authentication and encryption to verify the user's identity and ensure the confidentiality of each call. This functionality protects network operators from the types of fraud found in the cellular industry today. Authentication checks the validity of each call and makes sure that the Smart Card is active and that the subscription is current. If a Smart Card is stolen, the network operator simply deactivates the card. Full Digitally encrypted wireless communications guarantees the complete confidentiality of all voice and data calls. The information that is required to decode the encryption is hidden within the Smart Card.

Personal Safety

During the past several years, the number of mobile phone users has increased exponentially and explosive growth is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. Mobile phones have become an important tool for our every day lives and play a key role in safeguarding our personal safety. Just knowing that the phone is available makes users feel more secure.

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