gsm questions and answers

What is GSM?

GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) is the leading wireless digital technology in the world. As a member of this global system, GSM carriers in North America are dedicated to offering their subscribers the best wireless roaming system in the world.

What advantages does GSM offer over other digital technologies?

With GSM, wireless customers get the richest, proven, advanced digital technology available in the marketplace today. GSM offers a wider range of features and functionality than other emerging technologies. GSM simplifies data transmission to allow laptop and palmtop computers to be connected to GSM phones. GSM provides integrated voice mail, high-speed data, fax, paging and short message services capabilities.

With GSM, customers get the advantage of the most secure communications. GSM offers unparalleled call privacy and fraud prevention. As well as the advantage of national and international roaming. In addition, GSM offers the best voice quality of any digital wireless standard. Independent laboratory & field test reports validate near wireline parity.

How does GSM compare with existing analog cellular service?

GSM is far more advanced than traditional analog cellular technology still being used today by many companies. A GSM user has access to services such as integrated voice, high speed data, paging, fax and short message service, all from one network. And all through one handset. Only GSM handsets incorporate a "smart" or "SIM card" which contains the subscriber's personal identification and service profile information such as billing, predefined speed dial numbers and calling services.

Why did PCS providers in North America choose GSM?

They chose GSM because it is a proven technology that offers great flexibility in its features and functions. In addition, subscribers eventually will be able to roam throughout the entire United States and Canada with their phones, as well as roam through most of the world using the phone's "smart" card.

What is a "smart" card?

The SIM (Subscriber Information Module) card - a.k.a. "smart card" - holds all of a subscriber's personal information and phone settings. In essence, it is the subscriber's authorization to use the network. It also holds the phone number, personal security key and other data necessary for the handset to function. The card can be switched from phone to phone, making the new phone receive all calls to the subscriber's number.

The SIM card is one of the security devices on the GSM network, making it difficult to steal numbers or otherwise make fraudulent phone calls. The card also allows for roaming with other GSM operators around the world.

In addition, the card stores personal phone numbers, missed calls, voice mail notifications, text messages, etc. Furthermore, the card could be used for other purposes, such as a debit card, credit card, bus pass, or other uses. The possibilities of SIM card technology are practically endless.

How do smart cards work?

The SIM (smart card) is inside each handset, and functions as its digital brain. It's the SIM that prevents your number from being stolen and your calls from being eavesdropped. The SIM's digital memory, which stores information like your rate plan and service features, also allows you to easily personalize your service. The GSM standard provides the "brain" (smart card) of a PCS Mobile Phone. It contains user ID and billing information that can be switched between different phones - so calls can be made or received even when you're not using your own phone.

Do smart cards come in more than one format?

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 equipped with a slot for the smart card.

How does the smart card help prevent fraud and eavesdropping?

In GSM networks, an encryption algorithm scrambles the digitized voice transmission between the handset and the GSM transmission site. The information that is required to decode the encryption is hidden within the smart card This feature provides the industry's most effective prevention of radio-based eavesdropping and cloning fraud.

When did the first GSM network start providing commercial service?

The first GSM systems began commercial operation in 1991 in Europe. Since then, more than 300 wireless service providers around the world have selected GSM-based systems for their advanced digital wireless communications networks. GSM is the most widely used digital standard in the world today and now represents more than half the world's total market for wireless services. It is used in more than 110 countries. The GSM Association forecasts that there will be 200 million GSM subscribers in the world by the year 2000.

How popular is GSM in the U.S. and Canada?

GSM is extremely popular in the United States and Canada. Adding customers at a rate of 5 per minute in North America, more than 1.2 million customers were added in the first six months of 1999. GSM companies in the United States and Canada added 660,000 new customers in the second quarter -- more than either AT&T, Sprint or Nextel. By the end of 1999, the total of GSM customers in North America could reach 6 million. GSM coverage reaches more than half of the Canadian population and two-thirds of the United States population.

What benefits does GSM provide PCS customers?

With GSM, customers get the richest, proven, advanced digital technology available in the marketplace today. GSM provides integrated voice mail, high-speed data, fax, paging and short message services capabilities. With GSM, customers get the advantage of secure communications. GSM offers unparalleled call privacy and fraud prevention. As well as the advantage of national and international roaming. In addition, GSM offers the best voice quality of any digital wireless standard. Independent laboratory & field test reports validate near wireline parity.

What advantages does GSM provide to PCS operators?

For many operators, "time to market" is a critical issue. GSM is a proven, established technology with a track record of success in enabling operators to launch their service first in a market. Manufacturing efficiencies and economies of scale also make this technology a robust, cost effective investment for PCS operators that . One North American GSM operator estimates a 30 percent savings of more than $200 million in building out its PCS network.

How does GSM's total system specification benefit operators, consumers?

Every aspect of the technology has been defined in the standard. As a result GSM service providers are the only PCS licensees which have the ability to interchange mobile infrastructure equipment from a variety of manufacturers. Because it's a proven network technology with multiple suppliers, GSM generates economies of scale and development momentum. This translates into speed to market -- in a cost effective manner. The GSM family of standards is supported by regional and international service providers and manufacturers which work diligently to ensure the evolution of the technology.

What about roaming capabilities?

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. Today, there are 62 international roaming agreements signed with other GSM operators around the world.

How is GSM able to provide more advanced services and functionality than other digital technologies?

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 of offering 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, restriction 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. As a result, our customers have more minutes of use than do the traditional cellular phone user.

What about voice quality of GSM?

Excellent voice quality is one of the primary requirements for PCS subscribers. That is why the GSM community worked to develop the 13 kbps Enhanced Full Rate (EFR) vocoder which provides voice quality that is competitive with wireline service. The selection of the vocoder was a cooperative effort between GSM service providers and equipment manufacturers. The goal was to select one vocoder and to establish an open standard so that any manufacturer could produce the handsets.

This teamwork approach demonstrates the common commitment that the entire GSM community has to the standardization and continuing evolution of this technology. For example, a new Adaptive Multi-Rate (AMR) vocoder has been developed and tested. Expected to be in service by 4th quarter 1999, it will provide wireline quality in the most difficult propagation conditions and significantly improve capacity.

What is the GSM MoU Association?

GSM operators are also part of a bigger wireless network family of worldwide companies. On an international level, the GSM MoU Association, is composed of the world¹s GSM network operators, regulators and administrators.

The GSM MoU Association exists to drive the promotion, development and deployment of the GSM standard as the world¹s leading digital platform for global mobile communications. As such, it addresses issues which collectively face members around the globe.

What is GSM North America, the North American Interest Group?

On a regional basis, the MoU Association forms special interest groups, like GSM North America, the Association's North American Interest Group. This group's purpose is to
  • Promote the technology
  • Identify/resolve compatibility, standards issues
  • Cooperative efforts, common solutions
  • Economies of scale, and
  • Educate and inform

What is the GSM Alliance?

The North American GSM Alliance, L.L.C. Alliance is the first and only, all-digital wireless PCS network of U.S. and Canadian carriers. The GSM Alliance was established in August 1997 to create a North American network and develop seamless wireless communications for customers, whether at home, away or abroad.

The GSM Alliance's collaborative efforts focus on serving the wireless customer most efficiently by concentrating on such areas as roaming, customer care, national distribution and data communications.

While identifying themselves as GSM Alliance members, individual companies continue to operate their own businesses and market under their own names.

There has been a lot of talk about a third generation digital technology. What is it and does it replace GSM?

Third generation is the term given to the next generation of mobile communications services based on the GSM platform. Just as analog could be considered to be the first generation, digital services the second, so mobile multimedia will be the third generation.

The third generation will be an evolution and extension of current GSM systems and services available today, optimized for high-speed packet data-rate applications, including high-speed wireless internet services, video on demand and a host of other data related applications.

Third generation will use code division multiplexing at the radio interface level and though it is a combination of Wideband-CDMA and TD-CDMA, it's important to note that this is a separate and distinct development from the IS-95 standard. Third generation systems are in the early stages of being designed and will be produced by vendors supplying GSM equipment today, both here and abroad.

GSM operators are in fact uniquely positioned to eventually adapt, deploy and integrate third generation technology into their already feature-rich service. Our business as well as those of other North American GSM operators are enhanced by this development. With third generation expected to be launched in the early part of the next decade. GSM-based operators will be able to easily augment their current networks with this advanced wireless technology, bringing significant features and benefits to our customers and the marketplace.

Does the GSM Alliance support ETSI's recommendations on third generation?

We and other members of the North American GSM Alliance support the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System accord. This agreement, reached by the world's leading telecommunications manufacturers and operators and ultimately endorsed by the worldwide wireless community, is an important step forward in providing the next - or third - generation of wireless communications for people around the world.

What will you be able to do with third generation?

To begin with, third generation is optimized for high-speed packet data-rate applications, including high-speed wireless internet services and other data applications. For North American GSM Alliance operators, third generation offers the ability to supplement our current networks with such new capabilities. And most importantly, this development does not obsolete our current network, which now optimizes voice and lower-speed data applications. third generation can be used as an overlay to current networks, enabling GSM operators to add advanced services without major investment in our backbone networks.

Will this mean GSM operators have to replace or spend heavily to upgrade their networks?

This development does not obsolete our current network. Indeed, third generation can be used as an overlay to current networks, enabling GSM operators to add advanced services without major investment in our backbone networks.

Why is it called W-CDMA, if it can be based on a GSM platform?

Possibly because third generation uses code division multiplexing, which is part of the root of the CDMA acronym. However, this development is particularly welcomed, because it can be based on a GSM platform. Please remember that this is a separate and distinct development from the IS-95 standard, commonly called CDMA in North America. third generation is designed and will be produced by vendors supplying GSM equipment today, both here and abroad.

Why is this so good for GSM operators?

The potential of third generation will be fully realized not only through the efforts of the manufacturers, but through the combined resources and creativity of more than 200 GSM operators around the world, who will help further deploy and refine this technological advance. At the end of 1997, GSM technology served more than 66 million customers around the globe, or nearly one of every three wireless users worldwide. At the end of 1997, GSM technology served nearly one of every three wireless users worldwide.

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