Other Free Encyclopedias » Online Encyclopedia » Encyclopedia - Featured Articles » Contributed Topics from A-E

Evolution of GSM Network Technology - INTRODUCTION, FOCUS: EVOLUTION OF GSM NETWORKS, First-Generation Networks, Second-Generation Networks

mobile services internet data

Phillip Olla
Brunel University, UK

INTRODUCTION

The explosive growth of Global System for Mobile (GSM) Communication services over the last two decades has changed mobile communications from a niche market to a fundamental constituent of the global telecommunication markets. GSM is a digital wireless technology standard based on the notion that users want to communicate wirelessly without limitations created by network or national borders. In a short period of time, GSM has become a global phenomenon. The explanation for its success is the cooperation and coordination of technical and operational evolution that has created a virtuous circle of growth built on three principles: interoperability based on open platforms, roaming, and economies of scale (GSM Association, 2004a). GSM standards are now adopted by more than 200 countries and territories. It has become the main global standard for mobile communications; 80% of all new mobile customers are on GSM networks. GSM has motivated wireless adoption to the extent that mobile phones now globally outnumber fixed-line telephones. In February 2004, more than 1 billion people, almost one in six of the world’s population, were using GSM mobile phones.

Some developed European nations such as the United Kingdom, Norway, Finland, and Spain have penetration levels of between 80 to 90% with other European nations not far behind. However, there are some countries such as Hong Kong and Italy that have a 100% penetration level. The importance of the mobile telecommunication industry is now apparent: A recent study commissioned by a UK mobile operator establishes that the United Kingdom’s mobile-phone sector now contributes as much to the UK gross domestic product as the total oil- and gas-extraction industry (MMO2, 2004).

Technical developments, competition, and deregulation have contributed to a strong growth in the adoption of mobile phones in the third world. In Africa, recent research has shown that mobile telephony has been extremely important in providing an African telecommunications infrastructure. The number of mobile phone users on the African continent has increased by over 1,000% between 1998 and 2003 to reach a total of 51.8 million. Mobile-user numbers have exceeded those of fixed line, which stood at 25.1 million at the end of 2003. The factors for success in this region include demand, sector reform, the licensing of new competition, and the emergence of important strategic investors (ITU, 2004). Another region experiencing rapid growth is India; it is one of the fastest growing markets, with its subscriber base doubling in 2003. It is anticipated that India will have 100 million GSM subscribers by 2007 and 2008 compared to 26 million subscribers as of March 2004 (3G Portal, 2004). Most Latin American operators have chosen GSM over the North American code-division multiple-access (CDMA) standards, and GSM growth in North America is higher than CDMA.

This article describes the evolution of the telecommunication networks from the first-generation networks of the ’80s to the revolutionary fourth-generation networks.

FOCUS: EVOLUTION OF GSM NETWORKS

Mobile communications can be divided into three distinct eras identified by an increase in functionality and bandwidth, as illustrated in Figure 1. These eras relate to the implementation of technological advancements in the field. The industry is currently on the verge of implementing the third technological era and at the beginning of defining the next step for the fourth era.

First-Generation Networks

The first-generation (1G) cellular systems were the simplest communication networks deployed in the 1980s. The first-generation networks were based on analogue-frequency-modulation transmission technology. Challenges faced by the operators included inconsistency, frequent loss of signals, and low bandwidth. The 1G network was also expensive to run due to a limited customer base.

Second-Generation Networks

The second-generation (2G) cellular systems were the first to apply digital transmission technologies for voice and data communication. The data transfer rate was in the region of 10s of Kbps. Other examples of technologies in 2G systems include frequency-division multiple access (FDMA), time-division multiple access (TDMA), and code-division multiple access.

The second-generation networks deliver high-quality and secure mobile voice, and basic data services such as fax and text messaging along with full roaming capabilities across the world.

To address the poor data transmission rates of the 2G network, developments were made to upgrade 2G networks without replacing the networks. These technological enhancements were called 2.5G technologies and include networks such as General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). GPRS-enabled networks deliver features such as always-on, higher capacity, Internet-based content and packet-based data services enabling services such as colour Internet browsing, e-mail on the move, visual communications, multimedia messages, and location-based services. Another complementary 2.5G service is Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE). This network upgrade offers similar capabilities as those of the GPRS network. Another 2.5G network enhancement of data services is high-speed circuit-switched data (HSCSD). This allows access to nonvoice services 3 times faster than conventional networks, which means subscribers are able to send and receive data from their portable computers at speeds of up to 28.8 Kbps; this is currently being upgraded in many networks to 43.2 Kbps. The HSCSD solution enables higher rates by using multiple channels, allowing subscribers to enjoy faster rates for their Internet, e-mail, calendar, and file-transfer services. HSCSD is now available to more than 100 million customers across 27 countries around the world in Europe, Asia Pacific, South Africa, and Israel (GSM, 2002)

Current Trend: Third-Generation Networks

The most promising period is the advent of third-generation (3G) networks. These networks are also referred to as the universal mobile telecommunications systems (UMTSs). The global standardization effort undertaken by the ITU is called IMT-2000. The aim of the group was to evolve today’s circuit-switched core network to support new spectrum allocations and higher bandwidth capability. Over 85% of the world’s network operators have chosen 3G as the underlying technology platform to deliver their third-generation services (GSM, 2004b).

The implementation of the third generation of mobile systems has experienced delays in the launch of services. There are various reasons for the delayed launch, ranging from device limitations, application-and network-related technical problems, and lack of demand. A significant factor in the delayed launch that is frequently discussed in the telecommunication literature (Klemperer, 2002; Maitland, Bauer, & Westerveld, 2002; Melody, 2000) is the extortionate fees paid for the 3G-spectrum license in Europe during the auction process. Most technical problems along with device shortage have been overcome, but there are still financial challenges to be addressed caused by the high start-up costs and the lack of a subscriber base due to the market saturation in many of the countries launching 3G.

In 2002, industry experts revealed lower-than-expected 3G forecasts. The continued economic downturn prompted renewed concerns about the near-term commercial viability of mobile data services, including 3G. The UMTS forum reexamined the worldwide market demand for 3G services due to the effects of September 11 and the global telecommunication slump, and produced an updated report (UMTS, 2003).

The reexamination highlighted the fact that due to the current negative market conditions, the short-term revenue generated by 3G services will be reduced by 17% through 2004: a total reduction of $10 billion. However, over the long term, services enabled by 3G technology still represent a substantial market opportunity of $320 billion by 2010, $233 billion of which will be generated by new 3G services (Qiu & Zhang, 2002).

Future Trends: Fourth-Generation Mobile Networks

The fourth-generation (4G) systems are expected around 2010 to 2015. They will be capable of combining mobility with multimedia-rich content, high bit rates, and Internet-protocol (IP) transport.

The benefits of the fourth-generation approach are described by Inforcom Research (2002) and Qiu et al. (2002) as voice-data integration, support for mobile and fixed networking, and enhanced services through the use of simple networks with intelligent terminal devices. The fourth-generation networks are expected to offer a flexible method of payment for network connectivity that will support a large number of network operators in a highly competitive environment.

Over the last decade, the Internet has been dominated by non-real-time, person-to-machine communications. According to a UMTS report (2002b), the current developments in progress will incorporate real-time, person-to-person communications, including high-quality voice and video telecommunications along with the extensive use of machine-to-machine interactions to simplify and enhance the user experience.

Currently, the Internet is used solely to interconnect computer networks; IP compatibility is being added to many types of devices such as set-top boxes, automotive systems, and home electronics. The large-scale deployment of IP-based networks will reduce the acquisition costs of the associated devices. The future vision is to integrate mobile voice communications and Internet technologies, bringing the control and multiplicity of Internet-applications services to mobile users.

The creation and deployment of IP-based multimedia services (IMSs) allows person-to-person real-time services, such as voice over the 3G packet-switched domain (UMTS, 2002a). IMS enables IP interoperability for real-time services between fixed and mobile networks, solving current problems of seamless, converged voice-data services. Service transparency and integration are key features for accelerating end-user adoption. Two important features of IMS are IP-based transport for both real-time and non-real-time services, and a multimedia call-model based on the session-initiation protocol (SIP). The deployment of an IP-based infrastructure will encourage the development of voice-over-IP (VoIP) services.

The current implementation of the Internet protocol, Version 4 (IPv4), is being upgraded due to the constraints of providing new functionality for modern devices. The pool of Internet addresses is also being depleted. The new version, called IP, Version 6 (IPv6), resolves IPv4 design issues and is primed to take the Internet to the next generation. Internet protocol, Version 6, is now included as part of IP support in many products including the major computer operating systems.

CONCLUSION

In just over two decades, mobile network technologies have evolved from simple 1G networks to today’s 3G networks, which are capable of high-speed data transmission allowing innovative applications and services. The evolution of the communication networks is fueling the development of the mobile Internet and creating new types of devices. In the future, 4G networks will supersede 3G.

The fourth-generation technology supports broadly similar goals to the third-generation effort, but starts with the assumption that future networks will be entirely packet-switched using protocols evolved from those in use in today’s Internet. Today’s Internet telephony systems are the foundation for the applications that will be used in the future to deliver innovative telephony services.

Evolution of Mobile Commerce Applications - INTRODUCTION, FACTORS AND RISKS, Voluntary Cooperation, Regulation, EU Directives, Regulation in the U.S., CONCLUSION [next] [back] Evolution of Communication

User Comments

Your email address will be altered so spam harvesting bots can't read it easily.
Hide my email completely instead?

Cancel or

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up

Vote down Vote up

about 4 years ago

thanks for the good work you a doing.
keep it up