Gsm: Global System For Mobile Communication
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Mobile Tech: The GSM system is the most widely used cellular technology in use in the world today. It has been a particularly successful cellular phone technology for a variety of reasons including the ability to roam worldwide with the certainty of being able to be able to operate on GSM networks in exactly the same way - provided billing agreements are in place.

The letters GSM originally stood for the words Groupe Speciale Mobile, but as it became clear this cellular technology was being used world wide the meaning of GSM was changed to Global System for Mobile Communications. Since this cellular technology was first deployed in 1991, the use of GSM has grown steadily, and it is now the most widely cell phone system in the world. GSM reached the 1 billion subscriber point in February 2004, and is now well over the 3 billion subscriber mark and still steadily increasing.

What is GSM - Overview

The GSM system was designed as a second generation (2G) cellular phone technology. One of the basic aims was to provide a system that would enable greater capacity to be achieved than the previous first generation analogue systems. GSM achieved this by using a digital TDMA (time division multiple access approach). By adopting this technique more users could be accommodated within the available bandwidth. In addition to this, ciphering of the digitally encoded speech was adopted to retain privacy. Using the earlier analogue cellular technologies it was possible for anyone with a scanner receiver to listen to calls and a number of famous personalities had been "eavesdropped" with embarrassing consequences.

GSM - Basics

The GSM cellular technology had a number of design aims when the development started:

  • It should offer good subjective speech quality
  • It should have a low phone or terminal cost
  • Terminals should be able to be handheld
  • The system should support international roaming
  • It should offer good spectral efficiency
  • The system should offer ISDN compatibility

The resulting GSM cellular technology that was developed provided for all of these. The overall system definition for GSM describes not only the air interface but also the network or infrastructure technology. By adopting this approach it is possible to define the operation of the whole network to enable international roaming as well as enabling network elements from different manufacturers to operate alongside each other, although this last feature is not completely true, especially with older items.

GSM cellular technology uses 200 kHz RF channels. These are time division multiplexed to enable up to eight users to access each carrier. In this way it is a TDMA / FDMA system.


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