What is GSM?

GSM or Global System for Mobile Communication is a common standard (to describe protocols) for digital mobile networks used in wireless telephony. It is used in Europe and some other parts of the world to digitize, compress, and transmit data.

The predecessors of this advanced mobile phone service were analog. However, with the growing user base, analog systems couldn’t keep up with the adoption of cell phones and mobile networks. The need to introduce a unified European standard for digital cellular networks was the building force behind developing this advanced mobile phone service system. GSM is a trademark of the GSM Association (GSMA) which unites mobile operators, represents their interests, and works together with the industry.

GSM phone system transmits mobile data and voice services. The network transmits voice calls and user data at 850MHz, 900MHz, 1800MHz, and 1900MHz frequency bands. GSM (2G) uses the division multiple access (TDMA) technique in voice calls and other communications. GSM digitizes and compresses data and sends it down a channel together with two other data streams where each has its particular time slot.

Difference between GSM and CDMA cellular networks

Although at first glance similar, these two technologies are not the same. CDMA, or Code Division Multiple Access was introduced with 2G and 3G generations as a common standard protocol for wireless communication. Most of the world uses GSM except for the US and some parts of Canada and Japan which employ CDMA.

Some of the most significant differences between the two include:

  • CDMA uses EVDO data transfer technology, while GSM uses EDGE
  • GSM is less prone to radiation emission during transmission
  • GSM is SIM specific, while CDMA is handset specific and doesn’t require a SIM card
  • GSM enables worldwide roaming, while CDMA doesn’t

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Frequently asked questions

What is the composition of the GSM network?

The four parts of the GSM network are a mobile device with SIM, base station and access network, switching system, and core network. These parts work together to compose the GSM phone network.

What are the limitations of GSM?

Even though the GSM network is used for most individual calls and other wireless communication, some of its limitations include the need for carriers to install repeaters to increase coverage, electronic interference, latency with a higher number of users, and a limited rate of data transfer.

Is GSM secure?

GSM’s standardized security strategies ensure that it is among the most secure telecommunication systems available. It retains the confidentiality and anonymity of a GSM user and therefore it maintains end-to-end security across the network.

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