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A Comparison between GPRS and cdmaOne Packet Data

Wireless operators around the globe are launching or preparing to launch packet data services over mobile networks.
Deploying packet data is a cost-effective way for mobile carriers to balance the network resources required to
sufficiently meet the needs of the growing market for voice services and the potentially large mobile data market. The
path to high-speed packet data differs greatly, however, between GSM and cdmaOne networks. GSM operators require
a new data backbone, base station upgrades and new handsets to offer packet data services. Packet data in cdmaOne
networks is standard and was built into the IS-95 standard from its inception. All cdmaOne handsets and base stations
are packet data capable today, and the networks utilize standard Internet protocol (IP) based equipment. GSM is circuitbased, requiring a new packet data backbone and new handsets, the commercial launch of which has been delayed until
early 2001.
In order to take advantage of higher speed packet data, the GSM and cdmaOne upgrade paths include higher speed
handsets, which will be commercially available within the next 12 to 18 months. The next major upgrade for GSM is
GPRS which is 2.5G, while the next major upgrade for cdmaOne is 1X, which is 3G. We will examine some of the
critical factors affecting an operator's ability to migrate to higher speed services and to implement a packet backbone.
One of the most critical factors is the forward and backward compatibility of the handsets--the capability of an older
handset to operate on an upgraded network and the capability of a newer handset to operate on an older network. The
commercial availability of the packet capable handsets is the second crucial factor. The Second factor is the cost and
ease of integration of the packet data network and the ability for third parties to implement services on these data
backbones to offer high-speed Internet services.
Defining the market
Currently, mobile data rates are low on both GSM at 9.6 kbps with Circuit Switched Data and cdmaOne 95A networks
at 14.4 kbps in either circuit or packet switched modes. These speeds are far lower than those available to a typical user
of a PSTN wire-line network. However, we are now entering a period that will see new and faster non-voice mobile
services. For example, anticipating an increased demand for data services, Korean and Japanese operators SK Telecom,
Hansol, DDI and IDO have already implemented commercial cdmaOne 95B packet data at speeds of 64 kbps.

(Enhanced Data CDMADirect
rates for GSM
Spread (CDMA
New handsets
EDGE-- handsets
New handsets
will work at up to
GPRS-- enabled
New handsets
384Kbps on
handsets will work
EDGE enabled
No packet data
on GPRS enabled
handsets will work
networks on
capability -Single- networks and
at up to 2Mbps and
GPRS enabled
Mode phones
9.6Kbps on GSM
only on 3G
networks and
networks using
networks-Quad9.6Kbps on GSM
CSD-Dual Mode
Mode phones
networks using
New packet
New infrastructure
Further backbone
No packet data
overlay/ backbone
roll out with
needed for circuit
switched network
Current GSM
platform with
changes required New CDMA
TDMATechnology additional packet to GSM TDMA
The GSM data evolution path will always require new network infrastructure and new phones. Every one of the future
GSM data services from GPRS to EDGE to WCDMA (and High Speed Circuit Switched Data and Wireless Application
Protocol) requires the purchase of a new mobile phone to take full advantage of the enhanced functionality, but all
handsets will still be able to operate on the GSM network, allowing voice and CSD at 9.6Kbps. The GSM roadmap for
Packet data

GPRS (General
(Circuit Switched PacketRadio

handsets is not forward and backward compatible. This means that GPRS handsets will not work on EDGE or 3G
CDMA DS base stations. A GSM carrier must make new investments in base stations for GPRS, EDGE and 3G CDMA
DS, while the packet backbone may only need minor modifications after deploying GPRS. GSM also requires the
implementation of IP based network elements to allow a packet overlay onto a circuit switched network. The links
between the existing GSM network infrastructure entities and the IP backbone are comprised of proprietary hardware
such as the Gateway GPRS Service Nodes (GGSNs) that link the Internet to the IP backbone. These are MODIFIED IP
Using standard IP routers would have given network operators and corporate customers vendor choice, interoperability,
economies of scale with existing purchasing patterns and the like. The biggest issue with GGSNs is that new pieces of
equipment raise security concerns with IT departments. This can hinder the deployment of a mobile data application
due to the need for integration and testing. Since network operators are interested in the data traffic, this barrier to the
sale presents a challenge for the corporate work force. Discussions with suppliers of both standard IP routers and
GGSNs have indicated that a GGSN will typically cost three to four times more than the equivalent IP router, presenting
another sales barrier. Network operators are likely to subsidize the GGSN element- perhaps even giving it away free of
charge with a minimum number of GPRS phone sales.
The use of the proprietary GGSNs in the GPRS solution also has other cost implications for network operators and third
party developers. GGSNs will not realize the same economies of scale of the Internet network elements that the
cdmaOne solution does. Corporations all over the world are implementing standard routers in their corporate landline
Intranets and for standard Internet access. IT departments are building knowledge and skills with standard IP network
equipment. The addition of a new version of a router -GGSNs-- will require IT employees to learn new non-standard
router configurations specific to each GGSN vendor. We believe that this will hinder the implementation of GPRS in
corporate environments.
The cdmaOne packet data implementation, on the other hand, utilizes standard routers, which are the same ones used in
the landline Internet. The same IT professionals working on a corporate landline Intranet could transfer the same skills
to a mobile Intranet based on cdmaOne. This will result in greater revenues for operators and lower costs for
corporations. Operators will not need to be integral in developing every application that is used on its network, and
corporations will require fewer resources to develop applications.
GPRS will also eventually require Mobile IP in order to offer full mobility within the Internet. Without Mobile IP, the
GPRS network will not be able to identify a node such as a portable computer that has a standard IP address. For
example, GPRS subscribers with portable computers will not be able to log into a corporate network using GPRS alone.
The GPRS network will require Mobile IP to allow the corporate network to authenticate the IP address of the portable
computer. Since Mobile IP requires more network resources, this may lead to a reduction in the volume of data
available on each packet as the transport layer information increases. The implication is that GPRS networks will be
less efficient than cdmaOne networks. cdmaOne uses Mobile IP as its transport layer.

Packet Data

carrier 1X(MC
1X standard in
chipsets in 2001
inchipsets 1999
1X handsets will
95B handsets will work on 95A
95A handsets will work on 95A
networks at
work on all future networks at
14.4Kbps, 95B
networks: 95B, 1X 14.4Kbps and
Networks at
and 3Xat
95B, 1X and 3X
speeds up to 114
14.4Kbps-Single- systems at speeds Kbps and 1X and
Mode phone *
up to 114 Kbps3X networks at
speeds up to
307Kbps-SingleMode phone
Infrastructure Standard
New software in
1X requires new
BSC (Base Station software in
backbone and new

3X(MC 3X)

New handsets
3X handsets will work
on 95A networks at
14.4Kbps, 95B
networks at speeds up
to 114Kbps and 1X
networks at speeds up
to 307 Kbps and 3X
networks at 2MbpsSingle-Mode phone
channel cards at base

channel cards at
base station


cdmaOne is based on IP standards, giving it an inherent advantage over GPRS. Current cdmaOne phones have the
standard IP protocols built into the handset, and cdmaOne networks use IP addressing within the network without the
need for an additional IP layer being added to the packet transport layer. This allows for a high degree of backward and
forward hardware compatibility for network operators looking to implement new higher speed data services and evolve
to 3G, which is an IP-based standard.
Today's cdmaOne networks already incorporate an IP gateway referred to as the Inter-Working Function (IWF). This is
essentially a standard IP router built into the network, routing IP packets without the need for them to be handled by an
analog modem. The IWF receives information from the mobile phone in Point to Point Protocol (PPP) format and
assigns a temporary IP address for that session. Experts estimate the cost for rolling out a full network upgrade for 45
million POPS from GSM to GPRS is about US $125 million. Adding packet data to a CDMA network is far less
expensive: less than $5 million dollars. cdmaOne phones and base stations already have IP protocols built in. Having
the IP gateway as a standard feature NOW therefore represents a significant advantage to cdmaOne network operators.
The cdmaOne configuration is based on existing corporate infrastructure standards. Certain network infrastructure
manufacturers have stated that their new cdmaOne infrastructure allows the incorporation of ANY standard router from
any manufacturer into the IWF. A standard RADIUS server undertakes billing information and authentication in the
network, and messaging is handled using SMTP. Integrating high speed cdmaOne data in a corporate network will be
much easier than with GPRS, as the infrastructure of cdmaOne is based on what is considered to be standard corporate
infrastructure components. Since there is backward and forward compatibility in the cdmaOne handsets, any handset
can operate on any cdmaOne network, (assuming the same frequency or the use of multi-band phones) of that cdmaOne
network (95A, 95B or 1X) at the highest available speed possible by both the handset and network. For example, 1X
handset will be capable of 14.4 Kbps on a 95A network and 64 Kbps on a 95B network. A 95A handset will operate on
a 95A, 95B or a 1X network, but only at 14.4Kbps.

* Across the raw air link; assumes 8 concatenated channels. With GPRS, the figures also assume no error correction on
data transferred.
^ Indicates initial/ current support (4 slots for GPRS)
" The typical data rate available to an individual user
We can see from this analysis that the maximum theoretical speeds available over GPRS are in fact higher than 95B but
less than 1x-but in initial commercial implementations we expect 95B to outperform GPRS. KT Freetel, and Hansol in
Korea, commercially launched 95B in 1999 while DDI and IDO of Japan launched commercial service in 2000.
Several, but not all, of the GPRS network infrastructure vendors are planning to support the maximum eight channels in
their technical implementations. GPRS has a disadvantage in that the initial GPRS capable mobile terminals are
expected to support only a maximum of four simultaneous channels. GPRS and voice both use the same traffic
channels, meaning that that both voice and data are competing for the same resource. Network operators, wherever they
are in the world, are reluctant to dedicate channels or assign priority to data over voice. Because of real world
limitations the typical bandwidth available to a GPRS user is expected to be less than 30 kbps, similar to the wire-line
data transfer rates in 1999 and below today's 95B.
EDGE has a maximum theoretical data rate of 384 kbps, but EDGE works in a similar way to GPRS in that this would
require all 8 timeslots-which is unlikely-- to be available to a single user who would also need to be given priority over
voice. As such, the theoretical maximum is once again an irrelevant figure to an end user. We expect uses to get 114
kbps data rates.
We estimate that CDMA 1X will allow approximately 90% throughput of the implemented bandwidth to the application
layer and therefore offers a typical user rate of 130 kbps, five times the typical data rate available to a GPRS user. It
should be noted that the144 kbps rate is symmetrical.

From this analysis, we can see that the packet data design that is standardized in the network and handsets of the
cdmaOne standards technology facilitates easier and therefore less expensive packet data implementation than GPRS
from a network operator, handset, application developer and corporation's point of view. All cdmaOne handsets are
packet data capable and work on all implementations of cdmaOne networks. Phones do however remain a significant
barrier to the widespread uptake of higher speed data services on both GSM and CDMA networks.
Any network operator who is facing the decision of which network to buy should consider the upgrade paths of each
network. GSM networks were not designed for packet data-- a GPRS upgrade adds this capability but at a higher cost
than cdmaOne. Also, the GPRS network is not based on standard IP network elements, which will result in a more
complicated integration than the cdmaOne packet data solution that was designed with standard IP in the handsets and
with standard IP elements in the network. These standard elements will follow the cost curves of the Internet network
elements. Additionally, GPRS and EDGE dedicate network resources to data taking capacity away from the GSM voice
network which could cause network congestion. CDMA is a voice and data solution where voice and data share the
same resources. 1x also increases data speeds to 144 kbps and doubles the voice capacity of current cdmaOne systems
By incorporating standard IP protocols and network IP routing, cdmaOne sensibly maximizes the leverage it gains from
the considerable economies of scale conferred by the Internet. This will allow cdmaOne carriers to offer the equivalent
Internet services as GPRS and EDGE operators with a lower overall investment in equipment and human resources and
without decreasing voice capacity. Network operators will more readily find the skills to integrate equipment and
develop services because the same IP elements are used on the landline Internet.
Prepared by Warren Carley and Simon
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Mobile Lifestreams is a research and consulting company specializing in non-voice services. Mobile Lifestreams Ltd
uses its best efforts in the collection and preparation of the information included in the enclosed report. It does not
assume, and hereby disclaims, any liability for any loss or damage caused by errors or omissions, whether such errors
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stock positions or options in any of the companies discussed herein. Mobile Lifestreams was paid to conduct this
research. Mobile Lifestreams is the author and publisher of "Data on GPRS" and "Data on 3G", independent industry
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