What is the difference between GPRS and GPS?

GPRS and GPS are two completely different things, and comparing them is like comparing apples and oranges. However, since both of these terminologies sound similar and our smartphones can have both, the difference between these two technologies is worth clarifying explicitly. In straightforward terms, GPS is used for navigation and uses signals from satellites orbiting the earth, whereas GPRS is a cellular technology that uses a land-based mobile network to provide cellular data coverage.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) is a cellular technology enhancement in 2G GSM networks that enables mobile internet on our cell phones; GPS (Global Positioning System) is a satellite navigation system that allows users with a GPS receiver to know their exact location through satellite signals.

GPRS deals with mobile networks

Mobile networks today offer voice calls, text messages and mobile data. Mobile data is what allows us to use our cell phones to connect to the internet when we are not on WiFi. GPRS was one of the initial technologies used for offering cellular data services. It stands for General Packet Radio Service and is a network enhancement added to the second-generation GSM networks to enable mobile data. Before GPRS, another technology called HSCSD (High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data) was employed by GSM networks to offer limited data services. HSCSD was based on conventional circuit-switched technology and was not efficient enough for offering data services. On the other hand, GPRS is based on packet-switched technology, where charging is not based on connection duration but the amount of transmitted data. GPRS networks still exist today and can offer peak data rates of up to 171.2 kbps. At the time of writing (2021), around the world, the primary cellular technology is 4G LTE, which can offer a lot higher data rates on average.

GPS is a satellite technology

GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it uses a network of satellites to help calculate our location anywhere in the world. Most smartphones nowadays have GPS receiving technology built into them, which allows them to communicate with the satellites and run computations to identify the phone’s location. GPS receivers are also available in the market for car/other navigation for driving purposes. While in the US, the GPS receivers are called GPS; they are referred to as Sat Nav in the UK. The cost of the GPS receivers has come down significantly, which has made the technology more affordable and accessible to the vast majority of people. The US military initially introduced GPS in 1978, and it is a constellation of satellites that can provide two-dimensional and three-dimensional locations worldwide. A constellation of 18 satellites is needed to give a 2-D location, i.e. longitude and latitude, whereas a constellation of 24 satellites can provide 3-D locations, i.e. longitude, latitude and altitude. Satellites transmit timing signals and their orbital parameters, which helps receivers calculate the distance between the receiver and the satellite based on the time it takes to receive the transmitted signal. So the location of the GPS receiver is always in relation to the position of the satellites it is communicating with. GPS receivers need simultaneous signals from at least three (3) satellites to calculate the two-dimensional location and at least four (4) or more satellites to calculate three-dimensional location.

Conclusion

GPRS and GPS are two completely different technologies. GPRS stands for General Packet Radio Service, and it is a technology used by the second-generation mobile networks, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), to enable mobile internet services through cell phones. GPS stands for Global Positioning System, and it is a satellite navigation system that allows users with satellite receivers (GPS receivers or Sat Nav) to know their exact location through satellite signals.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support, especially when preparing for a new job, studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy, which explains the network nodes, e.g., BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience, which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if you work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on the product overview and product roadmap.

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