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Mobile's non-voice is a new voice in East Africa

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), a non-voice value-added service that allows information to be sent and received across a mobile telephone network, is proving to be a very useful supplement to today's circuit switched data and short message service for cellular phone users in East Africa.

GPRS is a radio technology for GSM networks that adds packet-switching protocols and enhances 2G phones to enable them to send and receive data more rapidly. With a GPRS connection, the phone is ‘always on' and data can be transferred immediately, and at higher speeds.

The system also allows the transfer of data at the same time the phone is being used for ordinary conversation.

GPRS, which is now available on most new phones, increases the speed of the 2G networks, moving them closer to 3G, and allowing for some of the applications such as email, web browsing, and video calling and downloads. Hence, using one's 2G phone and GPRS will allow the sending or receiving of emails with large attachments.

For companies

The benefits for companies are substantial: as the GPRS is always ‘on' members of staff absent from the office on business will be able to send and receive emails, log on to company databases, and so on – and as you pay only for data transferred, there is a cost benefit too.

The transfer of data to and from the phone is made possible by the phone having its own IP address, speeding up accessing of mail and data.

Apart from a range of content such as news, weather, flight and other information, the technology also allows the transmission of maps and graphs, or other forms of information rendered in a visual format, such as still or video images.

There is a range of other applications that are possible with GPRS, such as document sharing, access to the LAN, and even being able to control household appliances remotely.


End-users remain connected indefinitely to the external network and enjoy instantaneous transfer rates of up to 115 kbit/s. Users who are not actually sending or receiving packets occupy only a negligible amount of the network's critical resources.

By allowing information to be transmitted more quickly, immediately and efficiently across the mobile network, GPRS is a relatively less costly mobile data service compared to SMS and Circuit Switched Data services.

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