Performance and Cost of GSM/GPRS/EDGE Solutions

Designing for GSM, GPRS, EDGE or similar technologies requires project feasibility studies for each individual solution.

The following table gives rough estimates for the performance and operational costs (on May 16, 2006; excluding subscription fees) that may be expected from GSM-solutions (in South Africa; prices are in South African Rands; USD1 = ZAR6.9).

network type   GSM 2.5G   2.75G WCDMA, 3G
max download speed (subject to network implementation), kbps 57.6 14.4 57.6 85.6 236.8 384 1800
actual speed observed under real-world conditions, kbps 40 9.6 30 20 90 120 400
actual speed, kB/s 5 1.2 3.75 2.5 11.25 15 50
actual time to download 1 MB, sec 205 853 273 410 91 68 20
actual time to download 1 MB, mm:ss 03:25 14:13 04:33 06:50 01:31 01:08 00:20
peak-time price per minute, ZAR 1.25 1.25 1.25        
peak-time price per MB, ZAR (effective values for PSTN, CSD and HSCSD) 4.27 17.78 5.69 0.20 0.20 0.20 0.20

This shows that applications requiring download of information to a mobile station (whether it is a cell phone providing mobile Internet, a navigation system with map updates, or a mobile entertainment solution) already benefit greatly from these technologies. Download speeds with WCDMA are approaching those of broadband Internet (at least, in South Africa).

The telemetry applications usually place higher priority on upload traffic and will benefit from the upcoming HSUPA.

These abbreviations have been used:

PSTN - Public Switched Telephone Network

GSM - Global System for Mobile Communications

CSD - Circuit Switched Data

HSCSD - High Speed Circuit Switched Data

GPRS - General Packet Radio Service

EDGE - Enhanced Data for Global Evolution (formerly Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution). It is also referred to as E-GPRS (Enhanced GPRS) or GPRS+

W-CDMA - Wide-band Code Division Multiple Access

UMTS - Universal Mobile Telecommunications System

HSDPA - High Speed Downlink Packet Access

HSUPA - High Speed Uplink Packet Access