GPRS/3G/HSPDA - Data connection via the Mobile Network

What is a "data connection" and why would I need a data bundle?

Unless your handset is a very basic phone without a camera and only gives you calls and texts, your phone needs a "data connection" in order to send MMS messages and to receive an internet connection. This is particularly important for handsets which synchronise your email/calendar with the university Exchange server.

Data connections

The GPRS service is added by default to data enabled handsets (Smartphones). The GPRS service allows your handset to connect to the internet, and consquently to access "network" services (e.g. email, facebook, marketplace, etc.)

Each UK mobile carrier (except 3) offer different connection speeds on their networks. The 'bearer' offered to your handset depends on whether the base staion your handset is connected to has these technologies installed.

GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) 2G

Nearly all mobile base stations offer a GPRS bearer. GPRS offers data speeds of upto 114 Kbps. It can be considered as a slow connection.

EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Environment) 2.5G

Again, most base stations (usually in more built-up areas) offer an EDGE connection. EDGE offers typical data speeds of between 120-200 Kbps. (faster than GPRS but slower than 3G)

3G (Third Generation)

3G tends to be installed in largely populated areas, such as town and city centres. I tend to receieve a 3G connection when in Newcastle, however move out east of the city toward Byker and only GPRS bearers are available on base stations serving the area. 3G offers data speeds to upto 384 Kbps.

3G+/HSPA (Third Generation Plus / High Speed Packet Access)

Again, 3G+/HSPA bearers are offered in towns and cities. Initially offering a 1.3Mbps connection most networks are upgrading these to offer 7.2Mbps.

These are the technical specifications, however in reality these speeds are never achieved.

Data Bundles

Though GPRS allows your handset to connect to the internet, a data bundle is added in order to get best value for the university and control costs.

See Understanding data bundles for more information.

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