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Mobile Data


Mobile phones are usefull for a variety of tasks. Usually only used to talk one might get the idea while sending a short message (SMS) that there are other things which might be done with them. While at first the available functions were present but mobile data very complicated to handle smartphones had their break through at least since the announcement of the >Apple iPhone - a smartphone which could be used to surf the normal internet. Hereafter the history of mobile data is shown until today.


In Germany Deutsche Bundespost and Mannesmann got the licence to build up a GSM 900 mobile network. As successor of the analogue first generation networks (A-Net, B-Net & C-Net) which existed since the fifties this second generation (2G) was digital and standardised supporting the use of the mobile phones in other countries GSM networks.


In Summer the mobile networks D1 (Deutsche Telekom Mobilfunk) and D2 (Mannesmann Mobilfunk) were commercially launched. The first mobile phones according to the new GSM 900 standard were only available in small quantities which led to a new translation of GSM as God Send Mobiles. About one year after the introduction of the GSM standard in Europe the first SMS was sent in December.


Motorola launches the >Motorola 8900 which is the first dual band mobile phone. In Germany it is also sold as e-plus Traveller. Is may be used in GSM 900 and 1800 networks though the switch has yet to be done manually.


Photo Nokia 6150

To connect a mobile phone with a computer to transfer data a modem is needed. If a cellular phone was utilized with a GSM modem a connection can be build up with a special cable which usually wasn't that special but only a serial connection (RS232 or USB) with a vendor specific plug on one side and sometimes a level converter within this plug. By using this cable the computer could send the commonly used AT commands. These were invented by a company called Hayes and called AT as an abbreviation for "Attention!". One of the first examples was the for such a phone was the Ericsson SH888.

If the cellular phone was prepared for data transmission but lacked a built in modem this was called a softmodem. The connection between computer and mobile phone was done by the use of a special cable and a vendor specific software which substituded the modem. Unfortunately one was in the hands of the vendor according to quality, price and supported computers. If the mobile phone was also equipped with an IrDA bus this was called a Softmodem with Infrared where the cable was replaced by a transmission via infrared. Everything else was identical. As the infrared bus is not used to transfer the standard AT-commands but a proprietary protocol a transmission is not possible if the manufacturer of the mobile phone did not offer software for the used computer system. A bad example were the Nokia 6110, Nokia 6130 & >Nokia 6150.

To have a mobile data transmission besides the mobile phone one usually needs a notebook or PDA which was connected via IrDA, PCCARD or serial bus.


A cellular phone with GSM modem and infrared bus according to the IrDA standard was state of the art for a long time. It permitted all devices with IrDA to build up a data connection with standard software. Examples were the >Nokia 8850, >Nokia 7110 and >Ericsson T28s.


The data connection via IrDA was somehow troublesome as a line of sight had to be kept all the time. Thus a mobile phone with GSM-Modem and Bluetooth became state of the art. All devices supporting Bluetooth along with the needed profiles could establish a data connection and use standard software. The first mobile phones with Bluetooth were the >Ericsson R520m and the >Ericsson T39m. At the same time Ericsson launched its first Bluetooth Headset HBH-10 which achieved fame being used in the movie Tomb Raider. With the >Ericsson T20e and >Ericsson T29s the first mobile phones appeared which supported the SMS successor EMS.


With the >Sony Ericsson T68i the first mobile phone appeared which supported the EMS successor MMS.


Apple announces the >iPhone and makes smartphones usable for the masses. The iPhone is running on iOS and is the first smartphone with a complete browser where regular websites can be shown correctly. The device was the first one which was designed to be used with ones fingers by multitouch.


With significant support of Google the Open Handset Alliance davelops the operation system Android, which was created as an open alternative to iOS. The first smartphone with the new operation system was the HTC Dream which hit the market in the US and Germany as >T-Mobile G1. Because ot its usage of JAVA technologies and its user interface concepts which were very close to the ones used on the iPhone a lot of patent disputes were filed in which negatively influence the whole industry until today.

Evolution of mobile data

Standard Focus Start Typical frequency range Data rate downlink Data rate uplink Infos
GSM 900 Telephony 1992 900 MHz 9.6 kbit/s 9.6 kbit/s 2G network with good area spread. GSM radio cells may reach a range of up to 20 miles. In most countries 900 MHz is used which provides a good base for roaming.
DCS 1800 Telephony 1993 1800 MHz 9.6 kbit/s 9.6 kbit/s 2G network with slightly worse area spread but better pervation in buildings. DCS radio cells may reach a range of up to 5 miles while in cities up to half a mile. 1800 MHz is also used in lots of countries. Only in the USA 1900 Mhz is used.
HSCSD Data line based 1999 900/1800 MHz 57.6 kbit/s 14.4 kbit/s First special data mode based on GSM which bundles GSM time-slots and thus gets higher data rates. Needs dial-in connections. Usually billed based on used time. Meanwhile no longer relevant.
GPRS Data packet based 2001 900/1800 MHz 53.6 kbit/s 26.8 kbit/s Uses GSM frequencies and time-slot bundling. After connection has been built up permanently connected. Usually billed based on used data.
EDGE Data packet based 2006 900/1800 MHz 220 kbit/s 110 kbit/s Extension of GPRS mode which reaches higher data rate by better modulation method and channel bundling.
UMTS Telefony line based, Data packet based 2002 2100 MHz 384 kbit/s 64 kbit/s 3G network built from the beginning as a data network while also providing a line based telefony mode. The range of an UMTS radio cell differs with its workload. Typically it achieves 5 miles.
HSPA Data packet based 2006 2100 MHz 14.4 Mbit/s 5.8 Mbit/s Extension of UMTS data mode with improves coding and optimizations in base stations. The term HSPA includes download (HSDPA) and upload (HSUPA).
HSPA+ Data packet based 2008 2100 MHz 28.8 Mbit/s 11 Mbit/s Extension of HSPA data mode with speeds over 14,4 Mbit/s.
LTE Data packet based 2010 800/1800/2600 MHz 300 Mbit/s 75 Mbit/s This 4G network is similar to UMTS but uses more efficient coding and network components. Calls are processed since 2015 with VoLTE. Before the mobile phone had to switch back to UMTS/GSM for calls.
LTE Advanced Data packet based 2014 800/1800/2600 MHz 4.000 Mbit/s 1.500 Mbit/s Extension of LTE network with higher speed.

Recommended links

>The Skyynet mobile phones database shows all mobiles with their data capability

>LTE frequencies worldwide

>German Cellular Network Providers GPRS configuration

>Bluetooth - Technique, profiles and background infos


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