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Another high speed first for Optus
04 Apr 2000

Cable & Wireless Optus announced today the rollout of Australia's first operational high speed mobile data network.

Using General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technology it will deliver data to mobile phones up to four times faster than is currently available.

Optus has upgraded its GSM base stations to the new GPRS packet based technology in Melbourne's CBD and is currently rolling out in Sydney's CBD. These upgraded base stations will provide GPRS coverage for Optus' customer pilot program.

"We remain at the cutting edge of new mobile data technology and this is another major step towards delivering on our promise to provide faster mobile data speeds," said Paul O'Sullivan, Managing Director Mobile, Cable & Wireless Optus.

"Data is the new battleground for mobile customers and we are committed to aggressively pursuing this market. We led the way with data services over GSM with our Optus Update service. We were the first to launch with WAP and now we are leading with GPRS."

GPRS works by breaking information into discrete 'packets' for faster transmission. This makes it ideal for delivering data such as Internet and intranet pages, graphics and even video to mobile phones and other mobile devices.

Optus has signed a group of business customers to be part of the GPRS pilot program including the ANZ and a leading management consulting firm.

These companies will be among the first businesses in Australia to trial GPRS over the next few months. The transmission speed in the pilot is expected to reach over 40 kb/s - compared to current speeds of 9.6 kb/s for circuit switched data.

"Our business customers want more connectivity, not only to the Internet but to internal email, diaries and corporate databases. GPRS will allow us to deliver these services making them fast, convenient and affordable," Mr O'Sullivan said.

Optus has been trialing GPRS for several months conducting tests on equipment and services including access to Internet sites and corporate intranets. Optus is now working closely with its major network suppliers, Nokia and Nortel on the national rollout of the GPRS network.

In addition, the company has been testing its WAP service over GPRS and has also been testing compatibility with a range of common business software applications as well as with handsets, laptops and palm devices.

For more information:
Stephen Woodhill
Cable & Wireless Optus
Phone: (02) 9342 7850

MEDIA BACKGROUNDER

What is GPRS?

General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is a network technology that gives mobile users faster data speeds. GPRS is a packet switched technology that breaks information into discrete packets for more efficient transmission. GPRS is often referred to as second generation plus (2G+) technology as it is viewed as a precursor to the move toward third generation mobile technology.

While data services, such as short text messages and information services such as WAP are already available to mobile users, faster data speeds are necessary to deliver more comprehensive services based on IP (Internet Protocol) to mobile phones or small handheld computers.

GPRS will bring data speeds over a mobile closer to those experienced by people using their computer to browse the Internet at home using a 56 kb/s modem. The typical speed of current data services over a mobile phone is 9.6 kb/s. GPRS speeds are expected to reach 40 kb/s and more with an appropriate handset.

GPRS enables users to stay continuously connected to the network. This 'always on' function eliminates long dial-up times. For example, GPRS helps deliver information provided on WAP services faster to the consumer.

Circuit Switched vs Packet Switched

GPRS data services use network capacity more efficiently than circuit switched data services. Currently, GSM data services are based on circuit switched connections. A circuit switched connection occupies a circuit for the length of the connection tying up the bandwidth.

A packet switched system, such as GPRS, uses the available bandwidth more efficiently by sending packets of data from multiple users across one circuit. It can do this because of the 'bursty' nature of data. Users tend to exchange pieces of data, or packets, intermittently. The rest of the time the circuit is idle.

For example, a user may download a webpage and then spend some time reading the page. Whilst the page is being read, there is no data being exchanged. During this idle period, the bandwidth can be used by other subscribers.

GPRS uses bandwidth more efficiently and when transmitting can transfer data faster than existing circuit switching data services. GPRS offers new levels of performance and flexibility to mobile data customers.