The name 3GSM may suggest that general packet radio services (GPRS) is being squeezed or sidelined as 3G moves rapidly to being a reality. Not so.
Unlike 3G it's here now and many vendors at next week's 3GSM World Congress in Cannes will be showing what it can do.
Though 3G will begin to come on stream at the end of the year, it will be sometime before there is widespread coverage. So GPRS will provide a good test-bed for innovation, especially within the business community.
Sierra Wireless, for instance, will demonstrate delivery of GPRS to laptops - an obvious application for creating the mobile office - while Nortel will be offering demonstrations of live GPRS corporate services with a chance for hands-on operation.
Small startup Red-M will extend the mobile office concept to a group of workers - attaching laptops and personal digital assistants (PDAs) using 802.11 wireless Lan or bluetooth for connection. Its patent-pending technology includes GPRS enhancement through web-page cacheing and the security of a virtual private network (VPN).
Among the big players, Microsoft will be defining how MSN will link with its PocketPC PDA operating environment as a way to deliver revenue-generating web services.
Motorola, the second largest mobile phone maker, released five new models ahead of the show and confirmed it would now use GPRS across its entire product line.
Several pieces of infrastructure are needed to bring delivery of revenue from the web. Companies such as Starfish and 3G Lab will show host-mobile synchronisation because 'always-on' will not be a total reality.
RealNetworks' subscription software will aim to provide proof that web to mobile revenue collection can be a reality, while MapInfo and others will be promoting location-based services for business travellers.
All of these are practical with GPRS. But the experiences of FOMA, the Japanese organisation set up by NTT DoCoMo for its 3G launch last Autumn, will be of particular interest to those preparing to launch 3G networks here in Europe.
The service, which only covers a 20 mile radius area around Tokyo, is still experiencing technical difficulties. Analyst firm Ovum will report on the state of play for the fledgling service, scheduled to develop to cover six million people in two years' time.
More than 500 exhibitors will back a full conference programme covering topics ranging from practical considerations such as migration, billing and security to exciting ways of captivating mobile users - but probably not until 3G is here.
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