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What is a GPRS Card?

H. Bliss
H. Bliss

General packet radio service (GPRS) is a type of data service used on second-generation (2G) and third generation (3G) mobile wireless networks. A GPRS card is a type of network card, a piece of hardware used to enable other hardware, like a computer or personal digital assistant (PDA), to connect to a GPRS network. Generally attached to a computer via universal serial bus (USB) or to a portable device via removable media card like a GPRS sim card, a GPRS card can also be called a GPRS modem or GPRS adapter.

In most devices that use it, GPRS is a built-in capability in the hardware device. The size and appearance of a GPRS card will vary depending on the hardware in which it is installed and used. If it is used primarily on one type of network, a GPRS card may be called a 2G or 3G card. A GPRS card differs from a wifi card because it does not connect to an Internet connection broadcast on a router. This type of card connects to the signal broadcast from cell towers by mobile communications companies.

Apple's iPhone 3G uses an GPRS Card.
Apple's iPhone 3G uses an GPRS Card.

Three classes of GPRS hardware, called classes A, B, and C. Each class of GPRS card handles the transition between voice and short message service (SMS) differently. Class A hardware can use both SMS and voice at the same time. A GPRS card that fits into class B can only use either SMS or voice, not both at once, but switches between the two automatically. Class C requires manual activation of voice and SMS services on the devices.

A GPRS card picks up signals from cell towers.
A GPRS card picks up signals from cell towers.

Some mobile devices equipped with GPRS capabilities have the ability to connect to 2G and 3G connections as well as private routers with open Internet access. One example of a mobile communications device with this feature is the iPhone 3G. A feature allowing the user to switch to a router for Internet connectivity is helpful for mobile communications users because router connections are usually faster than GPRS connections.

GPRS uses packet-switching networks to transfer data.
GPRS uses packet-switching networks to transfer data.

A means of transmitting mobile data, 2G is an all-digital In the United States, 2G is more frequently called personal communications service (PCS). First generation (1G) generally refers to analog mobile phone technology used prior to 2G. The successor to 2G technology is 3G technology, which is also called International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000). 3G is a faster technology that also allows the user to use voice capabilities at the same time as the data network.

Discussion Comments


@everetra - I think that technology is around the corner. Right now the focus seems to be on improving the speed and bandwidth of the cellular networks.

I see lots of advertising boasting about the blazing speeds of the new 4G network, which is supposed to allow media streaming, Internet telephony, gaming and a whole host of applications on cell phones.

In other words, it’s your cell phone network on steroids. I am going to wait until prices drop and get a phone with 4G network capabilities; then I won’t have to make choices about whether it can handle this or that technology.


I think the inability to connect directly to Wifi is a disadvantage of the GPRS card. I realize that it may defeat the purpose to do so.

The whole purpose of the technology seems to be to enable the transfer of data packets over a cellular network, not data packets over an Internet connection.

However, I’ve noticed that sometimes this data transfer is slow, as the article says. Unfortunately I don’t have an iPhone so I can’t switch back and forth between the cellular network and the Wifi network.

My phone seems to be do okay for most data transfer purposes – I don’t need super fast connections to send basic text messages. Ideally, I’d love to see a card which merges the two technologies, where I can switch back and forth between the Internet and the cell tower (without having to own an iPhone to do so).


It can be hard to keep up with all the changing technology. It can also be very expensive! I think that is what I find most frustrating. The minute you buy something new, you know it will be outdated before too long.

I am not complaining though because all these advances in technology have their advantages. The GPRS cards have made accessing information much easier.

I also love all the mobile broadband options that are available. It used to be that I could only get online when I was sitting at home on my computer. Now that is available anywhere I go as long as I have my phone with me.


I am not much of a tech person and it took me awhile to understand what 2G and 3G really meant. Now they have 4G available and I already feel confused by it all.

I guess all I know for sure is that with each upgrade, you get more speed. This advantage is always nice.

We are so used to having instant data, that it is hard to remember how slow things used to be. My husband finally got a GPRS data card to get online on his laptop from his mobile phone network.

This is especially nice when traveling because you have your own secure connection and know you can get online anywhere without relying on other networks to do so.

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    • Apple's iPhone 3G uses an GPRS Card.
      By: bloomua
      Apple's iPhone 3G uses an GPRS Card.
    • A GPRS card picks up signals from cell towers.
      By: Christian Delbert
      A GPRS card picks up signals from cell towers.
    • GPRS uses packet-switching networks to transfer data.
      By: corund
      GPRS uses packet-switching networks to transfer data.
    • GPRS is a wireless data transfer protocol that is used to connect mobile devices to the internet.
      By: Tarikh Jumeer
      GPRS is a wireless data transfer protocol that is used to connect mobile devices to the internet.