Cellular Access Technologies: TDMA/GSM
TDMA is also used as the access technology for Global System for Mobile communications (GSM). However, GSM implements TDMA in a somewhat different and incompatible way from IS-136. Think of GSM and IS-136 as two different operating systems that work on the same processor, like Windows and Linux both working on an Intel Pentium III. GSM systems use encryption to make phone calls more secure. GSM operates in the 900-MHz and 1800-MHz bands in Europe and Asia, and in the 1900-MHz (sometimes referred to as 1.9-GHz) band in the United States. It is used in digital cellular and PCS-based systems. GSM is also the basis for Integrated Digital Enhanced Network (IDEN), a popular system introduced by Motorola and used by Nextel.
GSM is the international standard in Europe, Australia and much of Asia and Africa. In covered areas, cell-phone users can buy one phone that will work anywhere where the standard is supported. To connect to the specific service providers in these different countries, GSM users simply switch subscriber identification module (SIM) cards. SIM cards are small removable disks that slip in and out of GSM cell phones. They store all the connection data and identification numbers you need to access a particular wireless service provider.
Unfortunately, the 1900-MHz GSM phones used in the United States are not compatible with the international system. If you live in the United States and need to have cell-phone access when you’re overseas, the easiest thing to do is to buy a GSM 900MHz/1800MHz cell phone for traveling. You can get these phones from Planet Omni, an online electronics firm based in California. They offer a wide selection of Nokia, Motorola and Ericsson GSM phones. They don’t sell international SIM cards, however. You can pick up prepaid SIM cards for a wide range of countries at Telestial.com.
- The GSM standard for digital cell phones was established in Europe in the mid-1980s — long before digital cellular phones became commonplace in American culture.
- It is now possible to locate a person using a cellular phone down to a range of a few meters, anywhere on the globe.
- 3G (third-generation wireless) phones may look more like PDAs, with features such as video-conferencing, advanced personal calendar functions and multi-player gaming.