Short for general packet radio service, GPRS is a wireless communications standard for data transmission at speeds up to 115 kilobits per second. Informally many refer to GPRS as 2.5G, as it helped increase the speed of second-generation wireless communication networks before being superseded by third-generation wireless services, also known as 3G. GPRS continues to run on many 3G systems.
Though GPRS has a theoretical limit of 115 kilobits per second, the service relies on other factors in the system to run at that speed, leading to latency and variations in speed. On 2G systems, GPRS generally provides data rates at approximately 56 to 114 kilobits per second. Unlike voice services, which generally bill based on time, or texting services, which generally bill per message, GPRS allows companies to charge customers based on the amount of data transferred.
GPRS uses data packets to send information, which allows communications to be shared between multiple users as opposed to circuit-switched services where only one line is connected at a time, such as those used in traditional cellular phone connections. GPRS works within the global system for mobile communications along with circuit-switched voice services and short message services that are used for texting. GPRS first started use in 2000 and evolved from earlier specifications, such as the Cellpac protocol from the early 1990s.