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BT GPRS data services hit by glitches

Users of BT's GPRS high-speed data service have been experiencing persistent problems with network availability.
Written by Ben King, Contributor

Users of BT's GPRS high-speed data service have been experiencing persistent problems with network availability.

Several early adopters of the technology have contacted silicon.com to report faults in BT's services. The way the networks treat GPRS traffic is at the heart of the problem. Data over current GPRS networks takes the lowest priority, so in busy areas at times of peak demand, users have reported serious problems putting data calls through. Ben Wood, analyst at consultancy Mobile Lifestreams, said: "The only ways round this would be to dedicate a channel on the network solely to GPRS, or to prioritise the packets over the network. Both of these would be extremely expensive in terms of network resources. "The two 1800 networks - Orange and One2One - will probably suffer less from this as they have more capacity on their networks," he added. BT Cellnet and Vodafone both use the 900 MHz waveband. Vodafone launched its GPRS networks on Monday, and Orange is expected to launch GPRS in the summer. Peter Lisle, GPRS programme manager at BT Cellnet, said:"We monitor the success rates of both voice calls and GPRS, so we can regulate the balance of network quality to maintain the quality.We do have a strategy of reserving timeslots for improving access for GPRS. "We have a dedicated customer care facility and we take customer fault reports very seriously. In quite a lot of cases we find that the problem is on their network, not ours. I have more than 100 organisations using GPRS and this is certainly not a universal issue," he added. BT Cellnet launched its Pocket Net Office service for businesses in July 2000, but the long delay before the launch of GPRS services has led to speculation that technical problems with the network and handsets have forced BT to delay offering GPRS to consumers. In February, silicon.com reported on the problems many users were having with the billing system for GPRS calls, which charged them at the normal rate for a voice call when they slipped into coverage "holes". Rumours of phones overheating have not been substantiated, but GPRS users have had trouble with short battery life. Technical problems and delays with GPRS will worry a debt-ridden industry hoping for quick returns from the next generation of data services on 3G networks. GPRS is widely seen as a proving ground for the applications which will induce consumers to spend money on 3G services.
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