GSM Tutorial

GSM (Global System for Mobile communications) is an open, digital cellular technology used for transmitting mobile voice and data services. GSM differs from first generation wireless systems in that it uses digital technology and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) transmission methods. GSM is a circuit-switched system that divides each 200kHz channel into eight 25kHz time-slots. GSM operates in the 900MHz and 1.8GHz bands in Europe and the 1.9GHz and 850MHz bands in the US. The 850MHz band is also used for GSM and 3GSM in Australia, Canada and many South American countries. GSM supports data transfer speeds of up to 9.6 kbit/s, allowing the transmission of basic data services such as SMS (Short Message Service). Another major benefit is its international roaming capability, allowing users to access the same services when travelling abroad as at home. This gives consumers seamless and same number connectivity in more than 210 countries. GSM satellite roaming has also extended service access to areas where terrestrial coverage is not available.

Global System for Mobile Communications. The first European digital standard, developed to establish cellular compatibility throughout Europe. It's success has spread to all parts of the world and over 80 GSM networks are now operational. It operates at 900 MHz.


GSM-900 and GSM-1800

GSM-900 and GSM-1800 are used in most parts of the world.

  • GSM-900 uses 890 - 915 MHz to send information from the Mobile Station to the Base Transceiver Station (uplink) and 935 - 960 MHz for the other direction (downlink), providing 124 RF channels (channel numbers 1 to 124) spaced at 200 kHz. Duplex spacing of 45 MHz is used. In some countries the GSM-900 band has been extended to cover a larger frequency range. This 'extended GSM', E-GSM, uses frequency range 880 - 915 MHz (uplink) and 925 - 960 MHz (downlink), adding 50 channels (channel numbers 975 to 1023 and 0) to the original GSM-900 band. The GSM specifications also describe 'railways GSM', GSM-R, which uses frequency range 876 - 915 MHz (uplink) and 921 - 960 MHz (downlink). Channel numbers 955 to 1023. GSM-R provides additional channels and specialized services for use by railway personnel. All these variants are included in the GSM-900 specification.
  • GSM-1800 uses 1710 - 1785 MHz to send information from the Mobile Station to the Base Transceiver Station (uplink) and 1805 - 1880 MHz for the other direction (downlink), providing 374 channels (channel numbers 512 to 885). Duplex spacing is 95 MHz.

GSM-1800 is also called PCS in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Most of the GSM operators in India use the 900 MHz band. Operators like Hutch, Airtel, Idea, and some others, use 900MHz in rural areas and 1800MHz in urban areas.


GSM-850 and GSM-1900 are used in the United States, Canada, and many other countries in the Americas. GSM-850 is also sometimes erroneously called GSM-800. In Australia, GSM 850 is the frequency allocated to Telstra's NextG Network which was switched on in October 2006. The NextG Network is a step up from the 3G Network and is availible at faster speeds Australia wide compared to the 3G Network which is limited to only major population centres.

  • GSM-850 uses 824 - 849 MHz to send information from the Mobile Station to the Base Transceiver Station (uplink) and 869 - 894 MHz for the other direction (downlink). Channel numbers 128 to 251.

Cellular is the term used to describe the 850 MHz band, as the original analog cellular mobile communication system was allocated in this spectrum. Providers commonly operate in one or both frequency ranges.

European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), original GSM standardization body.

Constellation used by GSM: QPSK, 8PSK, 16-QAM.


The method chosen by GSM is a combination of Time- and Frequency-Division Multiple Access (TDMA/FDMA). The FDMA part involves the division by frequency of the (maximum) 25 MHz bandwidth into 124 carrier frequencies spaced 200 kHz apart. One or more carrier frequencies are assigned to each base station. Each of these carrier frequencies is then divided in time, using a TDMA scheme. The fundamental unit of time in this TDMA scheme is called a burst period and it lasts 15/26 ms (or approx. 0.577 ms). Eight burst periods are grouped into a TDMA frame (120/26 ms, or approx. 4.615 ms), which forms the basic unit for the definition of logical channels. One physical channel is one burst period per TDMA frame.


Time division multiple access (TDMA) is a channel access method for shared medium (usually radio) networks. It allows several users to share the same frequency channel by dividing the signal into different timeslots. The users transmit in rapid succession, one after the other, each using his own timeslot. This allows multiple stations to share the same transmission medium (e.g. radio frequency channel) while using only the part of its bandwidth they require. TDMA is used in the digital 2G cellular systems such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), IS-136, Personal Digital Cellular (PDC) and iDEN, and in the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard for portable phones. It is also used extensively in satellite systems, and combat-net radio systems.

TDMA is a type of Time-division multiplexing, with the special point that instead of having one transmitter connected to one receiver, there are multiple transmitters. In the case of the uplink from a mobile phone to a base station this becomes particularly difficult because the mobile phone can move around and vary the timing advance required to make its transmission match the gap in transmission from its peers.



Applications for GSM:

-Digital Communication such GPS, Cell Phones, Laptops.





1.) Mobile Station

 The mobile station (MS) consists of the mobile equipment (the terminal) and a smart card called the Subscriber Identity Module (SIM). The SIM provides personal mobility, so that the user can have access to subscribed services irrespective of a specific terminal. By inserting the SIM card into another GSM terminal, the user is able to receive calls at that terminal, make calls from that terminal, and receive other subscribed services.

The mobile equipment is uniquely identified by the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). The SIM card contains the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) used to identify the subscriber to the system, a secret key for authentication, and other information. The IMEI and the IMSI are independent, thereby allowing personal mobility. The SIM card may be protected against unauthorized use by a password or personal identity number.



2.) Mobile Switching Centre

 The central component of the Network Subsystem is the Mobile services Switching Center (MSC). It acts like a normal switching node of the PSTN or ISDN, and additionally provides all the functionality needed to handle a mobile subscriber, such as registration, authentication, location updating, handovers, and call routing to a roaming subscriber. These services are provided in conjuction with several functional entities, which together form the Network Subsystem. The MSC provides the connection to the fixed networks (such as the PSTN or ISDN). Signalling between functional entities in the Network Subsystem uses Signalling System Number 7 (SS7), used for trunk signalling in ISDN and widely used in current public networks.

The Home Location Register (HLR) and Visitor Location Register (VLR), together with the MSC, provide the call-routing and roaming capabilities of GSM. The HLR contains all the administrative information of each subscriber registered in the corresponding GSM network, along with the current location of the mobile. The location of the mobile is typically in the form of the signalling address of the VLR associated with the mobile station. The actual routing procedure will be described later. There is logically one HLR per GSM network, although it may be implemented as a distributed database.

The Visitor Location Register (VLR) contains selected administrative information from the HLR, necessary for call control and provision of the subscribed services, for each mobile currently located in the geographical area controlled by the VLR. Although each functional entity can be implemented as an independent unit, all manufacturers of switching equipment to date implement the VLR together with the MSC, so that the geographical area controlled by the MSC corresponds to that controlled by the VLR, thus simplifying the signalling required. Note that the MSC contains no information about particular mobile stations --- this information is stored in the location registers.

The other two registers are used for authentication and security purposes. The Equipment Identity Register (EIR) is a database that contains a list of all valid mobile equipment on the network, where each mobile station is identified by its International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). An IMEI is marked as invalid if it has been reported stolen or is not type approved. The Authentication Center (AuC) is a protected database that stores a copy of the secret key stored in each subscriber's SIM card, which is used for authentication and encryption over the radio channel.




3.) Base Station Subsystem (BSS)

The Base Station Subsystem is composed of two parts, the Base Transceiver Station (BTS) and the Base Station Controller (BSC). These communicate across the standardized Abis interface, allowing (as in the rest of the system) operation between components made by different suppliers.

The Base Transceiver Station houses the radio tranceivers that define a cell and handles the radio-link protocols with the Mobile Station. In a large urban area, there will potentially be a large number of BTSs deployed, thus the requirements for a BTS are ruggedness, reliability, portability, and minimum cost.

The Base Station Controller manages the radio resources for one or more BTSs. It handles radio-channel setup, frequency hopping, and handovers, as described below. The BSC is the connection between the mobile station and the Mobile service Switching Center (MSC).







Gaussian Pulse Shape for GSM.






physical layers document:



Speech coding:

-Pulse Coded Modulation (PCM)

-Regular Pulse Excited - Linear Predictive Coder (RPE--LPC)

-Enhanced Full-Rate (EFR)


Channel coding and modulation:


-Gaussian-filtered Minimum Shift Keying (GMSK).




Standardizations for GSM found in: