Global System for Mobile Communications: Definition, Examples


The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe protocols for second generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as mobile phones and tablets. It became the global standard for mobile communications with over 80% market share. GSM introduced features like SMS (Short Message Service) and call forwarding, and incorporates technologies for voice calls and data transfer.


The phonetics of “Global System for Mobile Communications” can be broken down as follows:Global: /ˈɡloʊ.bəl/System: /ˈsɪs.təm/for: /fɔːr/Mobile: /ˈmoʊ.bəl/ Communications: /kəˌmjuː.nɪˈkeɪ.ʃənz/

Key Takeaways

Sure, please see the HTML numbered list of three main takeaways about Global System for Mobile Communications below:“`html

  1. Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices.
  2. GSM uses a variation of time division multiple access (TDMA) and is the most widely used of the three digital wireless telephony technologies (TDMA, GSM, and CDMA.) It is deployed in over 219 countries and territories.
  3. GSM introduced features that were seen as innovative at the time, such as SMS (Short Message Service) for text messaging, Call forwarding, caller ID, conference calling, and Call waiting. Today it also includes data communications, most notably using the GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution).

“`This HTML will provide a numbered list. Each point about Global System for Mobile Communications is contained within a “

  • ” (list item) HTML tag.


    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is significant as it lays the foundation for the majority of the world’s modern mobile communication. Introduced in the 1980s, GSM is an open, digital cellular technology used for transmitting mobile voice and data services. It operates on a foundation of small geographical areas known as cells, enabling widespread coverage. Also, its standardization allows users to use the same phones and the same system across countries, making international roaming straightforward. Besides, it forms the backbone for enhancements such as 3G and 4G. In summary, the importance of GSM resides in establishing a global and standardized mobile communication system.


    Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) is essentially a standard developed to describe technologies for second generation (2G) digital cellular networks. It was first used by carriers with the 2G networks and later on enhanced to accommodate the data traffic for the 3G. GSM’s main purpose is to create a global standard for mobile communication. With this, there is no major concern about compatibility across various countries as the devices and the services would function seamlessly, thus leading to easy international roaming for mobile customers.Moreover, GSM uses a digital technology that allows for clear voice communications, which was a drastic improvement over the analog systems. Also, it is used for sending and receiving text messages, a feature that later became an integral part of mobile communication. GSM operates in the 900 MHz and 1.8 GHz bands in Europe and the 1.9 GHz and 850 MHz bands in the US. Today almost all mobile phones use this technology, making it the most ubiquitous mobile technology worldwide.


    1. Mobile Telecommunications Providers: Companies such as AT&T and Verizon use Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) as the foundation for their mobile network. This enables customers to make calls, send text messages, and use data on their mobile devices.2. International Roaming: GSM allows for international roaming where travellers can use their own mobile phone and number in different countries. If you have ever traveled abroad and used your phone, you have probably been making use of this GSM technology.3. Emergency Services: In many parts of the world, GSM technology is used for emergency calls. Even if the mobile network does not have coverage in a particular area, a phone with GSM can still make emergency calls as it can latch onto any available network. This feature has proved vital, allowing people to reach help in situations where they might not have otherwise been able to.

    Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

    **Q1: What is Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM)?****A1:** GSM stands for Global System for Mobile Communications. It is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile devices like tablets and phones.**Q2: When and where was the GSM standard first applied?****A2:** The GSM standard was first introduced in 1991 in Finland.**Q3: Is GSM only utilized for voice calls?****A3:** No, apart from voice calls, GSM technology supports data services as well, such as SMS (Short Message Service), multimedia messaging, and mobile internet connectivity.**Q4: Is there a difference between CDMA and GSM?****A4:** Yes, they are two different mobile phone network technologies. GSM and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) differ in terms of coverage, data speed, SIM card compatibility, amongst other factors.**Q5: Can my GSM phone work anywhere in the world?****A5:** Mostly yes. GSM is used in over 200 countries, making it the most widespread mobile standard globally. However, the compatibility of your device may depend on whether it supports the frequency bands used in a particular country or region.**Q6: Are all mobile phones GSM-based?****A6:** No, not all mobile phones are GSM-based. While many use the GSM standard, others use different technologies such as CDMA or 4G LTE.**Q7: What is a GSM modem?****A7:** A GSM modem is a specialized type of modem that accepts a SIM card and operates over a subscription to a mobile operator, just like a mobile phone. It can be used to send or receive SMS and MMS messages, make and receive voice calls, and provide a network connection to the internet.**Q8: What are the advantages of GSM?****A8:** Some of the key advantages of GSM include its widespread global acceptance, high-quality voice calls, low-cost equipment, and provision for data services like SMS and internet connectivity.**Q9: What are the disadvantages of GSM?****A9:** Disadvantages include varying signal strength due to factors such as geography, weather, and building materials, potential for interference from other electronic devices, lack of support for some of the latest high-speed data technologies like LTE, and potential security vulnerabilities.**Q10: What is the role of a SIM card in GSM?****A10:** The SIM card in GSM technology holds the user’s unique information, such as mobile number and service provider details. It allows the user to maintain their persona and service even when using different GSM equipment.

    Related Tech Terms

    • Cellular Network
    • 2G Technology
    • Subscriber Identity Module (SIM)
    • Mobile Station
    • Base Transceiver Station

    Sources for More Information

  • devxblackblue

    About The Authors

    The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

    See our full expert review panel.

    These experts include:


    About Our Editorial Process

    At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

    See our full editorial policy.

    More Technology Terms

    Technology Glossary

    Table of Contents