The Difference Between GSM & GPS


In this increasingly digital society, two communications standards make it easy to communicate and navigate almost anywhere on the planet. GSM is a global standard for cellular devices, while the GPS network has helped revolutionize navigation and brought it into the digital age.


  • The GSM network is a mostly cellular-based network, while GPS is satellite-based. GSM stands for Global System for Mobile communications, and is one of the major cellular network standards used worldwide. A system of cell towers on the ground make up this network, although GSM-equipped satellites help to provide service in underserved areas. The Global Positioning System network is made up of 24 satellites that orbit the Earth in a precise manner.


  • GSM is used as a method of mobile communication. The intent is to provide a method for users to communicate almost anywhere without the need for a connection to the landline network. GPS users use the technology to receive location information: this is intended to make navigation easier, and lessen the need for navigating manually -- using maps, and so forth.


  • Products that support GSM include cellular phones, tablets, and other data and voice-based devices. These products are intended for two-way communications between other GSM-enabled devices. GPS, on the other hand, is a one-way communications standard. Receivers use data received from the orbiting satellites to determine location: no data is sent from the receiver back to the satellites. GPS location data is accurate to as little as 15 meters, or about 50 feet in some cases.


  • GSM by itself is limited to the most basic cellular services: voice calling, texting, and data connections up to 9.6Kbps according to the GSM Association. It is the technologies built on top of GSM (GPRS and EDGE, for example) that give users access to faster data and picture and video messaging. GPS accuracy can be limited by poor satellite reception. The Department of Defense -- the creator of the GPS system -- also places limitations on the accuracy of civilian use of GPS.

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