New mobile phone technologies and services are developing faster than ever. It can be confusing trying to find your way through the maze of information to determine what service features you need. Outlined below are some new telecommunications technologies and features.
2G and 3G mobile services
Mobile networks in Australia employ a combination of second generation (2G) and third generation (3G) mobile phone technologies. 2G provides voice communications and basic data services using the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) standard. The General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution GSM (EDGE) were later included in the GSM standard to allow for improved data rates to mobile phones.
3G uses a protocol known as High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) to deliver voice, video and internet content to your mobile phone. Most mobile network operators in Australia provide 3G mobile services. A 3G mobile phone is required to access a 3G mobile network. 3G mobile phones are backwardly compatible with 2G services. This means that 3G mobile phones can operate on 2G networks to which they have access.
Multiband mobile phones
Tri-band and quad-band are terms used for multiband mobile phones can operate on multiple mobile phone frequencies. If a mobile network operator or an agent registers you on a network, then the mobile phone the network operator or agent supplies to you will work on that operator’s network. If you wish to have your mobile phone operate on another network, then you should enquire with the other network operator or their associated agent to see if the mobile phone you have can operate on their network.
Cellular data refers to data uploaded or downloaded through your mobile network operator’s 3G, GPRS or EDGE network. For example checking email, opening a web browser or downloading an application from an online ‘app’ store all use cellular data. Most mobile phones will allow you to turn off cellular data. Turning off cellular data will not disable SMS or mobile phone calls. It is advisable to monitor your cellular data allowance as some mobile phone plans may have limited cellular data allowances. If you exceed your cellular data allowance, you may incur additional fees or have a reduced service as determined by your contract with your provider.
Tethering allows you to use your mobile phone as a mobile broadband modem which enables you to gain access to the internet or other data services from your personal computer or laptop. Tethering with your mobile phone can provide you with a similar service to that offered by a USB mobile broadband modem often called a dongle. You can tether your mobile phone to your computer or laptop by using a USB cable, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connection. It is advisable to check with your mobile network operator to ensure that your mobile phone can tether and if the mobile network operator will allow tethering. Tethering uses cellular data to upload or download data from the internet or other data services.
Mobile operating system
There is a wide variety of open source and proprietary mobile operating systems. Some examples include Android, Apple iOS, BlackBerry OS, MeeGo, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7. Mobile operating systems may differ in applications, menu systems and overall ‘look and feel’ and therefore may be an important part of choosing a mobile phone. Mobile network operators or agents may have working display models of mobile phones and their associated mobile operating systems in their stores for evaluation.
Bluetooth and Wi-fi
Many mobile phones have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi wireless technologies integrated in the phone. Bluetooth is used to connect and transfer data between devices such as printers, other mobile phones and accessories over short distances. Wi-Fi is used to connect your mobile phone to a wireless router which allows you to transfer data between devices and access the internet.
Location-based services make use of your geographical location which may be calculated by or for your mobile phone if it has the required Global Positioning System (GPS) features or may be deduced by the mobile operator’s network from radio signal timing or strengths. Location-based services are becoming more prevalent and are being used in health, fitness and social media applications. Before acquiring a location-based application for your mobile phone, you may want to enquire with the application developer or your mobile service provider as to what use will be made of your geographical location.
Mobile roaming enables a mobile phone normally connected to one mobile network to work on another mobile network. Domestic roaming is roaming on another network in the same country, whereas international roaming refers to roaming on a network outside the country of origin. A commercial agreement must be in place between the customer’s network and the network to be roamed on before roaming can occur. You may want to enquire with your mobile service provider as to what voice or data roaming charges apply when roaming overseas.
Short message service and Multimedia messaging service
Short message service (SMS) is a text message that consists of 160 characters. Most mobile phones can send and receive SMS. Multimedia messaging services (MMS) extend the capability of SMS to allow you to send sounds, videos and pictures to other mobile phones with similar capability.
Some mobile phones are like handheld computers as they offer features such as multitasking, large touch screens and accessibility features. These advanced mobile phones are now known as ‘smartphones’. Manufacturers are increasing the number of sensors in mobile phones to include proximity sensors, accelerometer, digital compass, gyroscopes, GPS and ambient light sensors which facilitate development of innovative applications. For some users, the mobile phone’s operating system and the applications are just as important as the basic telecommunications services. Mobile phones may differ in the features supported, the sensors installed, and the applications that they will be able to run. Consumers for whom the features and applications are important should research the multitude of models available and confirm that the features and application platforms they have chosen are available on the mobile phones they purchase.
The ACMA has fact sheets on a range of topics.
Please note: this document is intended as a guide only and should not be relied on as legal advice or regarded as a substitute for legal advice in individual cases.