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Circuit Switched Data

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Circuit Switched Data (CSD) is the original form of data transmission developed for the time division multiple access (TDMA)-based mobile phone systems like Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). CSD uses a single radio time slot to deliver 9.6 kbit/s data transmission to the GSM Network and Switching Subsystem where it could be connected through the equivalent of a normal modem to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) allowing direct calls to any dial-up service.


Prior to CSD, data transmission over mobile phone systems used a modem, either built into the phone or attached to it. Such systems were limited by the quality of the audio signal to 2.4 kbit/s or less. With the introduction of digital transmission in TDMA-based systems like GSM, CSD provided almost direct access to the underlying digital signal, allowing for higher speeds. At the same time, the speech-oriented audio compression used in GSM actually meant that data rates using a traditional modem connected to the phone would have been even lower than with older analog systems.

A CSD call functions in a very similar way to a normal voice call in a GSM network. A single dedicated radio time slot is allocated between the phone and the base station. A dedicated "sub-time slot" (16 kbit/s) is allocated from the base station to the transcoder, and finally another time slot (64 kbit/s) is allocated from the transcoder to the Mobile Switching Center (MSC).

At the MSC, it is possible to use a modem to convert to an "analog" signal, though this will typically actually be encoded as a digital pulse-code modulation (PCM) signal when sent from the MSC. It is also possible to directly use the digital signal as an Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) data signal and feed it into the equivalent of a remote access server.

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