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In 1989, GSM responsibility was transferred to the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI), and phase I of the GSM specifications were published in 1990. Commercial service was started in mid?1991, and by 1993 there were 36 GSM networks in 22 countries, with 25 additional countries having already selected or considering GSM In addition to Europe, South Africa, Australia, and many Middle and Far East countries have chosen to adopt GSM. By the beginning of 1994, there were 1.3 million subscribers worldwide. The acronym GSM now (aptly) stands for Global System for Mobile telecommunications.

From the beginning, the planners of GSM wanted ISDN compatibility in services offered and control signaling used. The radio link imposed some limitations, however, since the standard ISDN bit rate of 64 Kbps could not be practically achieved.

The digital nature of GSM allows data, both synchronous and asynchronous data, to be transported as a bearer service to or from an ISDN terminal. The data rates supported by GSM are 300 bps, 600 bps, 1200 bps, 2400 bps, and 9600 bps.

The most basic teleservice supported by GSM is telephony. A unique feature of GSM compared to older analog systems is the Short Message Service (SMS). Supplementary services are provided on top of teleservices or bearer services, and include features such as international roaming, caller identification, call forwarding, call waiting, multi?party conversations, and barring of outgoing (international) calls, among others.