HSPA, UMTS, GSM, LTE and Other Acronyms Demystified


If you’re in charge of making the mobile purchase decisions for your company, or simply a consumer who wants to be informed before buying a new mobile device, you likely do a great deal of research before buying a smartphone. However, as you begin to research smartphone choices, you start to get inundated with acronyms such as LTE, UMTS, GSM®, EDGE®, and so on. Instead of just nodding along with the smartphone rep the way you do when your crazy uncle corners you at the family reunion, let’s demystify a few of these popular acronyms to ensure you make intelligent buying decisions:

CDMA: Code Division Multiple Access. CDMA is a 3G wireless technology that competes with GSM and is used by Verizon® and Sprint® in the U.S., along with Bell®, Telus®, Lynx®, SaskTel®, and TBayTel® in Canada. You can currently find CDMA networks in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, China, Taiwan, and a handful of other countries.

EDGE: Enhanced Data (rates for) GSM Evolution. EDGE is an enhancement to 2nd Generation (2G or 2.5G) GSM software upgrade allowing for data transfer and web browsing at near 3G speeds.

GSM: Global System for Mobile. GSM is an alternate to CDMA and, as the name implies, is more of a global standard and the 3G technology used by most carriers around the world.

HSPA: High Speed Packet Access. HSPA is a 3rd Generation (3G) technology based on UMTS standards offering faster data download speeds at the cost of upload speeds. The HSPA family of technologies is quite large, covering High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA), High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA), and Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+). There are others, but these are the big ones.

HSPA+: Evolved High Speed Packet Access. HSPA+ works like a turbo boost for UMTS/HSDPA devices that help them reach 4th Generation (4G) technology speeds.

LTE: Long-Term Evolution. LTE is a member of the family of 4th Generation
(4G) cellular wireless technologies, and it is anticipated to become the first truly global standard for mobile phones. LTE networks are fast – the specification provides for peak speeds of 300 Megabits per second (Mbps) downstream and 75 Mbps upstream. Full deployment in the U.S. by Verizon and AT&T® and in Canada is expected within the next couple of years.

UMTS®: Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. UMTS is another 3rd Generation (3G) technology that is commonly called W-CDMA (Wideband CDMA). UMTS delivers faster data rates than EDGE due to how the data is coded and the spectral bandwidth used.

These are some of the more common cellular technology acronyms you likely see on a regular basis. When choosing a BlackBerry smartphone that works with your carrier’s network, the general rule is that BlackBerry® Bold™ smartphones work with CDMA, GSM, HSPA+ and UMTS networks. BlackBerry® Curve™ and BlackBerry® Torch™ smartphones work with GSM and UMTS networks. However, be sure to verify any network with your carrier prior to purchase.

About Donny Halliwell

Donny is a Senior Product Marketing Manager at BlackBerry and Former Editor-in-Chief for the Inside BlackBerry blogs. There's no disputing, #TeamBlackBerry is awesome. I'm pumped to have the opportunity to talk with you and bring you the latest and greatest from Inside BlackBerry every day. In my spare time, I can be found helping entrepreneurs and startup companies grow their business. I spend the rest, obsessing over the auto industry, or enjoying music. Follow me on Twitter or Google+

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