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What is UMTS?

By David White
Updated May 16, 2024
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UMTS stands for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, one of the mobile phone technologies known as third-generation, or 3G. Third-generation systems are designed to include such traditional phone tasks as calls, voice mail, and paging, but also new technology tasks such as Internet access, video, and SMS, or text messaging.

One of the main benefits of UMTS is its speed. Rates of transfer for broadband information are 2 Mbits a second. This speed makes possible the kind of streaming video that can support movie downloads and video conferencing. In a sense, UMTS makes it possible for users to enjoy all of the functionality of a home computer while on the go. By combining wireless and satellite cellular technologies, it takes advantage of all existing options to result in the Holy Grail of 3G presentation: seamless transitions between WiFi and satellite.

UMTS went live as a network for the first time in Japan in 2001. Austria had its own network two years later. A handful of other European countries joined the bandwagon in the next two years, with South Africa and a few other African countries soon following suit. The U.S. has employed UMTS networks in several large cities, and the number is steadily growing.

This technology is based on the Global System for Mobile (GSM) standard, which is the gold standard in Europe and more than 120 countries worldwide. In fact, UMTS is sometimes referred to as 3GSM. The two systems are not compatible, however. Some phones are dual GSM/UMTS phones, but unless a new mobile phone or handset has that kind of duality built in, users will only be able to utilize one mode, the one that came with the device.

As UMTS gains in credibility and functionality, experts believe it will overtake GSM as the industry standard. It is already able to operate at a higher frequency than GSM.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon345721 — On Aug 21, 2013

What is the difference between UMTS and GPRS?

By anon296160 — On Oct 10, 2012

What is the difference between UMTS and GSM?

By anon167286 — On Apr 12, 2011

speed is the main difference.

By anon131361 — On Dec 02, 2010

what is the difference between UMTS and HSDPA?

By anon83238 — On May 10, 2010

i want to know how from utms internet access

is free! what is the difference between utms and gprs?

By anon41717 — On Aug 17, 2009

what is the difference between UMTS and GSM and which tools are used in these both?

By anon39498 — On Aug 02, 2009

Modulation and frequency. UMTS is used primarily for 3G data, occupies the 850Mhz realm while GSM is used for voice path. NS generally uses 1.9/2.1 Ghz.

By anon19237 — On Oct 08, 2008

What is the difference between UMTS and GSM?

By malena — On Jan 25, 2008

anonymous - in a nutshell UMTS is 3G while GPRS is essential 2.5G. but, if you run a search in the wiseGEEK search box for "GPRS" you'll find an article with more info on GPRS and should be able to uncover the differences.

By anon233 — On Apr 19, 2007

What is the difference between UMTS and GPRS?

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