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Mobile Communication: What are GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSPA and LTE?

Info by E-Tinker | Last Update on 07/03/2018 | Created on 13/11/2012

In mobile communications, frequently, the terms GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSPA and LTE appear. These terms refer to different standards of data transfer and are noticeable for the mobile phone user mainly in a different data transfer rate. In this table, I have I contrasted the different standards:

ShortcutNameDownloadUploadDisplay
GSMGlobal System for Mobile Communications14.4 Kbit/s14.4 Kbit/s2G
GPRSGeneral Packet Radio Service53.6 Kbit/s26.8 Kbit/sG
EDGEEnhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution217.6 Kbit/s108.8 Kbit/sE
UMTSUniversal Mobile Telelcommunication Service384 Kbit/s128 Kbit/s3G
HSPAHigh Speed Packet Access7.2 Mbit/s3.6 Mbit/sH
HSPA+Evolved High Speed Packet Access Release 614.4 Mbit/s5.76 Mbit/sH+
HSPA+Evolved High Speed Packet Access Release 721.1 Mbit/s or 28.0 Mbit/s11.5 Mbit/sH+
HSPA+Evolved High Speed Packet Access Release 842.2 Mbit/s11.5 Mbit/sH+
HSPA+Evolved High Speed Packet Access Release 984.4 Mbit/s11.5 Mbit/sH+
HSPA+Evolved High Speed Packet Access Release 10168.8 Mbit/s23.0 Mbit/sH+
LTELong Term Evolution100 Mbit/s50 Mbit/s4G
LTE-ALTE Advanced1 Gbit/s500 Mbit/s4G
5G5th Generation Wireless Systems20 Gbit/s10 Gbit/s5G

In the "Name" column, you will find the long name for each abbreviation. Under "Download" and "Upload", the maximum download and upload speeds that can be reached with the standards are listed. Under "Display", you can see how the standard is usually displayed in the status bar of the cell phone, when it is connected to the appropriate network.

Note for HSPA: The standard HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) is divided into High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) for downloading and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) for uploading data.

Note for HSPA+: As you can see, there are several releases in the HSPA+ development increasing the speed. Technically, this is achieved by using a higher order modulation, the multiple antenna technique (also known as multiple input and multiple output technique, MIMO), or by combining multiple cells (Dual Carier, Dual Cell HSDPA). Of course, in practice, those high speeds are hard to achieve. They are only accessible under best conditions, for example if you are the only one in a particular cell. So, you should better refer to the Release 6 or 7 speeds when seeing a H+ in your display.

Development of standards and networks

At the beginning of the digital mobile phone age, there was only the GSM network as a replacement for analog systems. According to this, GSM is also called 2G, the second generation. Gradually, new, better and fast systems developed. GPRS and EDGE also use the GSM network, the higher speeds of EDGE is the result of an improved technology. The third generation is the UMTS network (3G). Again, on the 3G network, the improvements HSPA (H) and HSPA+ (H+) are based, allowing faster transfer rates in the 3G network. Finally, the fourth generation named LTE (4G) was presented, which again brings a significant increase in transfer rates.

In theory, in the individual standards higher rates are possible technically, in practice, often not even the values from the table are reached, since there are rarely existing ideal conditions.

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2838 Votes

Thanks for your calibrated info. I've got everything I wanted in this short and comprehansive information.

Best regards!
10/08/2013 at 13:54

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412 Votes

Thanks for the nice explanations! For some times i have been wondering the changes in my phone with effects on opening websites and downloads. Now i understand! Big Up!
19/10/2013 at 10:38

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59 Votes

I have really been enlightened on the network structure and it has evolved. Thank you and God bless you.
02/04/2014 at 19:51

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511 Votes

Thanx alot.. It helped..

I always think what does it mean? But your explanation provide me a better understanding of the mobile network.
03/04/2014 at 12:04

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-24 Votes

Very informative.

But, my mobile shows a "F" sign in the status bar when I turn on the mobile data. What does that mean?
31/05/2014 at 11:15

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Compi

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04 Votes

Is the F-Character appearing instead of the usual mobile symbols like H or 3G or is it appearing in addition to those symbols?

If the character is appearing in addition to the other symbols, perhaps it is just an app notifictation (if Internet is turned on, apps usually connect and get new messages). For example, Facebook is using a f for its notifications.
31/05/2014 at 15:14

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-35 Votes

Really helpful. Thanks a lot for giving an elaborated notes. I was behind this for dome days. Now I am happy. Once again thank you very much.
20/08/2014 at 19:05

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-24 Votes

Please check this (H+) network speed because some site show this is the speed ratio of this network, but you show double of them what is right, please mention.
26/08/2014 at 10:09

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E-Tinker

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-15 Votes

Good note. There where several releases of the HSPA+ network reaching from 14.4 MBit/s (downlink), 5.76 MBit/s (uplink) in release 6 up to 168.8 MBit/s (downlink), 23 MBit/s (uplink) in release 10.

So, I think the websites you have seen are referring to other releases.

I have added those releases to my article with some explanation to make it clear.
26/08/2014 at 15:45

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13 Votes

I am a prepaid subscriber and I have never subscribed to an internet service...

Moderation: Please do not ask new question in existing topics. We have moved your question to the new topic: H+ Symbol on Mobile Device although never subscribed to Internet service.
29/08/2014 at 02:21

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-22 Votes

Great presentation, very informative. Question: is the P in HSPA "Packed" or is it "Packet" I have seen both. Thanks again.
13/11/2014 at 01:51

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-55 Votes

Good question. I think it is Packet, because in GPRS, P also stands vor Packet and "High Speed Packet Access" gives more results in Search Engines than searching for "High Speed Packed Access".
13/11/2014 at 12:44

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00 Votes

This was really helpful even in a short glance. I was helped by the information on the download and upload speed for each shortcut.
14/02/2017 at 01:25

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00 Votes

We generally know that two separate standards of GSM and CDMA in mobile communications. 2G,3G, and 4G variations are available in both these standards?
19/08/2017 at 13:38

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