123145 Votes

Mobile Communication: What are GSM, GPRS, EDGE, UMTS, HSPA, LTE, 5G and 6G?

Info by Collin McNeil | Last update on 2022-12-29 | Created on 2012-11-13

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 contrasted the different standards with their respective download and upload speeds as well as their usual display symbol:

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
6G6th Generation Wireless Systems1 Tbit/s400 Gbit/s6G

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.

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.

Notes regarding the different HSPA and HSPA+ Versions

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.

As you can see, there are several releases in the HSPA+ development coming with an increasment in 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.

2939 Votes

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

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

ReplyPositive Negative
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!
2013-10-19 at 10:38

ReplyPositive Negative
59 Votes

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

ReplyPositive Negative
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.
2014-04-03 at 12:04

ReplyPositive Negative
-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?
2014-05-31 at 11:15

ReplyPositive Negative
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.
2014-05-31 at 15:14

Positive Negative
-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.
2014-08-20 at 19:05

ReplyPositive Negative
-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.
2014-08-26 at 10:09

ReplyPositive Negative
-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.
2014-08-26 at 15:45

Positive Negative
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.
2014-08-29 at 02:21

ReplyPositive Negative
-22 Votes

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

ReplyPositive Negative
-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".
2014-11-13 at 12:44

Positive Negative
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.
2017-02-14 at 01:25

ReplyPositive Negative
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?
2017-08-19 at 13:38

ReplyPositive Negative
00 Votes

I'm not familiar with the technology, I understood nothing here, anyway thanks for explanation...
2023-12-24 at 20:10

ReplyPositive Negative

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