Comparison of mobile phone standards

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This is a comparison of standards of mobile phones. A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s.

Mobile phone Portable device to make telephone calls using a radio link

A mobile phone, cell phone, cellphone, or hand phone, sometimes shortened to simply mobile, cell or just phone, is a portable telephone that can make and receive calls over a radio frequency link while the user is moving within a telephone service area. The radio frequency link establishes a connection to the switching systems of a mobile phone operator, which provides access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Modern mobile telephone services use a cellular network architecture, and, therefore, mobile telephones are called cellular telephones or cell phones, in North America. In addition to telephony, 2000s-era mobile phones support a variety of other services, such as text messaging, MMS, email, Internet access, short-range wireless communications, business applications, video games, and digital photography. Mobile phones offering only those capabilities are known as feature phones; mobile phones which offer greatly advanced computing capabilities are referred to as smartphones.

1G refers to the first generation of wireless cellular technology. These are the analog telecommunications standards that were introduced in the 1980s and continued until being replaced by 2G digital telecommunications. The main difference between the two mobile cellular systems, is that the radio signals used by 1G networks are analog, while 2G networks are digital.



Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM, around 80–85% market share) and IS-95 (around 10–15% market share) were the two most prevalent 2G mobile communication technologies in 2007. [1] In 3G, the most prevalent technology was UMTS with CDMA-2000 in close contention.

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP, UMTS is a component of the International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard set and compares with the CDMA2000 standard set for networks based on the competing cdmaOne technology. UMTS uses wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) radio access technology to offer greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.

All radio access technologies have to solve the same problems: to divide the finite RF spectrum among multiple users as efficiently as possible. GSM uses TDMA and FDMA for user and cell separation. UMTS, IS-95 and CDMA-2000 use CDMA. WiMAX and LTE use OFDM.

Frequency division multiple access (FDMA) is a channel access method used in some multiple-access protocols. FDMA allows multiple users to send data through a single communication channel, such as a coaxial cable or microwave beam, by dividing the bandwidth of the channel into separate non-overlapping frequency sub-channels and allocating each sub-channel to a separate user. Users can send data through a subchannel by modulating it on a carrier wave at the subchannel's frequency. It is used in satellite communication systems and telephone trunklines.

WiMAX wireless broadband standard

WiMAX is a family of wireless broadband communication standards based on the IEEE 802.16 set of standards, which provide multiple physical layer (PHY) and Media Access Control (MAC) options.

In telecommunication, Long-Term Evolution (LTE) is a standard for wireless broadband communication for mobile devices and data terminals, based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA technologies. It increases the capacity and speed using a different radio interface together with core network improvements. The standard is developed by the 3GPP and is specified in its Release 8 document series, with minor enhancements described in Release 9. LTE is the upgrade path for carriers with both GSM/UMTS networks and CDMA2000 networks. The different LTE frequencies and bands used in different countries mean that only multi-band phones are able to use LTE in all countries where it is supported.

In computing, time-sharing is the sharing of a computing resource among many users by means of multiprogramming and multi-tasking at the same time.

Spread spectrum Spreading the frequency domain of a signal

In telecommunication and radio communication, spread-spectrum techniques are methods by which a signal generated with a particular bandwidth is deliberately spread in the frequency domain, resulting in a signal with a wider bandwidth. These techniques are used for a variety of reasons, including the establishment of secure communications, increasing resistance to natural interference, noise and jamming, to prevent detection, and to limit power flux density.

In theory, CDMA, TDMA and FDMA have exactly the same spectral efficiency but practically, each has its own challenges – power control in the case of CDMA, timing in the case of TDMA, and frequency generation/filtering in the case of FDMA.

For a classic example for understanding the fundamental difference of TDMA and CDMA, imagine a cocktail party where couples are talking to each other in a single room. The room represents the available bandwidth:

TDMA: A speaker takes turns talking to a listener. The speaker talks for a short time and then stops to let another couple talk. There is never more than one speaker talking in the room, no one has to worry about two conversations mixing. The drawback is that it limits the practical number of discussions in the room (bandwidth wise).
CDMA: any speaker can talk at any time; however each uses a different language. Each listener can only understand the language of their partner. As more and more couples talk, the background noise (representing the noise floor) gets louder, but because of the difference in languages, conversations do not mix. The drawback is that at some point, one cannot talk any louder. After this if the noise still rises (more people join the party/cell) the listener cannot make out what the talker is talking about without coming closer to the talker. In effect, CDMA cell coverage decreases as the number of active users increases. This is called cell breathing.

Comparison table

Feature NMT GSM IS-95 (CDMA one) IS-2000 (CDMA 2000) UMTS (3GSM) LTE 5G NR
Generation 1G 2G 2G 3G 3G 4G 5G
Encoding Analog Digital Digital Digital Digital Digital Digital
Year of First Use1981199119952000 / 2002200120092018
Roaming Nordics and several other European countriesWorldwide, all countries except Japan and South KoreaLimitedLimitedWorldwideLimitedLimited
Handset interoperabilityNone SIM card None RUIM (rarely used) SIM card SIM card SIM card
Common InterferenceNoneSome electronics, e.g. amplifiersNoneNoneNoneNoneNone
Signal quality/coverage areaGood coverage due to low frequenciesGood coverage indoors on 850/900 MHz. Repeaters possible. 35 km hard limit.Unlimited cell size, low transmitter power permits large cellsUnlimited cell size, low transmitter power permits large cellsSmaller cells and lower indoors coverage on 2100 MHz; equivalent coverage indoors and superior range to GSM on 850/900 MHz.Smaller cells and lower coverage on the S band.Dense cells on millimeter waves.
Frequency utilization/Call densityVery low density0.2 MHz = 8 timeslots. Each timeslot can hold up to 2 calls (4 calls with VAMOS) through interleaving.Lower than CDMA-2000?1.228  MHz = 3Mbit/s5 MHz = 2 Mbit/s. 42Mbit/s for HSPA+. Each call uses 1.8-12 kbit/s depending on chosen quality and audio complexity.20 MHz400 MHz
Handoff HardHardSoftSoftSoftHardHard
Voice and Data at the same timeNoYes GPRS Class ANoNo EVDO / Yes SVDO [2] Yes [3] No (data only)
Voice possible through VoLTE or fallback to 2G/3G
No (data only)

Voice possible through VoLTE.

Revision and network compatibility
Standard or RevisionNetwork Compatibility
GSM (1991), GPRS (2000), EDGE (2003) GSM (2G, TDMA)
cdmaOne (1995) cdmaOne (2G, CDMA)
EV-DO (1999), Rev. A (2006), Rev. B (2006), SVDO (2011) CDMA2000 (3G, CDMA/TDMA)
UMTS (1999), HSDPA (2005), HSUPA (2007), HSPA+ (2009) UMTS (3G, CDMA)
LTE (2009, 3G), LTE Advanced (2011, 4G) 4G
5G NR (2018, 5G) 5G

Strengths and weaknesses of IS-95 and GSM [4]

Advantages of GSM

A cellular repeater is a type of bi-directional amplifier used to improve cell phone reception. A cellular repeater system commonly consists of a donor antenna that receives and transmits signal from nearby cell towers, coaxial cables, a signal amplifier, and an indoor rebroadcast antenna.

Talktime or talk time is a term used in the mobile device industry to describe the duration of constant use supported by a device's single fully charged battery while the device is performing a cellular call.

A SIM lock, simlock, network lock, carrier lock or (master) subsidy lock is a technical restriction built into GSM and CDMA mobile phones by mobile phone manufacturers for use by service providers to restrict the use of these phones to specific countries and/or networks. This is in contrast to a phone that does not impose any SIM restrictions.

Disadvantages of GSM

In the GSM cellular mobile phone standard, timing advance value corresponds to the length of time a signal takes to reach the base station from a mobile phone. GSM uses TDMA technology in the radio interface to share a single frequency between several users, assigning sequential timeslots to the individual users sharing a frequency. Each user transmits periodically for less than one-eighth of the time within one of the eight timeslots. Since the users are at various distances from the base station and radio waves travel at the finite speed of light, the precise arrival-time within the slot can be used by the base station to determine the distance to the mobile phone. The time at which the phone is allowed to transmit a burst of traffic within a timeslot must be adjusted accordingly to prevent collisions with adjacent users. Timing Advance (TA) is the variable controlling this adjustment.

Advantages of IS-95

Disadvantages of IS-95

Development of the market share of mobile standards

This graphic compares the market shares of the different mobile standards.

Cellphone subscribers by technology (left Y axis) and total number of subscribers globally (right Y axis) Cellphone-subscribers-by-technology.svg
Cellphone subscribers by technology (left Y axis) and total number of subscribers globally (right Y axis)

In a fast-growing market, GSM/3GSM (red) grows faster than the market and is gaining market share, the CDMA family (blue) grows at about the same rate as the market, while other technologies (grey) are being phased out

Comparison of wireless Internet standards

As a reference, a comparison of mobile and non-mobile wireless Internet standards follows.

Comparison of mobile Internet access methods
FamilyPrimary UseRadio Tech Downstream
HSPA+ 3GPP Mobile Internet CDMA/FDD
HSPA+ is widely deployed. Revision 11 of the 3GPP states that HSPA+ is expected to have a throughput capacity of 672 Mbit/s.
LTE 3GPP Mobile Internet OFDMA/MIMO/SC-FDMA 100 Cat3
150 Cat4
300 Cat5
(in 20 MHz FDD) [8]
50 Cat3/4
75 Cat5
(in 20 MHz FDD) [8]
LTE-Advanced update expected to offer peak rates up to 1 Gbit/s fixed speeds and 100 Mb/s to mobile users.
WiMax rel 1 802.16 WirelessMAN MIMO-SOFDMA 37 (10 MHz TDD)17 (10 MHz TDD)With 2x2 MIMO. [9]
WiMax rel 1.5 802.16-2009 WirelessMAN MIMO-SOFDMA 83 (20 MHz TDD)
141 (2x20 MHz FDD)
46 (20 MHz TDD)
138 (2x20 MHz FDD)
With 2x2 MIMO.Enhanced with 20 MHz channels in 802.16-2009 [9]
WiMAX rel 2.0 802.16m WirelessMAN MIMO-SOFDMA 2x2 MIMO
110 (20 MHz TDD)
183 (2x20 MHz FDD)
4x4 MIMO
219 (20 MHz TDD)
365 (2x20 MHz FDD)
2x2 MIMO
70 (20 MHz TDD)
188 (2x20 MHz FDD)
4x4 MIMO
140 (20 MHz TDD)
376 (2x20 MHz FDD)
Also, low mobility users can aggregate multiple channels to get a download throughput of up to 1 Gbit/s [9]
Flash-OFDM Flash-OFDMMobile Internet
mobility up to 200 mph (350 km/h)
Flash-OFDM 5.3
Mobile range 30 km (18 miles)
extended range 55 km (34 miles)
Wi-Fi 802.11
Wireless LAN OFDM/MIMO 288.8 (using 4x4 configuration in 20 MHz bandwidth) or 600 (using 4x4 configuration in 40 MHz bandwidth)

Antenna, RF front end enhancements and minor protocol timer tweaks have helped deploy long range P2P networks compromising on radial coverage, throughput and/or spectra efficiency (310 km & 382 km)

iBurst 802.20 Mobile Internet HC-SDMA/TDD/MIMO 9536Cell Radius: 3–12 km
Speed: 250 km/h
Spectral Efficiency: 13 bits/s/Hz/cell
Spectrum Reuse Factor: "1"
EDGE Evolution GSM Mobile Internet TDMA/FDD 1.60.5 3GPP Release 7
UMTS/3GSM Mobile Internet CDMA/FDD

HSDPA is widely deployed. Typical downlink rates today 2 Mbit/s, ~200 kbit/s uplink; HSPA+ downlink up to 56 Mbit/s.
UMTS-TDD UMTS/3GSMMobile Internet CDMA/TDD 16Reported speeds according to IPWireless using 16QAM modulation similar to HSDPA+HSUPA
EV-DO  Rel. 0
CDMA2000Mobile Internet CDMA/FDD 2.45
Rev B note: N is the number of 1.25 MHz carriers used. EV-DO is not designed for voice, and requires a fallback to 1xRTT when a voice call is placed or received.

Notes: All speeds are theoretical maximums and will vary by a number of factors, including the use of external antennas, distance from the tower and the ground speed (e.g. communications on a train may be poorer than when standing still). Usually the bandwidth is shared between several terminals. The performance of each technology is determined by a number of constraints, including the spectral efficiency of the technology, the cell sizes used, and the amount of spectrum available. For more information, see Comparison of wireless data standards .

For more comparison tables, see bit rate progress trends, comparison of mobile phone standards, spectral efficiency comparison table and OFDM system comparison table.

See also

Related Research Articles

Advanced Mobile Phone System

Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) was an analog mobile phone system standard developed by Bell Labs, and officially introduced in the Americas on October 13, 1983, Israel in 1986, Australia in 1987, Singapore in 1988, and Pakistan in 1990. It was the primary analog mobile phone system in North America through the 1980s and into the 2000s. As of February 18, 2008, carriers in the United States were no longer required to support AMPS and companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications have discontinued this service permanently. AMPS was discontinued in Australia in September 2000, in Pakistan by October 2004,, in Israel by January 2010, and Brazil by 2010.

Code-division multiple access Channel access method used by various radio communication technologies

Code-division multiple access (CDMA) is a channel access method used by various radio communication technologies.

Time-division multiple access channel access method for shared medium networks

Time-division multiple access (TDMA) is a channel access method for shared-medium networks. It allows several users to share the same frequency channel by dividing the signal into different time slots. The users transmit in rapid succession, one after the other, each using its own time slot. This allows multiple stations to share the same transmission medium while using only a part of its channel capacity. TDMA is used in the digital 2G cellular systems such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), IS-136, Personal Digital Cellular (PDC) and iDEN, and in the Digital Enhanced Cordless Telecommunications (DECT) standard for portable phones. TDMA was first used in satellite communication systems by Western Union in its Westar 3 communications satellite in 1979. It is now used extensively in satellite communications, combat-net radio systems, and passive optical network (PON) networks for upstream traffic from premises to the operator. For usage of Dynamic TDMA packet mode communication, see below.

In telecommunications and computer networks, a channel access method or multiple access method allows more than two terminals connected to the same transmission medium to transmit over it and to share its capacity. Examples of shared physical media are wireless networks, bus networks, ring networks and point-to-point links operating in half-duplex mode.

3G, short for third generation, is the third generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology. It is the upgrade for 2G and 2.5G GPRS networks, for faster data transfer speed. This is based on a set of standards used for mobile devices and mobile telecommunications use services and networks that comply with the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) specifications by the International Telecommunication Union. 3G finds application in wireless voice telephony, mobile Internet access, fixed wireless Internet access, video calls and mobile TV.

IS-54 and IS-136 are second-generation (2G) mobile phone systems, known as Digital AMPS (D-AMPS), and a further development of the North American 1G mobile system Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS). It was once prevalent throughout the Americas, particularly in the United States and Canada since the first commercial network was deployed in 1993. D-AMPS is considered end-of-life, and existing networks have mostly been replaced by GSM/GPRS or CDMA2000 technologies.

Cellular network communication network where the last link is wireless

A cellular network or mobile network is a communication network where the last link is wireless. The network is distributed over land areas called "cells", each served by at least one fixed-location transceiver, but more normally, three cell sites or base transceiver stations. These base stations provide the cell with the network coverage which can be used for transmission of voice, data, and other types of content. A cell typically uses a different set of frequencies from neighbouring cells, to avoid interference and provide guaranteed service quality within each cell.

A random-access channel (RACH) is a shared channel used by wireless terminals to access the mobile network for call set-up and bursty data transmission. Whenever mobile wants to make an MO call it schedules the RACH. RACH is transport-layer channel; the corresponding physical-layer channel is PRACH.

Spectral efficiency, spectrum efficiency or bandwidth efficiency refers to the information rate that can be transmitted over a given bandwidth in a specific communication system. It is a measure of how efficiently a limited frequency spectrum is utilized by the physical layer protocol, and sometimes by the media access control.

GAIT is a wireless standard developed in 1999 that allows cross-operation of mobile telephone technologies. Phones compliant with the GAIT standard can operate on either contemporary GSM networks, or the legacy IS-136 TDMA and AMPS networks found extensively throughout North America.

The air interface, or access mode, is the communication link between the two stations in mobile or wireless communication. The air interface involves both the physical and data link layers of the OSI model for a connection.

Single-carrier FDMA (SC-FDMA) is a frequency-division multiple access scheme. It is also called linearly precoded OFDMA (LP-OFDMA). Like other multiple access schemes, it deals with the assignment of multiple users to a shared communication resource. SC-FDMA can be interpreted as a linearly precoded OFDMA scheme, in the sense that it has an additional DFT processing step preceding the conventional OFDMA processing.

In radio resource management for wireless and cellular networks, channel allocation schemes allocate bandwidth and communication channels to base stations, access points and terminal equipment. The objective is to achieve maximum system spectral efficiency in bit/s/Hz/site by means of frequency reuse, but still assure a certain grade of service by avoiding co-channel interference and adjacent channel interference among nearby cells or networks that share the bandwidth.

A wide variety of different wireless data technologies exist, some in direct competition with one another, others designed for specific applications. Wireless technologies can be evaluated by a variety of different metrics of which some are described in this entry.

Opportunity Driven Multiple Access

Opportunity-Driven Multiple Access (ODMA) is a UMTS communications relaying protocol standard first introduced by the European Telecommunication Standards Institute (ETSI) in 1996. ODMA has been adopted by the 3rd-Generation Partnership Project, 3GPP to improve the efficiency of UMTS networks using the TDD mode. One of the objectives of ODMA is to enhance the capacity and the coverage of radio transmissions towards the boundaries of the cell. While mobile stations under the cell coverage area can communicate directly with the base station, mobile stations outside the cell boundary can still access the network and communicating with the base station via multihop transmission. Mobile stations with high data rate inside the cell are used as multihop relays.

International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced are the requirements issued by the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2008 for what is marketed as 4G mobile phone and Internet access service.


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