Monday, July 02, 2012

Cellular acronyms, what do they mean?

In the wireless industry it's very easy to become confused on exactly what type of technology is in your phone, or what should be in it. It seems like every time you turn around there is a new acronym a carrier comes up with that is the next "Must have" technology. Although moving forward with technology is important, it can quickly become confusing and difficult to choose accessories like an antenna or amplifier to help with reception. Below you'll find a quick reference to the different acronyms and what wireless generation they come from:


CDMA 1xRtt - Primarily used by Verizon, Virgin and Sprint this service is capable of both voice and data (not at the same time) and has a maximum transfer rate of 144Kbps on data.

GSM Edge - You'll find the Edge network on carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, which support both voice and data, but not at the same time. Edge speeds are slightly faster than the CDMA equipment, but nowhere close to 3G technology.


CDMA EVDO Rev A - All current phones through Verizon and Sprint will use EVDO (Evolution Data Optimized) technology. Devices connected to 3G are capable of up to 3.1Mbps download and 1.8Mbps upload, however, still can't do voice and data at the same time.

GSM HSPA - High Speed Packet Access is widely used throughout the world and offers faster download/upload performance than EVDO technology. This supports voice and data at the same time, which you might remember from AT&T commercials using it as a selling point. Devices incorporating GSM technology also use a SIM card making it easy to swap between cellular devices.

Fake 4G:

WiMAX - Stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access was debuted by Sprint and Clearwire. The technology was the first to use the buzzword 4G and was faster than traditional 3G. Users saw bursts over 10Mbps download and 1.5Mbps upload, but far from what the IMT-Advanced defined as true 4G.

HSPA+ - This technology is a technical enhancement of HSPA and what AT&T started advertising as 4G. This is widely available, four times faster than HSPA and offers lower latency. Again, HSPA+ isn't technically 4G technology by IMT-Advanced standards and is typically referred to as 3.5G


Long term evolution is the current buzz terminology and all major carriers are now shifting towards this technology. At this time carriers are only using this technology for data services, but plan to introduce a voice service similar to VOIP over LTE. When debuted this technology didn't quite meet the IMT-Advanced defined 100Mbit requirement to be true 4G, however, they've changed the requirement and this technology is defined as true 4G service.

The next natural step in evolution will be 4G LTE-A, which the 'A' stands for Advanced. LTE-A will be cable of 100Mbps at a minimum and will mark another milestone for the wireless carriers. You can anticipate hearing more about this service sometime in 2013 when carriers complete LTE revisions and move towards LTE-A tower upgrades.