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What Is 4G UMTS?

A tablet using 4G mobile technology.
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  • Written By: C.B. Fox
  • Edited By: Susan Barwick
  • Last Modified Date: 18 October 2014
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Fourth-Generation universal mobile telecommunications system, often abbreviated 4G UMTS, is a wireless telecommunications data transfer standard. Though there are a number of devices that claim to use 4G UMTS, the original standards set by the International Telecommunication Network are not yet met by these devices. 4G UMTS uses many of the same devices and much of the same infrastructure as Third-Generation UMTS (3G UMTS).

UMTS, sometimes referred to as wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA), uses Internet protocol (IP) technology to connect wireless users with the Internet. First developed in the 1990s, UMTS is a reliable network that is frequently used to transmit data and voice. Mobile phones, laptop computers and other devices can connect to the Internet and make voice calls over a UMTS system.

Though not yet in wide use as of 2011, 4G UMTS calls for significant speed increases over the UMTS standard, which has been used since 2001. 3G UMTS requires that data be transferred at a peak rate of at least 200 kilobytes per second. In 4G UMTS, data must download at a rate of 100 megabytes per second in mobile devices and at 1 gigabyte per second for electronics connected to a local wireless access hub. Both 3G UMTS and 4G UMTS require the simultaneous transfer of voice and data, which was a requirement first established during the switch from second generation to third protocol. 3G UMTS and 4G UMTS can both transfer information using the same infrastructure.

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A number of pre-4G devices have been on the market starting as early as 2006. Though these devices are not up to 4G standards, they are considerably faster than the 3G standard. In December 2010, the International Telecommunication Union, which is managed by the United Nations, determined that some of the pre 4G technologies already on the market could label themselves as 4G even though they did not quite reach the levels required by the standards.

4G UMTS is one of a number of standards that wireless carriers can use. It is a common choice among carriers, mainly because the infrastructure has been around for a long time. Ultra Mobile Broadband (UMB) is a Qualcomm CDMA implementation that offers higher speeds than 3G UMTS though less than 4G UMTS. Many companies were dissatisfied with aspects, however. These companies may choose to work with UMTS instead of UMB as the 4G technologies and systems are released.

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