UMTS vs WCDMA: Difference and Comparison

The third generation aims for the technology of telecommunications of wireless mobile. It is the upgrade for 2.75G and 2.5G GPRS networks for data transfer at a faster rate.

It supports services that provide a transfer rate of information of at least 144 kbits/s.  

The technologies for mobile networks for the third generation have added several features. There are many more aside from the typical managing and calling capabilities of the older network of 2G.

Several new terminologies come with it, which seems confusing. In this article, the main focus is on the UMTS and WCDMA technologies. 

Key Takeaways

  1. UMTS is a 3G mobile communication standard, while WCDMA is the primary air interface for UMTS.
  2. WCDMA provides a broader spectrum for data transmission, enabling faster data rates than older technologies.
  3. UMTS supports multiple access technologies, including WCDMA, TD-SCDMA, and HSPA.


The difference between the UMTS and the WCDMA is their technology. UMTS uses cellular technology, whereas WCDMA uses radio technology. In the zone of the 3G network, UMTS is localized in all the networks. WCDMA works well and provides the advantages of network flexibility to the communication system. 


The abbreviation for Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service is UMTS. It offers a consistent service set to computer, phone, and mobile users, no matter in the world they are located.

Major standard manufacturers and bodies endorse it and is the planned standard around the world for mobile users. 

The WCDMA stands for Wideband Code Division Multiple Access.

It is a third-generation standard that employs the channel access method of DS-CDMA and the FDD method to give high capacity and high-speed service.

Among the UMTS variants, it is one of the most commonly used variants. 

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonUMTSWCDMA
SpeedFasterRuns at the speed of GSM and that is the reason being slower than UMTS.
TechnologyCellular technologyRadio technology
Basic channelGSMCDMA
Coverage areaLessMore
Communication devicesIt cannot be used aloneMostly used in all phones, but it is combined with GSM or UMTS in some cases.

What is UMTS? 

The UMTS mobile cellular system of the third generation for networks is based on the GSM standard.

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Maintained and uploaded by the 3GPP, UMTS is one of the components of the International Telecommunication Union IMT-2000 and compares with the CDMA 2000.  

UMTS uses W-CDMA technology of radio access to offer spectral bandwidth and efficiency to mobile network operators. It specifies a complete network system consisting of the core network, user authentication via SIM cards, and the radio access network.  

The technology mentioned in UMTS is also known as 3GSM or FOMA (Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access).

Unlike CDMA2000 (IMT Multi-carrier) and EDGE (IMT Single-carrier), UMTS needed stations of new bases and allocations of new frequency. Its networks are combined with EDGE/GSM.  

In 2002, the first national UMTS network for the consumer was launched. It gave heavy emphasis on mobile applications provided by telcos, such as video calling and mobile TV.

The high speed of UMTS data is now mostly utilized for Internet access, such as experience in Japan

What is WCDMA?  

WCDMA is a mobile communication system of the 3rd generation that uses CDMA technology over a frequency band that is wide enough to provide efficient voice and high-speed multimedia services.

Its infrastructure is compatible with the system of mobile radio complication of GSM.  

Upgrading or installing WCDMA technology-led mobile service providers to give their services of customers wireless broadband and more efficiently upgrade their system.

This system is composed of radio towers, packet data interconnection systems, and mobile devices.  

The WCDMA system uses radio channels of two types: TDD or time division duplex and the FDD or frequency division duplex.

The primary use of FDD radio channels is for wide-area data services and voice channels.  

When it comes to TDD channels, they are used for dual-frequency bands providing systems.

Three key parts compose the WCDMA system: UTRAN, UE, UMTS, and a network for core interconnecting.

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The core network is mainly divided into packet-switched (primarily data) and circuit-switched (primary voice) parts. 

Main Differences Between UMTS and WCDMA 

  1. UMTS is only developed for 3G networks, while 3G networks and 3G+ networks are accessible in WCDMA. Hence, in the zone of the 3G network, UMTS is localized in all the networks. WCDMA works well and provides the advantages of network flexibility to the communication system.  
  2. UMTS has no code division standards and depends on the system’s communication frequency between the channels. Meanwhile, code divisions are used in WCDMA to divide the channels through which users can understand all the networks and channels.  
  3. In UMTS, signals are not handled easily and can be in different paths sometimes, making communication difficult. On the other hand, any path signals can be handled easily, which explains the efficiency of WCDMA.  
  4. Due to the dependence of UMTS on any of the excess networks for providing support, its phones are not available as well as the UMTS arena, so the phone supports both WCDMA and GSM.  
  5. UMTS transfers data using packets, and the system cannot offer efficiency compared to WCDMA. On the flip side, the system of WCDMA is more efficient, and while transferring data, it does not cause issues. 
Difference Between UMTS and WCDMA

Last Updated : 13 July, 2023

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