Understanding CDMA, EVDO, GSM, HSPA, TDMA, and UMTS

We know that boosters are simple, yet complex.  If you’re doing your research on a mobile or smart device that has to do with cellular technology, or our boosters, it’s pretty likely you’ll come across some of these terms at some point.  With that in mind, here are some basic definitions of terms you may come across when you are researching cell phone plans, smart devices or see mentioned on occasion in different specifics when researching boosters. Read on to discover what these terms mean and click the links to read more about these different mobile technologies, so you can avoid feeling like this:


For further reading on different mobile technology generations, read our previous blog post here

Cellular Technology Terms

CDMA: stands for Code Division Multiple Access. CDMA is used in different radio communication technologies. This is a form of multiple access, which allows different transmitters to send information simultaneously over one communication channel. Doing this lets several users share a band of frequencies (bandwidth). Each transmitter is assigned a code and employs spread spectrum technology to so that there’s no interference between users. This technology was first discovered by Russian scientist Dmitry Ageev in 1935.

CDMA2000– a family of 3G mobile technology standards for sending voice, data, and signaling data between cell phones and cell tower sites. It was developed by 3GPP and compares and competes with the 3G standard of UMTS, also created by 3GPP. CDMA2000 was primarily used in North American and South Korea.

EVDO (or EV-DO): stands for Evolution-Data Optimized, which is a telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals, typically for broadband Internet access. EV-DO is an evolution of the CDMA2000 standard that supports high data rates and can be deployed alongside a wireless carrier’s voice services. This was originally designed by Qualcomm in 1999.

GSM: abbreviation for Global System for Mobile Communications (or Groupe Spécial Mobile) which was created as a standard by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation digital cellular networks used by mobile devices such as tablets, first deployed in Finland in 1991. Since 2014, it is the worldwide standard for mobile communications, controlling over 90% of the global market. (Click here to read more about the differences between GSM and CDMA.)

Here is a very in-depth video about how GSM works:

HSPA(+): a combination of High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA), two previously existing mobile protocols. These extended and improved the performance of existing 3G mobile telecommunication networks. For device users, these new speeds were closer to the developing LTE networks.  HSPA+ provides faster data rates, up to 168 Mbit/s to the device and 22 Mbit/s from the device.

TDMA: stands for Time Division Multiple Access is a channel access method for shared medium networks. This is used in the digital 2G cellular systems such as GSM. 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 getting its own time slot. This allows multiple stations to share the same radio frequency channel (or transmission medium) while only using a part of its channel capacity. (This system is also known as Digital AMPS, and were used to develop 1G mobile system AMPS. Digital AMPS is considered obsolete and those existing networks have been replaced by CDMA2000 or GSM technologies.)

UMTS-an abbreviation for Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. It is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), 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.  It uses wideband code division multiple access for greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.  This technology is also occasionally called FOMA (Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access) or 3GSM. Most commonly used in Europe, Japan, and China. 

Here is a very in-depth video about how UMTS works:


We hope this short glossary of terms helped you in your research. For more terms, check out our glossary page.  Read these links for any questions you have about our boosters, free floor plan analysis, or professional integration. For all other questions, don’t hesitate to contact our office and talk to our amazing sales team for advice or troubleshooting.

2 thoughts on “Understanding CDMA, EVDO, GSM, HSPA, TDMA, and UMTS”

  1. Thanks for the breakdown, we’ve been shopping for new phones and all this lingo is silly. What about 4G LTE though? That’s what we keep seeing on most phones right now.

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