Universal Mobile Telecommunications System

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Comparison of the maximum achievable bit rates with different mobile radio standards. ( logarithmic representation )

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System ( UMTS ) is a third generation ( 3G ) cellular standard with significantly higher data transmission rates (up to 42  Mbit / s with HSPA + , otherwise max. 384 kbit / s) than with the second generation (2G ), the GSM standard (up to 220 kbit / s with EDGE , otherwise max. 55 kbit / s with GPRS ).


The ITU had selected UMTS for IMT-2000 ; it is thus one of the third generation standards for mobile communications . Originally, the ETSI (European Telecommunications Standards Institute) standardized UMTS; today the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) maintains it. The standard is constantly being expanded, for example HSDPA increased the maximum possible receive data rate ( downlink ). A comparable technology is available for the transmission data rate with HSUPA .


UMTS includes extended multimedia services as well as satellite and ground-based broadcasting systems . The following services can be offered via UMTS:


In October 2008 there were 230 3G networks in 100 countries with over 400 million subscribers, 300 million use UMTS, and of these 60 million use HSPA (High Speed ​​Packet Access).

The country with the largest number of participants in Europe is Italy : H3G , Vodafone Italia and Telecom Italia alone had almost 20 million 3G subscribers. For Germany , the industry association BITKOM reported 15.9 million UMTS customers at the end of 2008 and almost 29 million at the end of 2011 (35% more than in the previous year). Throughout Germany in mid-2010, across network operators, a good 70% of the locations at which a mobile network is available were supplied with 3G (UMTS or HSDPA). At the end of 2008, there were 3,344,000 3G SIM cards in use in Austria , 812,700 of which were contracts for broadband mobile Internet via UMTS.


According to consistent media reports, the hacker Tobias Engel showed in December 2014 that communication via the UMTS mobile communications standard, which is considered secure, can be intercepted, read and manipulated without great technical effort. According to their own information, the German mobile network operators are working on ways to close the gaps they have used.



A-Netz B-Netz C-Netz D-Netz E-Netz Universal Mobile Telecommunications System Long Term Evolution LTE-Advanced 5G

Through the auction of UMTS licenses in July / August 2000, the Federal Republic of Germany raised 98.8 billion DM (equivalent to around 50 billion euros ). This prompted the then Federal Minister of Finance, Hans Eichel, to say that UMTS stands for "unexpected additional income to repay national debts". In absolute terms, the companies' expenditures for the licenses bought at auction were highest in Germany (not per inhabitant) internationally.

Six licenses for around 16 billion DM each were awarded to the following mobile communications providers : T-Mobile Deutschland GmbH, Vodafone D2 GmbH, MobilCom Multimedia GmbH , Auditorium Investments Germany S.à.rl (originally a consortium of E-Plus and Hutchison , later renamed E-plus 3G Luxemburg S.à.rl), O 2 and Group 3G (a consortium made up of the Spanish Telefónica and the Finnish Sonera ).

The licenses were issued on October 6, 2000. Two licenses were later given up: At the end of 2003, MobilCom Multimedia GmbH voluntarily returned its license to the RegTP and thus waived the exercise of license and frequency usage rights; In October 2002 Group 3G lost its license when it left the German market , as it could not be sold on to third parties.

The high costs and the low availability of usable data services were one of the main reasons for the slow breakthrough of UMTS in the mass market: The companies justified their unattractive high fees with the immense license costs, the customers were very reluctant to accept the offers and the shareholders complained about falling company values . In retrospect, the high auction result has damaged the mobile communications market. The auction effectively did not result in an intended competition , as the high entry prices prevented smaller mobile phone companies from entering the market ; Large companies lost the necessary liquidity for a rapid network expansion due to the license fee which was due immediately, and goodwill was lost due to the inability to sell a UMTS license that was no longer required. In addition, word quickly got around in the market that good UMTS reception was only ensured in a few metropolitan areas , but apart from that in rural areas, due to the short range of high-frequency services, the data services could not be used or only slowly. In Germany, there were first test runs in 2003 for a few corporate customers who could only use data cards . UMTS has been commercially available in Germany since 2004, and in the following years there were also sufficient numbers of corresponding mobile phones.

At the beginning of February 2007, the Federal Network Agency announced that it would auction the returned and other UMTS frequency blocks (again); originally planned for 2008, the auction was held in May 2010.

At the end of May 2010, licenses for the operation of the UMTS successor standard Long Term Evolution (LTE) were auctioned in Germany as part of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project ( 3GPP ) . Telekom Deutschland , Vodafone and Telefónica Germany together invested around 4.4 billion euros in the UMTS successor. This should also use the UMTS frequencies in the long term and thus completely replace them.

At the beginning of July 2019, Telekom, Vodafone and O2 announced that UMTS would be switched off so that frequencies for LTE and 5G would be free. Vodafone wants to switch off 3G by June 30, 2021 and O2 wants to switch off 3G by 2022. Telekom has been reducing 3G capacities since 2020 and plans to switch off 3G by the end of 2021.


Following an auction process at the end of 2000, the Federal Communications Commission (ComCom) awarded four UMTS licenses. License number 1 went to Swisscom AG for the sum of 50 million francs, license number 2 went to Sunrise for the sum of 50 million francs, license number 3 went to Orange Communications SA (now Salt) for the sum of 55 million francs. 3G Mobile AG bought concession number 4 for a total of 50 million francs.

Each operator received 2x15 MHz FDD frequencies and 5 MHz TDD frequencies in the 2.1 GHz band (UMTS core band); a total of 35 MHz from the 2.1 GHz band was allocated to each operator. In their license decree, the operators were required to supply 50% of the Swiss population with UMTS services by the end of 2004 at the latest. Operators of UMTS networks who already have a GSM network are also obliged to offer the new UMTS operator without a GSM network national roaming. Thus, a new operator has the opportunity to achieve good area coverage right from the start by means of a roaming contract with an established GSM network operator.

The licenses were granted for a period of 15 years. As of December 31, 2004, Orange, Sunrise and Swisscom fulfilled the coverage requirements with regard to population coverage of 50%. Only 3GMobile, as the fourth UMTS concessionaire, had not set up a corresponding infrastructure by the reporting date. Subsequently, with its decision of April 12, 2006, ComCom withdrew the license for 3G Mobile. The revocation of the license was confirmed by the decision of the Federal Supreme Court on October 26, 2006.

The Federal Communications Commission (Comcom) decided in 2007 to renew GSM mobile phone licenses from Salt (Orange), Sunrise and Swisscom Mobile. The old concessions will expire at the end of May 2008 and will be renewed for five years. The innovation mainly included converting the GSM mobile phone license into a technology-neutral mobile phone license. Thus, all frequencies in the 900MHz range have also been released for UMTS services. All subsequent frequency assignments were also awarded on a technology-neutral basis, meaning that the mobile communications providers have a free choice of which services they use which frequencies. This decision by the Federal Communications Commission (Comcom) led over time to a real leap in network quality.

The network operators Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise began to consistently expand their UMTS networks on the 900MHz band. In the meantime, all of Salt's GSM900 transmission systems have been converted to UMTS900 transmission systems. Swisscom and Sunrise still send GSM900 signals from some transmitter stations (at Swisscom until the end of 2020 and Sunrise until the end of 2022).

Since then, it has been recommended to use a UMTS-enabled device to use a mobile phone in Switzerland in order to ensure accessibility.

Other countries

The world's first UMTS network was put into operation in 2001 by Manx Telecom on the Isle of Man .

The Austrian Mobilkom Austria started the first national UMTS network in Europe on September 25, 2002 , but was still unable to offer large numbers of UMTS mobile phones to end customers. The Austrian provider Hutchison Drei Austria in May 2003 was the first provider of mobile video telephony over a UMTS network in the German-speaking area, which also had a corresponding number of suitable mobile phones .

Most of the UMTS license auctions in Europe were held in 2000, led by Great Britain in the spring of 2000, with proceeds of 22.477 billion pounds , about 38 billion euros. In relative terms per accessible resident, this amount is higher than the result of the German auction. In France , the licenses were granted at the end of 2000, taking into account the quality features promised by the providers (network coverage, speed of expansion). Far less than in other countries, the licenses were sold to companies in Spain at 13 euros per inhabitant and in Switzerland at around 7 francs (almost 5 euros) per inhabitant.

Data transfer method

There are several phases of UMTS. The first phase (1999 release, R99 for short) differs from the previous GSM system primarily through a new wideband CDMA radio access technology based on CDMA . This enables higher transmission rates . In addition, a mobile station, i.e. the UMTS-capable terminal, can send or receive multiple data streams at the same time. This allows users to make calls and receive emails at the same time, for example .

Protocol layers (strata)

A distinction is made between access stratum and non-access stratum , i.e. a combination of the protocol layers that relate to radio access or those that do not relate to radio access (but rather the services and subscriber management in the core network).

Duplex process

FDD mode

In FDD ( Frequency Division Duplex ) mode, the mobile and base stations transmit in two different frequency ranges : the mobile device transmits in the uplink channel and the base station in the downlink channel. The two frequency ranges are each 5 MHz wide. The individual transmission channels are implemented using pure CDMA . The German UMTS network operators are currently setting up their networks in FDD mode, the data transfer rate that can be achieved with this is 384 kbit / s for the downlink in R99. The method is intended for large-area radio network coverage.

Usable frequencies

The following frequency bands can be used by the mobile operator in FDD mode:

Band name Frequency band Uplink Downlink Duplex spacing Commercial use in the region
I. 2100 1920 - 1980 MHz 2110-2170 MHz 190 MHz Africa , America , Asia , Japan , Australia , Oceania , Europe
II 1900 1850-1910 MHz 1930 - 1990 MHz 80 MHz America
III 1800 1710-1785 MHz 1805-1880 MHz 95 MHz
IV 1700 1710-1755 MHz 2110-2155 MHz 400 MHz America
V 850 824-849 MHz 869 - 894 MHz 45 MHz America , Asia , Australia , Oceania
VI 800 830-840 MHz 875-885 MHz 45 MHz
VII 2600 2500-2570 MHz 2620-2690 MHz 120 MHz
VIII 900 880-915 MHz 925-960 MHz 45 MHz Africa , America , Asia , Japan , Australia , Oceania , Europe
IX 1700 1749.9-1784.9 MHz 1844.9-1879.9 MHz 95 MHz Japan
X 1700 1710-1770 MHz 2110-2170 MHz 400 MHz
XI 1500 1427.9-1452.9 MHz 1475.9-1500.9 MHz 48 MHz Japan
XII 700 698-716 MHz 728 - 746 MHz 30 MHz
XIII 700 777 - 787 MHz 746 - 756 MHz 31 MHz
XIV 700 788 - 798 MHz 758 - 768 MHz 30 MHz
XV reserved reserved
XVI reserved reserved
XVII reserved reserved
XVIII reserved reserved
XIX 830-845 MHz 875-890 MHz 45 MHz Japan
  • Worldwide roaming is possible with the 4 main frequency bands (yellow background) .
  • For cost reasons, new cellular networks were built in rural regions without an existing GSM cellular network (e.g. Australia / Telstra ) using UMTS cellular technology in frequency band 5 (850 MHz).
  • In areas with existing GSM mobile radio coverage on frequency band 5 (850 MHz) or 8 (900 MHz), UMTS is often operated in the same frequency band alongside GSM .

Situation in Germany

The 2100 MHz frequency band ( E-UTRA Band 1) with 60 MHz used in Germany was divided into six bands of 10 MHz each and assigned as follows:

operator Uplink Downlink Price 2000 Price 2010
Vodafone 1920.3-1930.2 MHz 2110.3-2120.2 MHz 16.47 billion DM (8.42 billion €) -
Vodafone 1930.2-1935.15 MHz 2120.2-2125.15 MHz 16.45 billion DM (8.41 billion €) , to Group 3G / Quam ; returned later, was split into two blocks in 2010 and re-auctioned. € 93.757 million
E-plus 1935.15-1940.1 MHz 2125.15-2130.1 MHz € 103.323 million
E-plus 1940.1-1950.0 MHz 2130.1-2140.0 MHz 16.42 billion DM (8.39 billion €) -
E-plus 1950.0-1954.95 MHz 2140.0-2144.95 MHz 16.37 billion DM (8.37 billion €) , to Mobilcom ; returned later, was split into two blocks in 2010 and re-auctioned. € 84.064 million
O 2 1954.95-1959.9 MHz 2144.95-2149.9 MHz € 66.931 million
O 2 1959.9-1969.8 MHz 2149.9-2159.8 MHz 16.52 billion DM (8.45 billion €) -
Telekom Germany GmbH 1969.8-1979.7 MHz 2159.8-2169.7 MHz 16.58 billion DM (8.48 billion €) -

Up to two channels can be accommodated in each band. The exact center frequency can be freely selected by the mobile network operator, but should be a multiple of 200 kHz (in exceptional cases also 100 kHz). In addition, neighboring channels must not be disturbed.

Situation in Austria

In Austria, the FDD bands (E-UTRA Band 1) have been awarded to five operators:

operator Uplink Downlink price
Mobilkom Austria (A1) 1920.3-1930.1 MHz 2110.3-2120.1 MHz ATS 2.36 billion (€ 171 million)
Hutchison Drei Austria ("3") 1930.1-1944.9 MHz 2120.1-2134.9 MHz ATS 1.91 billion (€ 139 million)
Orange Austria (formerly ONE) 1944.9-1959.7 MHz 2134.9-2149.7 MHz ATS 1.65 billion (€ 120 million)
3G Mobile (100% subsidiary of Mobilkom Austria) 1959.7-1964.7 MHz 2149.7-2154.7 MHz ATS 2.36 billion (€ 171 million)
Magenta Telecom 1964.7-1979.7 MHz 2154.7-2169.7 MHz 2.35 billion + 1.56 billion ATS (171 million + 113 million €)

Originally, six and not just five frequency bands were assigned. Tele.ring was awarded the contract for the frequency band from 1939.9 to 1949.7 MHz in the uplink and 2129.9 - 2139.7 MHz in the downlink for ATS 1.56 billion (€ 113 million) , which will continue until the Tele.ring UMTS network was also in use. One condition for the purchase of Tele.ring by T-Mobile Austria was the sale of these frequencies to competitors one and Hutchison Drei Austria .

Situation in Switzerland

At the beginning of October 2019, Swisscom upgraded its UMTS operations from the 2100 MHz frequency to the 900 MHz frequency band. (Older devices usually released before 2009 only use this frequency range and can therefore only be used with Swisscom in GSM / GPRS / EDGE mode; Sunrise and Salt still use this frequency range occasionally for UMTS). Sunrise and Salt have also largely set UMTS on the 2100MHz band and transmit largely in the 900MHz band in favor of better distribution of lower frequencies. For more see mobile radio frequencies in Switzerland .

TDD mode

In TDD ( Time Division Duplex ) mode, the mobile and base stations transmit in the same frequency band, but at different times. For this purpose, a frequency carrier is divided into 15 timeslots, the total transmission duration of which is 10 ms. Each timeslot is in turn subdivided into several radio channels using CDMA. The method is technically more complex, since timing problems can occur if the transmitter is moving or is far away from the base station. With W-CDMA in TDD mode, a data transfer rate of up to 2 Mbit / s (more precisely 1920 kbit / s) should be able to be achieved for the downlink. This technology is not yet commercially available in Germany . In the Czech Republic, T-Mobile CZ has been operating a network with UMTS TDD technology since 2005, which is currently limited to Prague and will later also be offered in other larger cities.

  • Usable frequencies:
  1. 2010 MHz - 2025 MHz (E-UTRA band 34)
  2. 1900 MHz - 1920 MHz (E-UTRA band 33)

Situation in Germany

Although there is no TDD network in operation in Germany, the frequencies have been assigned as follows:

The blocks occupied by O 2 were auctioned off at the 2010 frequency auction by the Federal Network Agency for € 5.7 million each.

Situation in Austria

The TDD frequencies in Austria are assigned as follows:

Situation in Switzerland

The TDD mobile radio frequencies are not used in Switzerland. Only Swisscom has a license to use a 45 MHz frequency band for TDD mobile communications. Swisscom does not use this frequency band.


The further development of High Speed ​​Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) enables significantly higher receive data rates (so-called “downlink”). Various device categories have been defined, which differ in the types of modulation supported (QPSK or 16QAM), the number of channels that can be received simultaneously and the minimum time interval between HSDPA blocks. However, the practically achievable and usable receive data rate is generally lower due to interference. In addition, the achievable data rate also depends on the capability of the end device. Current devices support HSDPA category 8, with which up to 7.2 Mbit / s can be downloaded, while newer devices already support HSDPA categories 14 and 24 (up to 21.1 Mbit / s or 42.2 Mbit / s) support.

These speeds have so far been available in Germany in the UMTS networks of T-Mobile , Vodafone and O 2 . In Germany, the first providers introduced HSDPA category 8 with a maximum of 7.2 Mbit / s in mid-2007. T-Mobile and Vodafone now offer HSDPA speeds of 42.2 Mbit / s. O 2, on the other hand, provides a maximum speed of 21.1 Mbit / s.

In the course of the expansion of HSDPA, the maximum possible send data rate (so-called "uplink") can be increased to 5.8 Mbit / s using High Speed ​​Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA). To use this significantly higher speed, you need a device that supports HSUPA. All German network operators offer HSUPA in their UMTS networks.

See also


  • Thorsten Benkner, Christoph Stepping: UMTS . J. Schlembach Fachverlag, Weil der Stadt 2002, ISBN 3-935340-07-9 .
  • Thorsten Benkner: Basics of mobile radio , J. Schlembach Fachverlag, Wilburgstetten 2007, ISBN 978-3-935340-44-1 .
  • Martin Sauter: Basic course in mobile communication systems . Vieweg, 2011, ISBN 978-3-8348-1407-4 .
  • Robert Brunner (Ed.): More fun and information with UMTS . Industrial Media Verlag, Augsburg 2006. ISBN 3-00-017877-5 .
  • Bernhard Walke: Cellular networks and their protocols . Vol. 1. Stuttgart 2001. ISBN 3-519-26430-7 .
  • Bernhard Walke, Marc P. Althoff, Peter Seidenberg: UMTS - a course . Schlembach-Fachverlag, Weil der Stadt 2002. ISBN 3-935340-22-2 .
  • Christian Lüders: Mobile radio systems . Basics, functionality, planning aspects. Vogel, Würzburg 2001. ISBN 3-8023-1847-1 .
  • Martin Wuschke: UMTS: packet switching in the transport network, protocol aspects , system overview . Teubner-Verlag, Wiesbaden 2003. ISBN 3-519-00465-8 .

Individual evidence

  1. 300 million UMTS subscribers: mobile broadband goes global. October 6, 2008, accessed February 19, 2015 .
  2. UMTS forum: Top Ten Operators Ranked by WCDMA Connections
  3. 16 million UMTS connections in Germany ( Memento of the original from February 19, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bitkom.org archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , Bitkom , February 15, 2009
  4. UMTS boom continues ( memento of the original from November 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Bitkom , August 7, 2012 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bitkom.org
  5. UMTS availability: 70% network coverage achieved , July 7, 2010
  6. ^ RTR Telekom Monitor , RTR , May 15, 2009
  7. Ultimate listening nightmare , Sueddeutsche.de, December 26, 2014
  8. Dispute over UMTS award practice , teltarif.de
  9. UMTS auction ended , teltarif.de
  10. ARD exchange: 10 years of UMTS - no reason to celebrate?
  11. ^ "Three, two, one - Mainz" , Der Spiegel (issue 13/2010)
  12. Message on tagesschau.de from February 6, 2007 ( Memento from March 1, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Federal Network Agency: Press release from May 20, 2010
  14. Markus Weidner: Telekom plans 4G on UMTS frequency: "GSM will survive UMTS". In: teltarif.de. March 17, 2017. Retrieved August 28, 2019 .
  15. Dominik Hayon: The shutdown affects millions of customers: Telekom, Vodafone & O2 are preparing the end of UMTS. In: Chip.de . August 4, 2019, accessed October 2, 2019 .
  16. Bastian Ebert: The shutdown of the 3G network: this is the current status at Telekom, Vodafone and O2. In: News, tips and tricks about tariffs, flat rates and mobile phones. May 17, 2020, accessed on August 24, 2020 (German).
  17. 3G: Telefónica decides to switch off UMTS - Golem.de. Retrieved on August 24, 2020 (German).
  18. 4G / 5G: Telekom switches off half of the 3G capacity - Golem.de. Retrieved on August 24, 2020 (German).
  19. Markus Weidner: Telekom: UMTS shutdown by the end of 2021 at the latest. Accessed on August 24, 2020 .
  20. Federal Office of Communications: Media information from December 6, 2000. License prices: from CHF 50 million, population at the end of 2000: 7.2 million.
  21. 3GPP TS 25.104: Base Station (BS) radio transmission and reception (FDD); Cape. 5: Frequency bands and channel arrangement ( English , ZIP / DOC; 505 KB) September 30, 2009. Retrieved on December 13 of 2009.
  22. a b c Eco information document on the use of mobile bands in CEPT ( Memento from July 27, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
  23. a b Last round result of the frequency auction ( memento of the original from February 9, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.bundesnetzagentur.de
  24. Frequency allocation in Austria ( Memento of the original dated February 1, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.umtslink.at

Web links

Commons : Universal Mobile Telecommunications System  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files