UMTS WCDMA vs HSPA- Which 3G upgrade is better?

The transition from 3G to 3.5G is heavily based off of the technological evolution of various standards. In fact, these changes are responsible for advancements incorporated onto 4G; whose benefits we enjoy today. Here is UMTS WCDMA vs. HSPA with more.

In the world of telecommunications, upgrades within networking technologies are designed to improve rates, capacity, efficiency and overall performance of preceding technologies. This standard holds true with the third generation of cellular networking technology which is based on an expansive collection of upgrades and technological based changes.

If you are interested in the first half of 3G’s evolution, then here is our comprehensive review and comparison for both UMTS WCDMA and HSPA: the multiplexing access technologies upon which 3G was built. 3G’s UMTS network architecture consists of many different elements: but we will focus on the radio access technology: WDCMA, comparing it to the newer HSPA interface. Take a look.

What are the differences between UMTS WCDMA and HSPA?

HSPA (Winner) 
In full
Wideband Code Division Multiple Access
High Speed Packet Access
Release time and information
3GPP Release 99
3GPP Release 5 and 3GPP Release 6
Peak Data rates
3.6Mbps, 7.2Mbps
Replacement for
CDMA 2000


UMTS WCDMA vs. HSPA- How these two compare


Speed is among the many different ways users can gauge performance between different air interface techs. Notably, HSPA offers faster connection speeds with better rates, capacity and much more. This is understandable considering this technology was designed as an upgrade for WCDMA. Depending on the type of modulation deployed, HSPA offers speeds ranging from 3.6Mps – 7.2Mbps, or upwards. These are unavailable over WCDMA transmission which is only capable of 384Kbps connections.

With these improvements over HSPA, and faster access speeds, users’ internet demands are better met on HSPA based 3G networks compared to WCDMA.


In telecommunications, latency basically describes the response time. HSPA based 3G networks offer reduced latency as one of its perks. While WCDMA, compared to the traditional CDMA technology, also features a reduction in this regard, HSPA based networks offer even lower latencies. With this, users can enjoy even more dependable 3G services over HSPA interface compared to WCDMA ones. Some of the benefits of this reduction include decrease in lag within the system and improved responsiveness, with more natural experiences when operating over video or audio.

Networking Generation

Technically, both WCDMA and HSPA are third Generation networking technologies: even though some users group HSPA as part of 3.5G technology. WCDMA was deployed over 3G networks long before the HSPA protocols were developed. In fact, HSPA was designed as a replacement for the less efficient WCDMA. The fact that HSPA is an upgrade, makes this access standard technically better than WCDMA.

UMTS WCDMA vs HSPA – A comparison review


3g vs LTE

UMTS, sometimes referred to as WCDMA is the mobile cellular technology upon which 3G network was based. To clarify: Wideband Code Division Multiple Access technology is a piece of technology used on earlier 3G UMTS network architecture. With it, 3G services were able to provide faster connection speeds, better capacity and overall better spectral efficiency compared to air interfaces available on 2G networking. These in addition to more dynamic Bandwidth adaptation with higher data rates are some of the benefits WCDMA brought to 3G networking.

WCDMA is based off CDMA, Code Division Multiplexing Access, and offers wider frequency bands for more efficient transmission power. This technology operates on 5MHz channels and is designed to accommodate voice and data over these channels.

Various interference control measures incorporated into WCDMA functioning allows for a significant improvement in Voice capacity over this technology. Moreover, unlike traditional CDMA, WCDMA features better power control with soft handover.

WCDMA standards have the capacity to reach 384Kbps transmission speeds, rates previously unavailable over CDMA. Overall, the improvements on 3G with regards to Uplink and Downlink speeds allow even more extensive applications, with users enjoying perks such as higher internet access speeds, video conferencing and even video streaming services in high definition.

Ideally, this technology was developed to replace 2G’s GSM technology, a standardization carried out by the 3GPP initiative. Moreover, WCDMA is foundational to the development of the more advanced HSPA technology.


High Speed Packet Access as it is known in full is one of the major turning points for 3G networking technologies. The standard is a culmination of two technologies, HSDPA and HSUPA: both of which were developed as part of the 3GPP initiative in the early 2000’s. However, HSPA was commercially deployed later on. Initially, these technologies increased data rates on 3G networks to peak downlink speeds of 3.6Mbps, and 7.2Mbps.

HSPA tech represents the transition point from the older WCDMA access technology to the faster HSPA+ technology. In fact, HSPA+ is not too far off on the evolution timeline from the all IP networking technology currently available: 4G LTE.

This technology was developed as the replacement for the WCDMA radio access technology we have discussed above. Ideally, HSPA was deployed for improved networking over 3G systems, with better performance compared to 3G networks operating on WCDMA standards. With enhanced features and spectral efficiency, HSPA allowed carriers to fully exploit potential over 3G UMTS connections. Moreover, this technology allowed better capacity, improvement in latency and higher speeds on 3G connections.


Based on the information above, cellular networking has come a long way, and continues to evolve with even faster technologies incorporated into the different cellular networking generations. WCDMA and HSPA played an important role to not only meet the internet access demands of users at the time of 3G deployment: but also in laying a crucial technological foundation for the advancements of said networks.

Verdict, So which one is better: UTMS WCDMA or HSPA?

HSPA based networking offers faster connections with better capacity and overall better performance compared to the older and less efficient WCDMA UTMS networks. The difference in peak networking speeds, latency, among other things is quite evident and in favor of the more advanced HSPA.

Frequently asked Questions

What is difference between UMTS and HSPA?

UMTS is a cellular networking technology that is used an overall term to refer to 3G networking technologies while HSPA is one of many different access technologies used within 3G networking systems’ timeline.

Is HSPA better than LTE?

Not really. Since LTE is based on HSPA technologies, it features better performance. However, HSPA+ similarly based off of HSPA tech holds its own in terms of data rates, capacity and overall performance.

Leave a Comment