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What does it mean when a phone is triband UMTS?


What does it mean when a phone is triband UMTS?

I am looking at getting a Samsung Galaxy S5 Active next month and, as I was looking at the technical specifications of the device, I saw that the phone is triband UMTS.  What does that mean exactly?  I then saw that it reads that GSM is quadband.  Does UMTS have to do with data?

Message 1 of 4
ACE - Expert

Re: What does it mean when a phone is triband UMTS?

umts is the data side of GSM

*The views and opinions expressed on this forum are purely my own. Any product claim, statistic, quote, or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer, provider, or party.
Message 2 of 4
Accepted by topic author
Accepted by calliekuczek
‎09-30-2015 1:39 AM

Re: What does it mean when a phone is triband UMTS?

UMTS is 3G, so it can be voice or data, but much faster data than GSM (2G).


"Tri band" doesn't really mean much; aside from the fact that the phone is compatible with 3 bands on UMTS.  But what bands specifically is more important.  A minimum or 2 are needed to work on AT&T's 3G network (850 and 1900 MHz) depending on US region/market.  Having extra bands means you may be able to use the phone while travelling abroad.  But only if the 3rd band is compatible with that foreign network.  There are an array of different bands used in different foreign countries.  So simply saying "tri band" is close to meaningless.


This is in contrast with "quad band" GSM.  GSM is pretty unified worldwide, in that most places use one of those 4 bands.  So having a "quad band" GSM phone means you can pretty much use the phone in most countries (either roaming on AT&T, or unlock the SIM and use a local carrier).  But just for voice and 2G data (basically dial-up data speed).


If you are buying a phone from AT&T (and don't intend to be travelling abroad too often), its meant to be used on their network, so the band compatibility is pretty moot and doesn't matter.  If you are looking at an unlocked phone (from another source) you need to ensure it has the proper band support to work on AT&T's network.

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Message 3 of 4

Re: What does it mean when a phone is triband UMTS?

South Korea and Japan use the UMTS mobile phone system, no 2G access, only 3G and 4G LTE. USA uses the GSM and CDMA mobile phone system. Korea and Japan are the odd balls and finding a cell phone that works here and in other countries is difficult. There's one provider that I am aware of that sells a "world phone" that can be used in all countries for less than $30. They bill your credit card when you use it, no use, no bill. The catch is the roaming costs. Usually in the $4 a minute voice, and up to $16 minute for data or "internet access". 

Your cheapest option is a WIFI access phone that you could use in the hotel (if it has free WIFI access) and possibly the airport if offered. A WIFI cell phone will work any place you can log on to a WIFI network. No cell service provider or SIM card is necessary. WIFI access may be limited to a few minutes to several hours per day depending on who is offering it. 

Any USA providers who offer an overseas plan, that you pay extra for to call from the US to a listed number of countries outside the USA might offer the ability to use your phone overseas but it will only work if the phone that you own will work on a different frequency or frequencies in the country you plan to travel. 

U.S. Frequencies for GSM and CDMA are 850 & 1900 MHz 

Many Asian countries use GSM (possibly CDMA) in the 900 & 1800 MHz

South Korea and Japan alone use UMTS 3G and 4G LTE in the 800/900/1500/1700/2100 MHz for 3G and 850/1500/1800/2100/2500 for 4G LTE. 

The technical data is often listed on the box cover so that you know if the phone is just GSM or CDMA or just UMTS for Japan and Korea.

All phones that will operate on the local MHz frequency will cost you roaming fees no matter who is the cell service provider unless you buy a local phone in that country. Easier said than done is often the case.   

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