UMTS boosts 3G skills demand

UMTS is the chosen technology for most 3G networks

UMTS is the chosen technology for most 3G networks

What is it?

Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service (UMTS) is a high-speed third-generation broadband, packet-based transmission of text, voice, video and multimedia.

By the end of this year, four UK mobile operators - Hutchison's 3, Vodafone's Live 3G, Orange and T-Mobile - are scheduled to be offering 3G services based on UMTS. This will offer employment opportunities for telecoms, network and software engineers, testers and support staff and billing specialists.

Consumer products are getting the lion's share of attention, but the most important developments will be in business use.

Where did it originate?

The first 3G network was launched by DoCoMo in Japan in 2001. Most of the world's mobile systems are still based on Global System for Mobile (GSM), but some are offering 2.5G technology with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS).

The UMTS Forum said that eight out of 10 of the world's largest mobile carriers have opted for UMTS. The forum said UMTS is used by more than 11 million consumers worldwide, but there is still a long way to go: the GSM Association claimed more than one billion subscribers - one in every six of the world's population.

What is it for?

Real-time video-telephony, mobile TV, instant video-messaging and other multimedia services for consumers; better access to customer relationship management and other enterprise applications.

What makes it special?

The greater speed. Up to 384kbps while on the move, and up to 2mbps - equivalent to the better broadband services - when stationary.

The evolution of international standards also means support for international roaming.

How difficult is it to master?

Depending on how much you need to know, there are short courses to introduce telecoms and network specialists, 3G software developers and network managers to UMTS. Typical prices start at £1,050 for three intensive days.

Where is it used?

UMTS licences have been granted in 40 countries, and about 50 networks already operate commercially. There is a burgeoning industry to support these networks and their users with applications, integration services and consultancy.

What systems does it run on?

Users will need new (and expensive) handsets and new PCMCIA cards.

The cost may be a major barrier to take-up unless the industry can present a convincing case to consumers and business users.

Not many people know that...

Work is under way to converge digital TV and radio standards with UMTS.

What is coming up?

High Speed Downlink and Uplink Packet Access (HSDPA) to enabled faster transmissions.

Rates of pay

Embedded software engineers with UMTS can look for £30,000 to £45,000 a year.


Try training firm Mpirical, or the three-day crash course offered by Oxford University's department of continuing education, with presenters from Nokia, O2 and Philips.

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