What is TDMA? Definition of TDMA

Cellular Tower

 Getty Images / Chris Gould


TDMA technology, which stands for Time Division Multiple Access, is a cell phone standard that has been incorporated into the more advanced GSM standard, which is now the world’s most widely used cell phone technology.
TDMA appeared in second-generation (2G) cell phone systems such as GSM. Most major third-generation (3G) cell phone systems were primarily based upon GSM rival CDMA. 3G allowed for faster data speeds over 2G.
While TDMA and CDMA both achieve the same goal, they do so using different methods. TDMA technology works by dividing each digital cellular channel into three-time slots for the purpose of increasing the amount of data carried.
Multiple users, therefore, can share the same frequency channel without causing interference because the signal is divided into multiple time slots.
While each conversation is transmitted alternately over short lengths of time with TDMA technology, CDMA separates communications by code so multiple calls can also be routed into the same channel.
The major cell phone carriers in the U.S. no longer use TDMA. Sprint, Virgin Mobile, and Verizon Wireless use CDMA while T-Mobile and AT&T use GSM.



Also Known As:

Time Division Multiple Access


TDMA technology was incorporated into the more advanced GSM standard.

  • How do mobile networks work?

    Mobile networks, or cellular networks, are made up of transceiver towers that rely on various radio frequencies to transmit data between mobile devices. The towers connect to telephone switches or exchanges, which route the data to the appropriate device.

  • What is FDMA?

    FDMA stands for frequency-division multiple access. It's another multiple-access communications protocol like TDMA. Early cellphones relied on FDMA, and it's still used today for private mobile radio systems like walkie-talkies.

  • What is EDGE?

    EDGE stands for Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution. It's a faster version of GSM, but it can't match the speed of DSL or high-speed cable internet. EDGE technology was replaced by Evolved EDGE, which is twice as fast as the original EDGE.

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