Over-the-air programming

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Over-the-air programming (OTA), also known as over-the-air service provisioning (OTASP) or over-the-air parameter administration (OTAPA), is a method of distributing new software updates to cellphones or provisioning handsets with the necessary settings with which to access services such as WAP or MMS. Some phones with this capability are labeled as being "OTA capable".

When OTA is used to update a phones operating firmware, it is sometimes called "Firmware Over The Air (FOTA)". For service settings the technology is often known as Device Configuration.

Various standardization bodies were established to help develop, oversee, and manage OTA. One of them is the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA).



The OTA mechanism requires the existing software and hardware of the target device to support the feature, namely the receipt and installation of new software received via the wireless network from the provider.

When activated, new firmware and software are transferred to the phone, installed, and put into use. It is often necessary to turn the phone off and back on for the new programming to take effect, though many phones will automatically perform this action.


Depending on implementation, OTA software delivery can be initiated upon action, such as a call to the provider's customer support system or other dialable service, or can be performed automatically. Typically it is done via the former method to avoid service disruption at an inconvenient time, but this requires subscribers to manually call the provider. Often, a carrier will send a broadcast SMS text message to all susbcribers (or those using a particular model of phone) asking them to dial a service number to receive a software update.

Verizon Wireless in the U.S. provides a number of OTA functions to its subscribers via the *228 service code. Option 1 updates phone configuration, option 2 updates the PRL.


OTA is similar to firmware distribution methods used by other mass-produced consumer electronics, such as cable modems, which use TFTP as a way to remotely receive new programming, thus reducing the amount of time spent both by the owner and user of the device on maintenance.

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