3G was the third generation of wireless technologies. It comes with enhancements over earlier wireless technologies, such as high-speed transmission, advanced multimedia access, and global roaming.

3G was mostly used with mobile phones and handsets as a means to connect the phone to the internet or other IP networks in order to make voice and video calls, to download and upload data, and to surf the Web.

The 3G standard has been superseded by the 4G standard, which itself is being eclipsed by 5G services.

3G with globe, laptop, and phone.

History of 3G

3G follows a pattern of G’s that the ITU started in the early 1990s. The pattern is a wireless initiative called the International Mobile Communications 2000. 3G, therefore, comes just after 2G and 2.5G, the second-generation technologies.

2G technologies include, among others, the Global System for Mobile. 2.5G brought standards that are midway between 2G and 3G, including the General Packet Radio Service, Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, and others.

How Is 3G Better?

3G offered several enhancements over 2.5G and previous networks:

  • Several times higher data speed
  • Enhanced audio and video streaming
  • Videoconferencing support
  • Web and WAP browsing at higher speeds
  • IPTV (TV through the internet) support

Technical Specifications

The transfer rate for 3G networks was between 128 and 144 kilobits per second for devices that are moving fast, and 384 kbps for slow ones — like walking pedestrians. For fixed wireless LANs, the speed goes beyond 2 Mbps.

3G included standards like W-CDMA, WLAN, and cellular radio, among others.

Requirements for Use

Unlike Wi-Fi, with which you can get for free in hotspots, you had to be subscribed to a service provider to get 3G network connectivity. This kind of service is often called a data plan or network plan.

Your device connected to the 3G network through its SIM card (in the case of a mobile phone) or its 3G data card (which could be of different types, like USB, PCMCIA, etc.), both of which are usually provided or sold by the service provider.

These cards are how the device connects to the internet when it is within range of a network. In fact, the device is backward compatible with older technologies, which is why a 3G compatible phone could get 2G service if it's available when 3G service is not.

The 3G craze of the early 2010s has receded; most devices now support the 4G standard, using 3G as a fallback if 4G connections are not available. In some parts of the world, particularly in rural areas, 3G remains a backbone service.

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