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What is 3G CDMA?

Mandi R. Hall
Mandi R. Hall

Two popular terms — 3G and CDMA — are often used in tandem when referring to wireless Internet and data access. When used together, the phrase simply reads — and is voiced as — “3G CDMA.” The term 3G signifies a specific group of standards the third generation (thus, “3G”) of cellular phones must meet to be designated as “3G.” Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA), however, is a technology that refers to the network type. Together, CDMA and 3G capabilities can provide consumers with high-speed access to a variety of content on wireless devices.

By 2010, 3G technology had become the latest in wireless network speeds and capabilities. It allows for high-speed data activity for various smartphones and similar devices. Phone companies, however, quickly began rolling out 4G technologies commencing in 2010.

Phones on CDMA networks do not require SIM cards.
Phones on CDMA networks do not require SIM cards.

CDMA networks are utilized by mobile phone companies, radios, computers, and similar technologies. This method of channel access is utilized by cellular service companies such as Sprint and Verizon. CDMA networks also require that phones are activated via the mobile provider.

Consumers who use phones on CDMA networks do not need to use a subscriber identity module (SIM) card. SIM cards, which can be easily interchanged amongst phones and computers if a consumer is interested in using another device, are instead mandatory in other types of network devices. On a Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network, which relates to second generation (2G) models, SIM cards are necessary.

In the 2010s, 3G networks began to be replace with 4G networks.
In the 2010s, 3G networks began to be replace with 4G networks.

The initial 3G CDMA network is called the CDMA2000 1xEV-DO, which is capable of speeds up to 3.1 megabytes per second (MBps). This technology was first commercially used by Monet Mobile Networks, and when Monet shut down, Verizon Wireless began using the network in 2003. When referring to mobile networks, consumers generally use the umbrella term 3G CDMA.

3G CDMA networks allow users to access a wide variety of content via their cellular devices. Live streaming TV, social networks and media download can all be done over the cellular network at high speeds. These networks have seen global growth because of the various capabilities.

By 2010, the CDMA platform had more than 500 million users worldwide, 128 million of whom had been 3G CDMA subscribers by the year 2009. In the United States, Verizon operates the largest 3G CDMA network while Sprint, the other 3G CDMA provider within the United States, is the third largest cellular company.

Discussion Comments


@ Chicada- When it comes to the decision between 3G CDMA and GSM devices, I too choose GSM. Many CDMA phones have SIM card slots to overcome some of the downfalls you wrote about, but you can only import service into the phone, you cannot export your Verizon or Sprint service into other devices.

However, GSM carriers like AT&T and T-mobile use technology that allow you to store all of your account information on a SIM card and transport that to numerous other devices. SIM cards are also easy to replace, and data from a malfunctioning SIM card can be flashed to a new one in a matter of minutes. The convenience of GSM can’t be beat for me.


GSM phones are just as capable of meeting 3G standards as CDMA phones. CDMA technology may be a little more advanced than GSM, but globally, CDMA is not adopted as extensively as GSM. GSM is the global standard, and a GSM phone is better suited for travelers. CDMA also does not allow the user to change devices easily.

I use a GSM network and I love the fact that I can have different phones for different purposes. I have a sophisticated world phone that is capable of using almost any network for everyday purposes, and I have scaled down phones that I can switch my SIM card into for adventures where my phone is more likely to be damaged or lost.

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    • Phones on CDMA networks do not require SIM cards.
      By: setavo
      Phones on CDMA networks do not require SIM cards.
    • In the 2010s, 3G networks began to be replace with 4G networks.
      By: Tarikh Jumeer
      In the 2010s, 3G networks began to be replace with 4G networks.