What is a 3G Network?

Jason C. Chavis

Based on the International Telecommunications Union standards, the 3G network is the third generation of mobile networking and telecommunications. It features a wider range of services and advances network capacity over the previous 2G network and also increases the rate of information transfer known as spectral efficiency. Telephony has received a wider area and more range, while video and broadband wireless data transfers have also been positively affected. These criteria are identified as the IMT-2000 standard.

3G networks are often used to supply data to mobile applications.
3G networks are often used to supply data to mobile applications.

A 3G network provides for download speeds of 14.4 megabits per second and upload speeds of 5.8 megabits per second. The minimum speed for a stationary user is 2 megabits per second, while a user in a moving vehicle can expect 348 kilobits per second. This scheme is known as a layered system in which each transmission features three layers of information. The top layer is general service, the middle layer is a control data transmission, and the bottom layer is the basic connectivity information.

3G networks offer download speeds of up to 14.4 megabits per second.
3G networks offer download speeds of up to 14.4 megabits per second.

There is a distinct difference between WiFi®, or IEEE 802.11 technology, and this network. WiFi® is basically a short range network that offers high-bandwidth designed for data transfer. 3G networks are geared towards cellular telephone technology and Internet access.

A 3G network includes compatible communications towers.
A 3G network includes compatible communications towers.

Japan and South Korea were the first countries to successfully launch this network. The Japanese company FOMA launched in May 2001 and South Korea's SK Telecom launched in January 2002. British Telecom in the United Kingdom and Monet Mobile Networks in the United States followed suit. By 2007, most countries had implemented the technology.

Delays in the roll-out of this technology affected the growth of mobile technology in many countries, however. This network uses a different radio frequency than 2G, which forced many companies to build entirely new infrastructure and obtain additional licenses. Countries like China and Indonesia intentionally chose to withhold the network from its citizens for many years.

Security concerns over 3G networks have been addressed, and the system uses the KASUMI block crypto encryption rather than the older A5/1 stream cipher on the 2G network. While a number of weaknesses have been identified, the system is overall secure.

Some of the challenges that continue to hinder implementation of 3G. A number of telecommunications companies found themselves in financial instability throughout 2007 and 2008, highlighted by the increased costs of both phones and communications towers. Licensing agreements also vary heavily from country to country in both expense and process, which has led to a lack of interest in building out the networks.

South Korea was one of the first counties to successfully launch a 3G network.
South Korea was one of the first counties to successfully launch a 3G network.

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Discussion Comments


My question concerns South Korea and the iPad2. When purchasing an iPad2 you must select either the AT&T 3G or the Verizon 3G. The iPad2 will be used in South Korea. I've read that the CMDA2000 system is live in South Korea.

Should I purchase the AT&T 3G or the Verizon 3G Ipad2? My research indicates that it might be the Verizon for compatibility, but I really would appreciate input from someone who knows for certain. (I'm an average grandma trying to purchase a gift and the tech terms are new for me.) Thanks much. --June


I bought an android phone recently. Applied for minimum data package for mobile internet. After this, my phone bill started rising dramatically. The phone was automatically connected to 3G and all the access points that were preloaded in the phone got activated by default and started billing my account even though i did not use any of it. I had to go to the service provider and discontinued the service.

In spite of this, the bill kept going up by the hour as i was checking on it on a regular basis. I was told to delete all the access points showing on the phone, which i did. I finally decide to disable the 3G and opt for 2G. I am content in using my laptop at home where i have a 24 hour internet connection and i only pay a nominal fee for this.

As I am not a geek, i would appreciate anyone who could advise me on how to use the phone without getting ridiculously billed. Thanks, KuyaSam


Does the service provider need to upgrade their systems and backbone network? If yes, how will this service will be cheaper as compare to existing 2G?


This is saravana from India. I did CCNA. Now i have a job in a pvt ltd company. they got the 3g technology mobile tender from BSNL (telecommunications concern government sector) Tamilnadu,India. They told me I have to work network related job in 3g. Actually what exactly will i need to do in 3gtech (related to network) or what is the nature of a job in 3g for me? i want to know that.could you reply to me soon.


3G for an ipad requires a subscription from AT&T. It is offered on a month to month basis. They have two plans depending on the speed you want: $14.99 or $25 a month.


How does 3G work on the Kindle?


What about the iPad? It is suppose to have 3G. Will you have to get a contract with a cellphone company to get one?


i was told that if you have a phone that uses the 3g network it will use whatever tower (verizon, sprint, at&t) that is available. Is that true?


but do you need a service connection to use 3g?


3G networks are offered by cellphone companies such as: Sprint, Verizon wireless, and AT&T. Just about any cell phone today can have 3G network capability; most notably the 'iphone'. The basic concept of it all, to always keep you connected while on the go without needing a laptop. A phone with a good browser can give you the same surf experience you get while on a PC.

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