3G is 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 is 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The 3G standard, although it still serves as a fallback for some cellular providers, has been superseded by the 4G standard, which itself is being eclipsed by 5G services.pictafolio/E+/Getty Images
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 offers several enhancements over 2.5G and previous networks:Several times higher data speedEnhanced audio and video streamingVideoconferencing supportWeb and WAP browsing at higher speedsIPTV (TV through the internet) support
The transfer rate for 3G networks is 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 is a set of technologies and standards that include W-CDMA, WLAN, and cellular radio, among others.
Requirements for Use
Unlike Wi-Fi, with which you can get for free in hotspots, you need 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 is connected to the 3G network through its SIM card (in the case of a mobile phone) or its 3G data card (which can 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 3G network. In fact, the device is backward compatible with older technologies, which is why a 3G compatible phone can get 2G service if it's available when 3G service is not.
The Future of 3G
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.