3G (third generation of mobile telephony)

3G refers to the third generation of mobile telephony (that is, cellular) technology. The third generation, as the name suggests, follows two earlier generations.

The first generation (1G) began in the early 80’s with commercial deployment of Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) cellular networks. Early AMPS networks used Frequency Division Multiplexing Access (FDMA) to carry analog voice over channels in the 800 MHz frequency band.

The second generation (2G) emerged in the 90’s when mobile operators deployed two competing digital voice standards. In North America, some operators adopted IS-95, which used Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) to multiplex up to 64 calls per channel in the 800 MHz band. Across the world, many operators adopted the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) standard, which used Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) to multiplex up to 8 calls per channel in the 900 and 1800 MHz bands.


The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) was formed in 1998 to foster deployment of 3G networks that descended from GSM. 3GPP technologies evolved as follows.

• General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) offered speeds up to 114 Kbps.

• Enhanced Data Rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) reached up to 384 Kbps.

• UMTS Wideband CDMA (WCDMA) offered downlink speeds up to 1.92 Mbps.

• High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) boosted the downlink to 14Mbps.

• LTE Evolved UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access (E-UTRA) is aiming for 100 Mbps.

GPRS deployments began in 2000, followed by EDGE in 2003. While these technologies are defined by IMT-2000, they are sometimes called “2.5G” because they did not offer multi-megabit data rates. EDGE has now been superceded by HSDPA (and its uplink partner HSUPA). According to the 3GPP, there were 166 HSDPA networks in 75 countries at the end of 2007. The next step for GSM operators: LTE E-UTRA, based on specifications completed in late 2008.


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