3G – The Third Generation Wireless Technology


3G – The Third Generation Wireless Technology

What is 3G?

The term 3G is short form for Third-Generation wireless technology, a technology that has helped bring together two of the world’s fastest-growing industries—mobile communications and the “wireless” Internet. Advanced 3G handsets allow users to access music, photos and videos, while on the move. 3G is a generic term covering a range of future wireless network technologies, including WCDMA, CDMA2000, UMTS and EDGE.

3G combines high-speed mobile access with Internet Protocol (IP) based services. This doesn’t just mean fast mobile connection to the World Wide Web – by liberating us from slow connections, cumbersome equipment and immovable access points. 3G has resulted in new ways to communicate, access information, conduct business and learn.

How have the wireless technologies evolved?

The first generation of cellular phones was based on Frequency Modulated (FM) analog technology. Most countries developed their own systems, but while these phones allowed for roaming within one region, they could not be used across different countries.

This was especially problematic in Europe, where each country had its own standard. To address this problem, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) created the first Second-Generation (2G) digital technology called Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). GSM was mandated in the early 1990s as the digital technology for all of Europe. GSM has become the most widely deployed digital cellular technology.

Japan deployed a different technology—Personal Digital Cellular (PDC). The systems were designed to increase the voice capacity of the original analog systems, as the First-Generation analog were becoming capacity limited due to the explosive growth of the wireless industry. PDC is a TDMA-based technology, operating in the 800 MHz and 1500 MHz frequency bands. While Europe and Japan worked to standardize on one digital technology, the US allowed for multiple technologies.

To get the world on track for the deployment of 3G standards, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) started the IMT-2000 project—the technical framework for 3G. The goal of this project was to establish one worldwide global standard for the next-generation of mobile communications. System definitions required the support of voice and data communications, with data rates of 144 Kbps for high-speed mobility, 384 Kbps for low-speed mobility, and 2 Mbps for fixed-location terminals. The frequency bands 1885-2025 MHz and 2110-2220 MHz were set-aside for the IMT-2000 project.

Thus, the ultimate goal was to give a new focus to the development of mobile systems that would offer voice and mobile multimedia to the mass market. 3G technologies have opened up a whole new world of possibilities for wireless operators, now that wireless networks are not restricted to voice-only systems. The data capabilities of 3G systems allow operators to take advantage of the explosive growth potential the Internet has provided to traditional wire line operators over the last five years.

What are the capabilities of 3G systems?

The following are some of the key service attributes and capabilities of 3G systems:
• Capability to support circuit and packet data at high bit rates:
• 144 kilobits/second or higher in high mobility (vehicular) traffic
• 384 kilobits/second for pedestrian traffic
• 2 Megabits/second or higher for indoor traffic
• Interoperability and roaming
• Common billing/user profiles:
• Sharing of usage/rate information between service providers
• Standardized call detail recording
• Standardized user profiles
• Capability to determine geographic position of mobiles and report it to both the network and the mobile terminal
• Support of multimedia services/capabilities:
• Fixed and variable rate bit traffic
• Bandwidth on demand
• Asymmetric data rates in the forward and reverse links
• Multimedia mail store and forward
• Broadband access up to 2 Megabits/second

What are the 3G Applications and Services?

Due to availability of dual mode multimedia mobile phones, users are able to use the following applications and services:
Always on—for example, e-mail, personal organizer, traffic management, automation, sales, and so on.
Information—for example, Web surfing, corporate Intranet, net games, music, news services, location, events and transportation services.
Purchasing—for example, on-line shopping, banking, gambling, ticketing.

It is projected that by 2004, outside North America, forty percent of e-commerce transactions with consumers will be initiated from a portable cellular-enabled service.

What is the next emerging standard?

After 3G, it is now time to think about the future of mobile technology called 4G i.e. the 4th Generation Wireless.
The cellular industry began developing 2G systems in the early 1980s. As experience shows, the lead-time for mobile phone systems development is about 10 years. Primary thinking on 3G took place in 1991 as 2G (GSM) systems just started to roll out. Therefore, it is felt that 4G should be operational from around 2011, and would build on the second phase of 3G when all networks are expected to embrace Internet protocol (IP) technology. In recent times, companies such as Ericsson, Motorola, Lucent, Nortel and Qualcomm have come up with “3G-plus” concepts that would push performance of approved, though still emerging, standards beyond current ones.

4G speeds could be as high as 100 Mbps. Thus, 4G will represent another quantum leap in mobile Internet speeds and picture quality. 4G could bring connection speeds of up to 50 times faster than 3G networks and three-dimensional visual experiences for the first time. 4G could be built on 3G-telephony spectrum, but higher capacity demand would create a need for even more spectrum.