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Third Generation

What is 3G?

3G, short form of third generation, is the third generation of mobile telecommunications technology. The mobile communications industry has evolved in three stages:

Three generations of mobile phones have emerged so far, each successive generation more reliable and flexible than the last:

  • Analog: You could only easily use analogue cellular to make voice calls, and typically only in any one country.
  • Digital mobile phone systems added fax, data and messaging capabilities as well as voice telephone service in many countries.
  • Multimedia services add high speed data transfer to mobile devices, allowing new video, audio and other applications through mobile phones- allowing music and television and the Internet to be accessed through a mobile terminal.

With each new generation of technology, the services which can de deployed on them becomes more and more wide ranging and truly limited only by imagination. We are reaching that stage with 3G.

During the first and second generations different regions of the world pursued different mobile phone standards, but are converging to a common standard for mobile multimedia called Third Generation (3G) that is based on CDMA technology. Europe pursued NMT and TACS for analog and GSM for digital, North America pursued AMPS for analog and a mix of TDMA, CDMA and GSM for digital. 3G will bring these incompatible standards together, and the aim of this paper is to discuss the optimal migration path for mobile network operators to get from their existing 2G digital systems to the 3G world.

The Third Generation of mobile communications systems will soon by implemented. Following on the heals of analog and digital technology, the Third Generation will be digital mobile multimedia offering broadband mobile communications with voice, video, graphics, audio and other information.

3G Features

Packet Everywhere: With Third Generation (3G), the information is split into separate but related “packets” before being transmitted and reassembled at the receiving end. Packet switching is similar to a jigsaw puzzle- the image that the puzzle represents is divided into pieces at the manufacturing factory and put into a plastic bag. During transportation of the now boxed jigsaw from the factory to the end user, the pieces get jumbled up. When the recipient empties the bag with all the pieces, they are reassembled to form the original image. All the pieces are all related and fit together, but the way they are transported and assembled varies.

Packet switched data formats are much more common than their circuit switched counterparts. Other examples of packet-based data standards include TCP/IP, X.25, Frame Relay and Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM). As such, whilst packet switching is new to the GSM world, it is well established elsewhere. In the mobile world, CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data), PDCP (Personal Digital Cellular Packet), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and wireless X.25 technologies have been in operation for several years. X.25 is the international public access packet radio data network standard.

Internet Everywhere: The World Wide Web is becoming the primary communications interface- people access the Internet for entertainment and information collection, the intranet for accessing company information and connecting with colleagues and the extranet for accessing customers and suppliers. These are all derivatives of the World Wide Web aimed at connecting different communities of interest. There is a trend away from storing information locally in specific software packages on PCs to remotely on the Internet. When you want to check your schedule or contacts, instead of using a software package such as “Act!”, you go onto the Internet site such as a portal. Hence, web browsing is a very important application for packet data.

High Speed: Speeds of up to 2 Megabits per second (Mbps) are achievable with Third Generation (3G). The data transmission rates will depend upon the environment the call is being made in- it is only indoors and in stationary environments that these types of data rates will be available. For high mobility, data rates of 144 kbps are expected to be available- this is only about three times the speed of today’s fixed telecoms modems.

New Applications: Third Generation (3G) facilitates several new applications that have not previously been readily available over mobile networks due to the limitations in data transmission speeds. These applications range from Web Browsing to file transfer to Home Automation- the ability to remotely access and control in-house appliances and machines. Because of the bandwidth increase, these applications will be even more easily available with 3G than they were previously with interim technologies such as GPRS.

To use Third Generation (3G), users specifically need:

  • A mobile phone or terminal that supports Third Generation (3G)
  • A subscription to a mobile telephone network that supports Third Generation (3G)
  • Use of Third Generation (3G) must be enabled for that user.Automatic access to the 3G may be allowed by some mobile network operators, others will charge a monthly subscription and require a specific opt-in to use the service as they do with other nonvoice mobile services
  • Knowledge of how to send and/ or receive Third Generation (3G) information using their specific model of mobile phone, including software and hardware configuration (this creates a customer service requirement)
  • A destination to send or receive information through Third Generation (3G). From day one, Third Generation (3G) users can access any web page or other Internet applications- providing an immediate critical mass of users.

These user requirements are not expected to change much for the meaningful use of 3G.