Third Generation Wireless

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What Does Third Generation Wireless Mean?

3rd Generation Mobile Telecommunications (3G), is a set of standards that came about as a result of the International Telecommunication Union’s (ITU) initiative known as IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunications-2000). 3G systems are expected to deliver quality multimedia to mobile devices by way of faster and easier wireless communications as well as “anytime, anywhere” services.


This term is also known as 3rd generation mobile telecommunications.

Techopedia Explains Third Generation Wireless

There are two specifications-setting groups that cater to the objectives to 3G worldwide: 3GPP and 3GPP2.

3GPP 3G specifications are focused on evolved GSM (Global System for Mobile communication) core networks, known as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems), and the radio access technologies based on them. This therefore includes UTRA (Universal Terrestrial Radio Access), GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), and EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution).

3GPP2 3G specifications, on the other hand, are designed for CDMA2000 systems, which are based on CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). Of the two, 3GPP specifications are more widely used owing to the fact that majority of the cellular networks on the planet are based on GSM.

Improved data rates of 3G systems over their predecessors have opened the doors for applications like mobile TV, video-on-demand, video conferencing, tele-medicine, and location-based services. High data rates have also allowed users to browse the Web using their cell phones and consequently gave birth to the term mobile broadband.

Subsequently, 3G paved the way for the rise of smartphones and their wide screens as they were more suitable for viewing mobile Websites, video conferencing, or watching mobile TV. It is no coincidence that the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 came at a time when 3G was gaining wide acceptance.

It took time for 3G to gain worldwide adoption. One major reason was that some 3G networks are not using the same frequency as the older 2G. This meant that wireless operators had to secure new frequencies and install new cell sites. Although first offered in 2001, global adoption of 3G only started to really gain traction sometime in 2007.


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Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert
Margaret Rouse
Technology Expert

Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.