What Exactly is 3G?

January 28, 2010

3G and even 4G are words that are casually tossed around in the tech world everyday, and are recently showing up in TV commercials for cell phones. Most people don’t know what it really means other than a “faster” connection than phones that aren’t 3G. There are a lot of misconceptions I have heard about 3G cell phones that I would like to clear up. First, 3G does not mean you have 3gb or even a 3mb download rate. All 3G really means is 3rd generation. The different generation of cell phones refers to the wireless technology they use to stream data from the cell towers to the actual phone. Without getting too technical, think of each generation as a better and faster way to transmit data.3G

The technology that 3G uses has speeds comparable to a slow broadband connection. The reason that there is so much hype and talk about 3G networks is  because of how advanced they are over their predecessor.  a 3G network is over 14 times faster than the previous 2.5G network.  One other important item to note is that just because you have a 3G phone does not mean you always have 3G coverage. In order to have the faster speeds and utilize the 3G networks you have to be within range of a 3G tower, but for most people who live in major cities and outlying cities this is not usually an issue.

There is also a lot of questions about who has the best or fastest 3G network.  The commercials between AT&T and Verizon are mostly accurate.  It is true that AT&T does have faster speeds than Verizon, but not by a large margin.  However, Verizon does have a significantly larger coverage area than AT&T.  It is important to ask yourself what is more important, having slightly faster speeds or having a fast connection that is more readily available.  It would be wise to research the 3G coverage in your area before switching providers or signing a contract.

So, what is the 4G network that Sprint talks about? So far, it isn’t all that the commercials say. Sprint does have “4G” speeds, in select cities (most of which are in Texas), but it is nowhere near the full potential of what 4G could reach. The 4G download speeds are about twice as fast as 3G speeds which may sound like a lot, but the technology has so much more potential for faster speeds that the it should still be given time to develop. In the next few years however 4G technology will start becoming mainstream, and 3G will be a thing of the past.

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