Third Generation

ThirdGeneration (not ThirdGenerationGeeks) is better known as 3G. It is a family of communication protocols/technologies that provide a data transfer service in accordance to specific requirements stated by International Telecommunications Union (ITU). See for more.

Original contributor noted that most (not all) information comes from WikiPedia in a large number of pages, and started with a page with very little information (and possibly still very much a monologue of scanty bits and pieces).

However, this is also (hopefully) a one page that link up all common buzz words for the benefit of SmartPhone buyers of the wiki community. And I have absolutely no personal experience on anything discussed here. -- dl

Implementation of 3G can be on the more prevalent GSM (GlobalSystemForMobileCommunication) or the newer CDMA (CodeDivisionMultipleAccess) technologies/network.

3G is also quite commonly merely a marketing term that is highly abused; one can never just assume that "3G" means conformance to some interoperable standard, or indeed, assume it means very much at all. Caveat emptor.

And to be fair, there are various arguments about e.g. what bandwidth "3G" should mean, whether it applies only to fairly immobile phones versus phones moving at higher speeds (e.g. subscribers on a train), and if so, at what speed, etc., etc., etc.

But to be definitive, unlike the impression given by the initial paragraph above, "3G" does not, absolutely does not, refer to some particular standard. It is impossible to objectively say "X is 3G but Y is not". -- DougMerritt
The different Gs of Telephony

The early analog systems (e.g. NMT at 450/900 MHz) are sometimes dubbed 1G.

GSM and CDMAOne are considered 2G, and GPRS (GeneralPacketRadioService) is 2.5G.

Enhanced Data rates for Global Evolution (EDGE) is 2.75G, but has speeds deemed to be 3G by ITU standards.

Beyond 3G

HSDPA (High speed downlink packet access) 3.5G -- Raises the maximum theoretical data rate from around 2mbit/s to 14 mbit/s for the existing 3G infrastructure.

WiFi speed for mobile pervasive networks 4G -- Subject to extensive research, deployment probably happens in ten years.

Common 3G implementations

GSM based solutions are GPRS and EDGE, and then we go to confusing territory of UTMS.

"UniversalMobileTelecommunicationsSystem?" or UMTS appear to be the favorite amongst NetworkCarriers. It also appears US PttAuthorities have not allocated sufficient spectrum to do it justice. see

UMTS is supposed to supersede GSM as a technology and is sometimes referred to as 3GSM. It is using WCDMA technology which is allied with the 2G GSM. CDMA in the WCDMA refers to the technology and not the standard (as implemented by Qualcomm?).

3G in a CDMA context

Specifications and documents for 3G are available at, as in Third generation partnership project for the WCDMA (Wideband CDMA) family, and at for the cdma2000 family.

1xRTT is an earlier CDMA implementation that is 2.5G / 2.75G rated, depending on implementation in different localities. I guessed one reason why it is interesting can be that in some countries it uses spectrum reserved for 2G (thus sidestepping restrictions imposed by PttAuthorities) to deliver higher throughput for end users.

EVDO is the more proper 3G implementation found in some countries including North America and is much higher throughput than 1xRTT.

Example may help to understand the difference

In late Nov05 Telstra in Australia is said to be replacing its CDMA network with a WCDMA provided by Ericsson. The new technology will make obsolete existing mobiles using CDMA, but the base stations (translating to network coverage) will stay the same and will be using the 850mhz band. And the vendor is saying EVDO data services will continue to be offered. Under the new WCDMA scheme HSDPA will be offered sometime, according to news. You can find more information (and therefore learn about pros and cons of technology) in coming days using Google.

Doug on ThirdGeneration

From SmartPhone where a query was posted (unresponded to for weeks) regarding video on 3G in US

It has not, and it has not in a big way. :-) Obviously enthusiasts and early adopters are making it work, but that's not news. VOIP is really ramping up exponentially in the states, though.

BTW there is no simple definition of "ThirdGeneration" even for cell phones, and even less so for video telephony.

For years now Japan has made its own standards for the simple reason that their population is extremely concentrated; hundreds of millions can be covered by a single satellite. This is the very direct reason why Japan has had a workable HDTV standard so much earlier than the rest of the world, and is why they can so easily introduce new e.g. cell phone standards, even aside from business issues of e.g. DoKoMo? market penetration.

The situation of Europe versus Asia versus the U.S. in terms of cell phone standards, frequency and protocol assignment, market dominance, etc, is more complex than that of Japan. The U.S. has both suffered and benefited by delayed standards; delay allows innovation, standardization allows interoperability and the Metcalf NetworkEffect.

As a result, for some years the U.S. has been more innovative in some ways than Europe on the topic of cell phones, but suffered compared with Europe in the topic of interoperability. More recently innovation in programmable and mixed mode ICs has allowed an increasing amount of multi-use cell phone tech in the U.S., partially interoperating with European standards.

I would like to continue to make the obvious comparisons to the non-Japanese Asian markets and standards, but I'm somewhat less familiar with that situation, so it's best I not speak to that for the moment; I have friends and contacts deeply involved with that, but I'm afraid I haven't been paying attention recently.

Anyway, video telephony has been on the verge of taking off for, wait, decades, no, wait, since the end of the nineteenth century...sigh...some hype goes on for multiple generations. This is one of them. Presumably it will eventually become a universally available feature, whether in 1 year or 1,000 years, but there is serious reason to doubt that consumers will ever be wild about it, even though it will obviously meet certain niche needs (biz teleconferencing has been available and mildly popular for ages) -- DougMerritt

P.S. common historical accounts about introduction/invention of technology are often wrong. I've seen frequent claims that the fax was invented circa 1970 for instance, which is extraordinarily, badly, badly wrong...

A quick web search shows, for instance: The point being that technical innovations do not always become widespread 20 years after first invention, which is perhaps the most common rule-of-thumb-mythos; this, however, is an example of a very important invention that required more than a century to truly catch on commercially. -- DougMerritt

BusinessValue aspects

ThirdGeneration spectrum licencing has been a windfall for the PttAuthorities world wide. In Aug05, there are continued [continual?] news reports about NetworkCarriers carrying big losses in their books due to unmet expectations.

News on 3G

Australia at SeptemberZeroFive Telstra (perhaps the largest amongst Oz NetworkCarriers) offering ThirdGeneration in all five major cities and the capital. Price is steep without much attractive services, and perhaps require specific SmartPhone handsets. See

AsLongAsThereIsMoneyOrSexInIt, see AdultContent? as the next 3G killer application at


View edit of April 2, 2006 or FindPage with title or text search