3G: Best Practice Guide

What is 3G?

3G Mast3G is like broadband for mobile phones. It offers voice, video, picture message, e-mail, the internet and more, all in one portable device.

3G, standing for third generation, is a collective term for the new communication procedures, standards and devices that will improve the speed and quality of services available on the move. 3G takes the form of handsets that can combine the functionality of a mobile phone with that of a personal computer and a personal organiser/PDA.

3G devices generally have greater transmission abilities, both in terms of speed and capacity, than their predecessors. The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defines 3G as any device that can transmit and receive data at 144Kbps or better. In practice, 3G devices can transfer data at up to 384Kbps, which is faster than many home broadband connections. As a comparison, GSM is up to 14.4Kbps and GPRS is around 53.6Kpbs with theoretical maximum speeds of up to 171.2Kbps.

The Benefits of 3G

3G provides flexibility and portability, allowing you to do more on the move. Some of the benefits include:

  • Instant communication – you can make and receive phone calls, fax transmissions, and quickly send and receive e-mails, including large attachments, wherever you are – so you never have to be out of touch.
  • High-speed internet access – you can make high-speed internet connections for web browsing, and fast downloading of data files or software from websites, or even image or music files.
  • Ad-hoc videoconferencing – 3G can be used for video calling and conferencing as well as picture messaging.
  • Information at your fingertips – many 3G devices also provide navigational features and access to maps and can receive television transmissions with sports events or news coverage streamed directly to your handset.
  • Keeping you organised – 3G handsets can also function as personal organisers, with electronic diaries, contact lists, and automatic reminders.
  • Never out of touch – most 3G networks are likely to offer global roaming &emdash; that is the ability to access these services from anywhere in the world.

How Does 3G Work?

3G chops each call or transmission into little packets of data, marking each one with an individual code to show which connection it belongs to. This is a much more efficient way of transmitting data, allowing 3G networks to deliver larger files – like pictures and even video – at much faster speeds.

The Various Types of 3G

There is currently no single global 3G standard, but the principal technologies of 3G include:

  • WCDMA which has been chosen for 3G mobile phone systems in Europe, Asia and the US. It first converts raw data into a narrowband digital radio signal and then attaches a marker or spreading code to each data packet to identify it as belonging to a particular communication.

  • CDMA was first introduced in 1995, and works in similar fashion. Many of the leading operators are currently creating CDMA networks. CDMA phones have longer standby times than current models, and in-built reverse compatibility means that over 100 million customers worldwide who already use CDMA can easily upgrade to newer models. CDMA2000 1xEV-DO provides ‘always-on’ packet data connection, like landline-based broadband, for more convenient mobile internet use.

  • EDGE is the technology that allows existing GSM networks to provide 3G services and allows GSM to transmit data at transmission speeds of up to 384K.

Getting 3G

3G is fairly ubiquitous with every major UK mobile network offering a 3G to the majority of the country. The biggest providers believe that 90% of the UK population gets a 3G signal.

3G Handsets

Because of all the additional functionality they deliver, 3G handsets tend to be a little larger than previous models, and at present have shorter-lived battery life – again due to delivering more. Monthly tariffs currently available from 3 range from £10 per month, depending on the level of service you opt for. 3G handsets include:

  • Apple iPhone, now in iPhone 5 guise
  • Android phones from HTC, Samsung etc
  • Blackberry
  • Firefox OS phones
  • Motorola
  • Nokia Windows phone

3G Features

The services that these phones offer will depend on the coverage offered by each network, but may include some or all of the following:

  • Bluetooth wireless connectivity
  • ability to browse web
  • ability to play and store multimedia files
  • onboard digital cameras and video recorders
  • multimedia messaging
  • ability to play music files, such as MP3s
  • Java applets for games and other functions
  • polyphonic ringtones.

Further Help and Advice

Achieving best practice in your business

This 3G Best Practice Guide based on Crown Copyright © 2004-2013

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