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The Solar Has Formally Set on 3G: A Look Again at Its Origin and Influence

5 min read

Final month, Verizon was the final main U.S. provider to disconnect customers who were still using 3G, one of many key applied sciences to usher within the age of the smartphone. Now that the sun has officially set on 3G, we glance again on the origin of the third-generation mobile community and its influence on future networks and client {hardware}.


Sunset of 3G

Cell phone tower antenna at sundown. Picture (modified) courtesy of Mike Mozart [CC BY 2.0]


1G and 2G Lay the Groundwork

When 1G, the primary era of cellular networks, was launched back in the early 1980s, some widespread pitfalls included poor protection, low sound high quality, no encryption, and little roaming assist between operators. Regardless of these challenges and the excessive prices of cellphones on the time, customers nonetheless expressed an enormous quantity of curiosity.

The second era, 2G, launched within the early Nineteen Nineties and noticed important enhancements when it comes to name high quality and safety; folks may ship textual content messages (SMS) and multimedia messages (MMS) on their telephones for the primary time, and mass adoption occurred on an unprecedented scale. 

Whereas the 2G community was phenomenally profitable, it created an urge for food for quicker and extra environment friendly cellular knowledge transmissions. By 2006, 3G networks had been rolling out the high-speed variations of Excessive-Velocity Packet Entry (HSPA), an amalgamation of two cellular protocols that prolonged and improved the efficiency of present 3G cellular telecommunication networks utilizing the WCDMA protocols. Operators had been providing knowledge charges that had been corresponding to home fastened companies.


The original Apple iPhone launched in 2007

The unique Apple iPhone launched in 2007. 


The launch of the iPhone in 2007 offset 3G’s twilight period with its community functionality increasing like by no means earlier than. 3G introduced greater speeds that enabled knowledge switch capabilities that had been 4 occasions quicker than 2G. The brand new community additionally supplied enhanced privateness and safety and a high-speed internet and wi-fi software protocol (WAP).


The Seeds of 3G

The 3G cellular network was a mixed effort with telco corporations and compliance and requirements regulators to make sure interoperability and accessibility. The event adopted the identical Cellular Telecommunications 2000 (IMT-2000) sample developed within the Nineteen Nineties for wi-fi knowledge networks. The usual required a peak transmission pace of at the least 2,000 kilobits per second (kbps), though it aimed to convey speeds as much as 394 kbps for cellular stations. Technically, 3G was a direct improve to EDGE networks, but it surely ran on a wholly completely different set of frequencies.

It was Japanese telco firm NTT DoCoMo that began the primary 3G trial in June 2001 and launched the first-ever industrial service later that 12 months. The service ran on W-CDMA, rebranded as freedom of cellular multimedia entry (FOMA). Following the trial, companies had been launched within the U.Ok. and Europe, and shortly high-speed knowledge transmission, multimedia entry, and worldwide roaming had been being leveraged worldwide.

3G launched a cellular world the place everybody could possibly be related via photos, movies, and social networking. With the 3G community got here a brand new wave of smartphones that would share images, video name, navigate through GPS, present distant medical diagnoses, and extra. As soon as consumer terminals offered a common and quick connection to the web, knowledge volumes skyrocketed; a knowledge explosion led to the necessity for the following era of cellular know-how.


3G’s Impact on Telecom {Hardware} and Cellular Design

The largest problem of world 3G adoption was the price of upgrading the tools and applied sciences required to facilitate the service. This meant upgrading telephone towers and transmission hardware to host the UMTS system wanted for 3G. In the meantime, one of many greatest setbacks from a client perspective was the capacity-limited battery lifetime of cellular handsets. Nevertheless, power-savvy processors solved the problem. As an alternative of getting only one microprocessor core in a single purposes processor, two or extra had been included. With extra processor cores, energy consumption may then be diminished. 


Apple’s Arm microprocessor

Apple’s Arm microprocessor. Picture (modified) courtesy of iphonedigital [CC BY 2.0]


Whereas the 3G cellular community itself was one a part of the technological developments required to convey smartphones into the mainstream, the other was the Arm microprocessor. Developed again within the Eighties, Arm chips effectively feed directions to the circuits on the microprocessor and supply considerable computing energy whereas demanding comparatively little vitality.

With the appearance of 3G, most smartphones had been fitted with Arm microprocessors. Low-power processors meant that spectacular computing may match right into a bundle with a small battery. Smartphones have turn out to be progressively thinner and sleeker all whereas buying an ever-increasing array of options resembling contact screens and GPS receivers.


Community Enchancment Marches On to 4G, 5G, and Past

Whereas 3G induced a cellular revolution, it has since been outmoded by 4G and 5G networks. Each successive era of wi-fi requirements has launched new advances in data-carrying capability and reduces in latency, and 5G seems to be set to do the identical. Whereas formal 5G requirements are but to be confirmed, the community is predicted to be at the least thrice quicker than 4G, a necessity to deal with the quantity of real-time knowledge switch within the IoT period. 


The evolution of mobile networks from 1G to 6G.

The evolution of cellular networks from 1G to 6G


To transmit cellular alerts, networks can solely entry a restricted quantity of the spectrum. By making more spectrum available for a given connectivity sort, cellular suppliers can ship extra protection, reliability, and pace. What’s extra, by retiring 3G companies, networks may retrieve dated, power-hungry tools from 3G and scale back prices. In the identical approach some cellular carriers shut down their 2G networks after they upgraded to assist 4G, cellular carriers have now made the selection to decommission the once-groundbreaking 3G. 


3G’s Phaseout and Lasting Legacy

The move away from 3G has include some important implications. Whereas some folks upgraded their plans, others utilizing older handsets now not have connectivity now that 3G is decommissioned. Some carriers have claimed that the variety of customers on 3G gadgets was already comparatively small. Carriers proactively communicated with customers, with some providing free replacements and others extending the shut-off date to the top of 2022 to care for purchasers and scale back disruptions. 

The one approach to transfer ahead totally into the following part of networking and communication was to retire legacy know-how and make room for brand spanking new and extra superior companies. Whereas its influence won’t ever be forgotten, the solar has lastly set on 3G.

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