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3G mobile broadband explained

If you use mobile broadband on your phone, tablet or via a wireless model like a dongle, there’s a good chance you use 3G, which has been replaced by 4G by many companies but has widespread availability and usage still.

The “G” in 3G refers to the generation of mobile internet it is, so 3G means it is the third major mobile internet standards update, offering more functionality than 2G but less than 4G. 3G has been around since the early 2000’s, and revolutionised mobile usage (2G was very limited in its functionality).

The jump from 2G to 3G could be compared to terrestrial to digital TV, so it was a big improvement. Before 3G mobile internet was almost prohibitively expensive and slow.

It was enabled by two main technological developments, high speed upload packet access and high speed download packet access. Essentially, these advances allow for faster data transfer (up to 21Mbps download and 1.76Mbps upload) – this is the main benefit.

Now though, 3G has largely been replaced by 4G, which offers a further upgrade of broadband performance. Vodafone still offer 3G services, but most other providers have moved on to 4G.

3G was a major advance in mobile internet, and the development of smartphones would been very different without it. If you are still using a service that uses 3G you can still expect it to work well, although not as fast as 4G. Vodafone are currently the only provider in the UK still offering 3G.

3G quick facts:

  1. Preceded by 2G and GPRS.
  2. Set by the International Telecommunications Union.
  3. 3G compatibility enabled on even the most basic smartphones.
  4. Like all mobile broadband, it is better to be connected to WiFi where possible since it is faster and uses less battery.