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

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 impression on future networks and shopper {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 technology 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 help between operators. Regardless of these challenges and the excessive prices of cell phones on the time, customers nonetheless expressed an enormous quantity of curiosity.

The second technology, 2G, launched within the early Nineties and noticed important enhancements by way of name high quality and safety; folks might 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 information 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 information charges that had been akin to home fastened providers.


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 larger speeds that enabled information switch capabilities that had been 4 instances quicker than 2G. The brand new community additionally provided enhanced privateness and safety and a high-speed net 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 Cell Telecommunications 2000 (IMT-2000) sample developed within the Nineties for wi-fi information networks. The usual required a peak transmission velocity of a minimum of 2,000 kilobits per second (kbps), though it aimed to deliver speeds as much as 394 kbps for cellular stations. Technically, 3G was a direct improve to EDGE networks, however it ran on a wholly totally 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 business service later that yr. The service ran on W-CDMA, rebranded as freedom of cellular multimedia entry (FOMA). Following the trial, providers had been launched within the U.Ok. and Europe, and shortly high-speed information transmission, multimedia entry, and worldwide roaming had been being leveraged worldwide.

3G launched a cellular world the place everybody may very well be linked by way of photos, movies, and social networking. With the 3G community got here a brand new wave of smartphones that would share pictures, video name, navigate by way of GPS, present distant medical diagnoses, and extra. As soon as person terminals supplied a common and quick connection to the web, information volumes skyrocketed; a knowledge explosion led to the necessity for the subsequent technology of cellular know-how.


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

The largest problem of worldwide 3G adoption was the price of upgrading the gear 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 largest setbacks from a shopper perspective was the capacity-limited battery lifetime of cellular handsets. Nevertheless, power-savvy processors solved the problem. As a substitute of getting only one microprocessor core in a single purposes processor, two or extra had been included. With extra processor cores, energy consumption might 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 deliver 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 ample computing energy whereas demanding comparatively little power.

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


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

Whereas 3G brought about a cellular revolution, it has since been outmoded by 4G and 5G networks. Each successive technology of wi-fi requirements has launched new advances in data-carrying capability and reduces in latency, and 5G appears set to do the identical. Whereas formal 5G requirements are but to be confirmed, the community is anticipated to be a minimum of 3 times quicker than 4G, a necessity to deal with the amount of real-time information 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 indicators, networks can solely entry a restricted quantity of the spectrum. By making more spectrum available for a given connectivity kind, cellular suppliers can ship extra protection, reliability, and velocity. What’s extra, by retiring 3G providers, networks also can retrieve dated, power-hungry gear from 3G and cut back prices. In the identical means some cellular carriers shut down their 2G networks once they upgraded to help 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 not have connectivity now that 3G is decommissioned. Some carriers have claimed that the variety of customers on 3G units 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 patrons and cut back disruptions. 

The one solution to transfer ahead absolutely into the subsequent part of networking and communication was to retire legacy know-how and make room for brand new and extra superior providers. Whereas its impression won’t ever be forgotten, the solar has lastly set on 3G.