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What are the Gs all about? Basically, these designations refer to different generations of mobile telephone services, new ones which come along about every ten years. 3G, which is the one most widely used today, is the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) standard for third generation mobile telephone systems under the International Mobile Telecommunications programme, IMT-2000. Analog cellular was the first generation, digital PCS was the second. Along with W-CDMA, 3G was the big rage in the late 90's, with proponents announcing that it was the Killer Wireless Application because of its ability to simultaneously transfer voice data (the phone call) and other non-voice data such as music, photographs, video, email, instant messaging, and information downloads. 3G networks use a variety of wireless network technologies, including GSM, CDMA, TDMA, WCDMA, CDMA2000, UMTS and EDGE, and this leads to some confusion as well as a great deal of flexibility.

3G implementation was slower than initially anticipated, however, because of the cost of upgrading equipment and licensing fees for additional spectrum. The earlier, 2G networks didn't typically use the same frequencies as 3G (except in the United States), and licensing fees, particularly in Europe, were extremely expensive. Only Japan and South Korea were able to implement this technology quickly, largely because of the high level of government support for new infrastructure advances. In Japan, by the end of 2006 the majority of customers were on 3G and upgrades to the next stage, 3.5G (with 3 Mbit/s data rates), were underway. Implementation in the rest of the world is coming along, but at a slightly slower pace. In December 2007, 190 3G networks were operating in 40 countries, with 200 million subscribers, and those figures have increased since then -- but there are 3 billion mobile phone subscriptions worldwide so we can expect to see different parts of the world operating on different standards for years to come.

You may also see terms like 3.5G (or 3.75, 3.9 etc. -- almost there) and 4G (the latest and greatest on the horizon). In fact, as early as 2008 we started seeing the transition towards 4G services. The standard for 4G, however, wasn't finalized by the ITU-R until 2009, setting peak speed requirements for 4G service at 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communications (such as from trains and cars) and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication (e.g., stationary users and pedestrians). Not all devices and networkds marketed as 4G actually meet the requirements of the standard. On December 6, 2010, ITU declared that current versions of Long-Term-Evolution (LTE), mobile WiMax and other evolved 3G technologies that do not fulfill all the requirements of the standard can still be considered as 4G, as long as they provide clear forerunners to the full IMT-Advanced requirements and represent 'a substantial level of improvement in performance and capabilities with respect to the initial third generation systems now deployed.' As the deployment of 4G, like earlier generations, will involve the complete replacement of existing handsets and networks, it will also take many years for implementation. Candidate 4G systems replace CDMA spread spectrum radio technology used in 3G systems and IS-95 with wide channel OFDMA and Single Carrier FDMA (SC-FDE) technologies, MIMO transmission and an all-IP based architecture. There are a number of different technologies under development as well as different standards for these technologies.

For ease of reference, we've combined information on all the "Gs" on this page. The articles, resources, references and links below may help you through this maze of alphabet soup, jargon, acronyms and confusing standards!

Contents of This Page

3G/4G in the News
SSS Online 3G/4G Resources
SSS Online Technical Briefings Archive
Other Online 3G/4G Resources
Reference Books Available for Purchase

3G / 4G in the News

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SSS Online 3G /4G Resources

Wireless Glossary


CDMA Stuff Page

W-CDMA Stuff Page

Cellular Emergency 911 Info Page

Read ICUCOM's ACOLADE IS-95 CDMA Library Description
(with a Great intro to IS-95 in the first few pages).

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3G Articles from SSS Online's Technical Briefings Archive

ADOBE Acrobat (.pdf) Files Relating to Wireless, Cellular Telecomm and 3G/4G:

Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD)" (~529K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Media Access — TDMA and CDMA" (~682K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Cellular Telephony" (~489K).
Paul Flikkema's (USF) Briefing — "Introduction to Spread Spectrum" (~110K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Mobile and Personal Communications" (~106K).
Paul Flikkema's (USF) Briefing — "Narrowband Multipath Fading: A Simple Model" (~73K).
Paul Flikkema's (USF) Briefing — "Overview of Modulation Techniques for Wireless" (~99K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Digital Modulation" (~499K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Media Access — Aloha and CSMA" (~479K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Challenges of Mobile Computing" (~622K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Wide-Area Mobile Data Systems" (~501K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Mobile Satellite Systems" (~283K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing -- "CS294-7: Introduction to Packet Radio Networks" (~264K).
Prof. Randy H. Katz' (UCB) Briefing — "CS294-7: Radio Propagation" (~402K).
"The Technical Case For Convergence Of Third Generation Wireless Systems Based On CDMA — Five Key Technical Principles To Consider" (~107K) — Thanks Qualcomm.
"The GSM-CDMA Economic Study (Exectutive Summary)" by Anderson Consulting, et al (~74K) — Thanks Qualcomm.

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OTHER 3G/4G Resources:

White Papers on 3G Wireless

Bitpipe's 4G resources — many excellent articles and links

4G.Co.UK — interesting site with tutorials, marketing information, more.

3G World
— a very interesting 3G news and information portal
covering USA, Europe, ASIA and other key countries around the globe.

FCC's 3G / 4G Wireless topic — A "MUST SEE" site.

Wikipedia's Article on Single Carrier FDMA, one of the candidate 4G technologies

Wikipedia's Article on LTE, another leading candidate 4G technology

Wikipedia's 4G Article

Wikipedia's excellent tutorial on 3G

NTIA's Legacy 3G site — nothing new since 2003

UMTS World — news, articles, applications, and more

3GPP Home Page — the 3rd Generation Partnership Project

Communications DesignLine Highlights, an EE Times Community.

Excellent Ericsson section on 3G

Equally goo Ericsson section on 4G

Of special note: Ericsson's excellent series, History of Mobile Broadband, in four parts:

QUALCOMM — "The Home of CDMA"

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Reference Books on 3G Available for Purchase

Click on a Title Below for a Direct Link to Purchase


UMTS Signaling: UMTS Interfaces, Protocols, Message Flows and Procedures Analyzed and Explained , by Ralf Kreher and Torsten Ruedebusch. Hardcover: 454 pages (April 1, 2005).


3G Handset and Network Design, by Geoff Varrall & Roger Belcher. Paperback: 576 pages (February 2003).


Software Defined Radio for 3G: Designing for 3G Cellular Mobile Systems (Artech House Mobile Communications Series) , Paul Burns. Hardcover: 240 pages (November 2002).


M-Profits: Making Money from 3G Services, by Tomi Ahonen. Hardback - 328 pages 1st edition (October 15, 2002).


GSM, GPRS and EDGE Performance: Evolution Toward 3G/UMTS , by Timo Halonen, Juan Melero, Javier Romero Garcia. Hardcover: 352 pages; (May 13, 2002)


Wireless Broadband Networks Handbook :3G, Lmds & Wireless Internet (Networking), by John Vacca. Paperback - 816 pages 1st edition (January 2001).


QoS in Integrated 3G Networks, by Robert Lloyd-Evans. Hardcover: 346 pages 1st edition (July 15, 2002).


Advances in 3G Enhanced Technologies for Wireless Communications (Artech House Mobile Communications Series), by Jiangzhou Wang and Tung-Sang Ng (Editors). Hardcover - 376 pages (March 2002).


3G Wireless Demystified, by Lawrence Harte, Romm Kikta, & Richard Levine. Paperback - 500 pages; (August 27, 2001).


Towards a Global 3G System : Advanced Mobil Communications in Europe, Volume 1, by Ramjee Prasad (Editor). Hardcover - 424 pages 1st edition (July 2001).


GSM, cdmaOne and 3G Systems, by Raymond Steele, Lee Chin-Chun, Peter Gould. Hardcover - 522 pages 1st edition (March 1, 2001).


GPRS and 3G Wireless Applications: Professional Developer's Guide, by Christoffer Andersson. Paperback - 352 pages, 1st edition (May 17, 2001).


Introduction to 3G Mobile Communications (Artech House), by Juha Korhonen. Hardcover - 568 pages 2nd edition (February 2003).


Wireless Network Evolution: 2G to 3G, by Vijay K. Garg. Hardcover - 600 pages 1 edition (July 26, 2001).


Broadband Wireless Communications - 3G, 4G and Wireless LAN (The Kluwer International Series in Engineering and Computer Science, Volume 620), by Jiangzhou Wang. Hardcover - 360 pages (July 2001).


3G Wireless Networks, by Daniel Collins, Clint Smith. Paperback - 500 pages; (September 18, 2001).

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