10 Questions About Cellular Phones
the Entire Article ]
- What's the difference between analog and digital
- What is a Dual Band Phone?
- What type of battery has the longest life?
- What's the difference between the Stand-by time
and Talk time?
- What is a roaming charge?
- What are peak and off peak hours?
- What are anytime minutes?
- Do I pay for the call when someone calls me?
- Should I buy a cell phone or look for a free cellular
- What to do if you want to upgrade/downgrade or cancel
your service plan?
Cell Phone News - 3G Technology
by Mike Ber
A third generation wireless communications
technology having evolved from first generation analog,
and second generation digital, communication technologies.
Whenever someone asks me to explain what 3G systems are,
I tend to think of huge departmental stores. All your
basic needs plus a few extra items thrown in to
spice things up under a single roof. A plea to
modern mans psychological need for convenience.
And thats how it is with the current crop of 3G
packages. A simple, all-in-one access to everything users
could ever want from a mobile phone (and then some).
But seriously now, what is 3G (or 2.5G for that matter)?
Basically 3G systems are meant to be the ultimate upgrade
to the current 2G systems that are operating under the
Global System of Mobile Communications (GSM). GSM is referred
to as the Second Generation (2G) of mobile phone technology,
with the old analog mobile phone system being the first.
Since current 2G phones send and receive data at only
9.6 Kilobits per second (kbps), the advent of text and
multimedia messaging (MMS) has meant that the demand for
drastically improved data transfer rates has been very
3G systems are designed to offer increased voice capacity
and higher-speed data rates by providing a more robust
wireless pipeline. The International Telecommunications
Union (ITU), a regulatory and standards-setting body,
states that any system claiming to be 3G must be capable
of a minimum speed of 144K bits/second, and theoretically
going up to 2 Mbps. Very good, you might say. But why
is there such a need for speed?
Well, 3G systems aim to provide faster access to all kinds
of data, thus turning your wireless phone (or appliance)
into a handier, cooler, tool. This speed is matched with
the promise that it will "keep people connected at
all times and in all places." What results is the
capability to access the Internet as you would at home,
mobile instant messaging, enhanced multimedia options,
usability as a fax/pager/e-mail tool, as well as the obvious
premise of crisper and more stable voice communications.
Very impressive, but not without a lions share of
For starters, 3G services are bound to be expensive,
especially due to the very high prices paid for 3G spectrum
licenses. Secondly, the services offered by 3G are nice,
but are beyond the current demands of the average user.
So now we have a situation where the consumer is not satisfied
with the current level of service, yet is also balking
at paying so much for something that resembles overkill.
To fill the void, 2.5G has evolved. 2.5G radio transmission
technology is radically different from 2G technology because
it uses packet switching. GPRS (General Packet Radio Service)
is the European 2.5G standard, the upgrade from GSM. GPRS
overlays a packet-switched architecture onto the GSM circuit-switched
architecture. It is a useful evolutionary step on the
road to 3G because it gives telecommunications operators
experience of operating packet networks, and charging
for packet data. Data transfer rates in 2.5G services
can theoretically reach 64Kbps.
It is important to note the resulting irony. Because 3G
services were too expensive and because the market was
not ready for them, 2.5G evolved. Now, as
it is said later, the evolution of 2.5G has become an
obstacle for 3G services to penetrate the cell phone market.
However, 3G cannot be judged merely on the basis of costs
and services alone. The value of any consumer technology
can only be truly measured in terms of its worth to the
average user. And when it comes to mobile communications,
the needs of the average customer are already
being fulfilled through 2G and 2.5G. Most people do not
need to use video conferencing or browse complete websites
through their cell phones. Most of us are satisfied with
constant coverage, the provision to check our email and
maybe send a voice message or so. With all of this available
in quite affordable packages, experts are beginning to
wonder whether there actually is the massive demand to
match the hype that was created when 3G first came into
Market analysts are faced with the challenge of accurately
predicting how much technology consumers will actually
be willing to pay for 3G services. With 3G providing features
that are cool but expensive, and with cheaper
and adequate alternatives available in the form of 2.5G,
the pure cell-phone features no longer hold any pulling
power. In fact, some critics argue that 2.5G speeds are
just fine, thank you, and provide enough flexibility for
The rapid development of wireless LANs based on the 802.11
standard and the future 802.11g standard means that 3G
systems now have serious competition. Although Wi-Fi support
is still patchy (and suffers from the same security issues),
and some users prefer 2.5G and 3G systems instead of Wi-Fi
due to the widespread coverage, wireless LANs have completely
taken over the office environment. Not only that but wireless
LAN systems are getting faster and becoming more robust.
There are plans to develop 802.11 systems that approach
1.5 Mbps in theoretical speeds. Intel and others are also
looking into developing metropolitan area networks (MANs)
that expand that 300 feet Wi-Fi bubble to about 30 miles,
or across an entire city.
In the U.S, 3G services have been slow to start. Only
in late 2003 and early this year did commercial 3G packages
evolve to the extent that the general public became interested
in them. Compare this with the presence of 3G services
in Japan since 2001 and the popularity of 3G networks
in Europe since 2000 (Finland launched its first
network in late 2000). Compared to the rest of the developed
world, the U.S is lagging behind. And here is why:
A much more developed lower-tier communications infrastructure
(2G and 2.5G) has meant that there are more alternatives
have been available to consumers.
Wi-Fi has become the latest rage with tech-savvy
consumers, and because it became available before 3G systems
were fully operational, it has captured a sizeable share
of the wireless business market.
U.S companies have several technical and legal issues
in acquiring the appropriate spectrum for 3G use from
As technology becomes more sophisticated and bandwidth
increases, systems become increasingly vulnerable to attack
by malicious hackers (known as crackers) unless countermeasures
are implemented to protect against such activity. Ensuring
secure wireless connections in a pre-requisite to any
wireless service provider.
Despite the obstacles, 3G is here to stay. The main issue
is to work it into the market in such a way that it becomes
useful for the majority of people, and not just a select
few. Ideally, we are looking at multi-tiered services
that offer a combination of 2.5G, 3G and Wi-Fi capabilities
to one, national network. Eventually we would be using
multiple networks to check our email, leave a message
for a friend and download that bonus music video onto
our PDA. Being part of a culture that revels on paying
a flat rate for unlimited access, I would expect such
a network to offer different levels of service, with customers
being charged according to their service package, and
not having to pay multiple fees for Wi-Fi and 3G access.
Just as PC users are starting to wonder whether there
really is a need for faster computers, the whole communications
industry might also be entering a period of transition
(not just a few years but perhaps a decade or two) where
new technologies would not mean that older technologies
become obsolete; rather, two separate consumer groups
would emerge who would use the old and new technologies
side by side.
About the Author
Mike Ber is owner of www.Every.ca , and www.ComputerMagazine.ca