International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000), better known as 3G or 3rd Generation, is a family of standards for mobile telecommunications defined by the International Telecommunication Union, which includes GSM EDGE, UMTS, and CDMA2000 as well as DECT and WiMAX. Services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, video calls, and wireless data, all in a mobile environment. Compared to 2G and 2.5G services, 3G allows simultaneous use of speech and data services and higher data rates (up to 14.0 Mbit/s on the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s on the uplink with HSPA+). Thus, 3G networks enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defined the third generation (3G) of mobile telephony standards – IMT-2000 – to facilitate growth, increase bandwidth, and support more diverse applications. For example, GSM (the current most popular cellular phone standard) could deliver not only voice, but also circuit-switched data at download rates up to 14.4 kbps. But to support mobile multimedia applications, 3G had to deliver packet-switched data with better spectral efficiency, at far greater bandwidths.
ITU has not provided a clear definition of the data rate users can expect from 3G equipment or providers. Thus users sold 3G service may not be able to point to a standard and say that the rates it specifies are not being met. While stating in commentary that “it is expected that IMT-2000 will provide higher transmission rates: a minimum data rate of 2 Mbit/s for stationary or walking users, and 348 kbit/s in a moving vehicle,” the ITU does not actually clearly specify minimum or average rates or what modes of the interfaces qualify as 3G, so various rates are sold as 3G intended to meet customers expectations of broadband data.
3G networks offer a greater degree of security than 2G predecessors. By allowing the UE (User Equipment) to authenticate the network it is attaching to, the user can be sure the network is the intended one and not an impersonator. 3G networks use the KASUMI block crypto instead of the older A5/1 stream cipher. However, a number of serious weaknesses in the KASUMI cipher have been identified .
In addition to the 3G network infrastructure security, end-to-end security is offered when application frameworks such as IMS are accessed, although this is not strictly a 3G property.
The bandwidth and location information available to 3G devices gives rise to applications not previously available to mobile phone users. Some of the applications are:
* Mobile TV – a provider redirects a TV channel directly to the subscriber’s phone where it can be watched.
* Video on demand – a provider sends a movie to the subscriber’s phone.
* Video conferencing – subscribers can see as well as talk to each other.
* Tele-medicine – a medical provider monitors or provides advice to the potentially isolated subscriber.
* Location-based services – a provider sends localized weather or traffic conditions to the phone, or the phone allows the subscriber to find nearby businesses or friends.
Evolution towards 4G
Both 3GPP and 3GPP2 are currently working on further extensions to 3G standards, named Long Term Evolution and Ultra Mobile Broadband, respectively. Being based on an all-IP network infrastructure and using advanced wireless technologies such as MIMO, these specifications already display features characteristic for IMT-Advanced (4G), the successor of 3G. However, falling short of the bandwidth requirements for 4G (which is 1 Gbit/s for stationary and 100 Mbit/s for mobile operation), these standards are classified as 3.9G or Pre-4G.
3GPP plans to meet the 4G goals with LTE Advanced, whereas Qualcomm has halted development of UMB in favour of the LTE family.
On 14 December 2009, Telia Sonera announced in an official press release that “We are very proud to be the first operator in the world to offer our customers 4G services.” With the launch of their LTE network, initially they are offering pre-4G (or beyond 3G) services in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway.