What is 3G ? What 3G Enables for Users In Australia

3G or HSPA

3G is the third generation of mobile phone technology which succeeds GPRS – a 2G, or 2nd generation technology.

3G brought faster data communication, greater network capacity and enabled the latest network services – the ones you’re used to today – like fast internet browsing, music and application downloads.

One of the most common 3G technologies is the UMTS-HSPA which operates at the speed of up to 14 Mbps for download 5.76 Mbps for upload. It’s probably the technology used in your current mobile phone.

After 3G, the market briefly moved to HSPA+ , an even faster data communication standard. By November 2011, 157 countries were already using this technology which offered speeds of up to 21 Mbps.

HSPA+ offers features such as video and picture sharing, VOIP or Voice-over Internet Protocol and PoC or Push-to-talk over Cellular ( wireless ) networks.


It’s worth mentioning EDGE. In other areas of the world, before 3G was launched, EDGE popped its head up for a while.

By 2003, GSM/GPRS has been superseded with EDGE or the Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution. EDGE wasn’t used everywhere that GSM was. Commonly known as Enhanced GPRS and popular in the USA but not here, EDGE enabled faster data transmission – up to 3 times quicker than GPRS.  EDGE was backward compatible with GSM and provided up to 1Mbps with average of 400 kbps speeds.

It never really caught on in Australia, we went for 3G.

What is 3G Plus / 3G+

In Australia, against a backdrop of significant increases in complaints to local telcos and regulators, towards the end of 2011, the networks operators including Optus and Vodafone started to roll out 3G Plus ( or 3G+. )

3G+ used lower frequencies ( like 800 MHz ) to transmit data. Frequencies at the lower end of the spectrum travel further and penetrate the walls of buildings better. 3G+ improved data coverage in Australia and at least slowed the increase in complaints !

What is 4G or LTE

Right now, the most powerful mobile wireless technology is 4G ( also known as LTE ), successor of 3G.

4G as a concept and standard refers to all Internet Protocol packet-switched networks which offer up to 100 Mbps speeds. This means that current 4G technology can have a data transmission speed that is much faster ( 5 to 20 times faster ) than 3G.

Devices like the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 2, all released in Australia late in 2012, support LTE. If you’ve used one, you’ll know what a difference LTE can make to your browsing and downloading experience.

Under 4G, two standards have emerged : WiMax (Wireless) and LTE (Long Term Evolution). Both WiMax and LTE are high speed data communication service. WiMax is mostly designed for high-speed internet connection at home via fiber, cable or DSL. LTE, on the other hand, is available mostly from the wireless network providers you know and ‘love’ – like Telstra, Vodafone Australia and Optus – for use with mobile phones.

Not all countries and mobile phones have LTE yet. There are only a select few and Australia, as usual, is one of the world’s ‘early adopters.’

Conclusion & 5G

IMT or the International Mobile Telecommunications is one of the building block organizations behind mobile wireless technology. Right now, they are developing an even faster and better standard that will surpass 4G.

5G or IMT-Advanced will ultimately supersede existing wireless networks. It is rumored to transmit data at a theoretical speed of 1 Gbps. If this is true, a 720p video will take you less than 90 seconds to download !

5G is expected to be available for install by the operators in 2014 and makes some people question whether we need the fixed NBN at all !