What exactly is 3G internet? Learn all about 3G broadband with our guide.
The term "3G internet" refers to the third generation of mobile phone standards as set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). 3G technologies allow mobile operators to offer more service options to their users, including mobile broadband.
3G broadband offers greater flexibility and services by making more efficient use of mobile bandwidth than its predecessor 2G. Although faster, newer 4G technology is becoming increasingly available in the UK, 3G remains the UK's dominant mobile broadband technology.
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The relationship between 2G and 3G is similar to that of dial-up and broadband, or terrestrial TV and digital TV. In all of the latter examples, greater spectral efficiency has enabled more consumer choice and a more effective service.
Simply put: More data can be transmitted faster.
3G enables devices such as mobile phones and mobile dongles to deliver broadband-speed internet. Even the lowest-end, cheapest mobile phones are 3G-enabled, making it easy to check e-mails and browse the web on the go.
Mobile broadband via dongles and smartphones has taken off extremely quickly. With mobile broadband contracts, customers can browse the internet, check e-mail and download files, music and video clips from their laptops and other devices wherever there is coverage.
3G is made possible by two complementary technologies: HSDPA and HSUPA (high speed download and upload packet access, respectively). These technologies enable mobile broadband users to access download speeds of up to 21Mbps and upload speeds of up to 1.76Mbps via a mobile dongle, USB modem or MiFi.
Predecessors of 3G such as 2G and GPRS offered limited internet connectivity that was often costly and slow. Conversely, because 3G uses the airwaves more efficiently, it can offer greater speeds with low prices.
Who offers 3G internet?
Currently, Vodafone is the only 3G mobile broadband provider in the UK.
At one stage, the UK 3G market was more competitive with many more players; however, most companies have switched to 4G mobile broadband, and some have even stopped providing mobile broadband packages entirely.
Want to know more?
Check out our other guides on mobile broadband.