Over the next few days, there would be a lot of talk about this 3G technology and hence, to understand what people are talking about and understand where India’s mobile telephony is leaping ahead, it is first important to understand what this 3G is all about. So let’s get the basics clear.
What is 3G?
3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, superseding 2G and preceding 4G. It will enable network operators to offer a wider range of more advanced services like wide-area wireless voice telephone, video calls and broadband data in a mobile environment. Right now, the mobile phones we use help us make and receive calls, send SMSes and MMSes, there is internet too but at a snails pace, ditto for music downloads. This is because, the current mobiles work on a very narrow bandwidth and 3G would mean a very high bandwidth, giving us very high wireless speeds. Its like this – when the pipe is small, water will come out in a trickle but when suddenly the diameter of the pipe is increased from 10mm to 50mm, can you imagine how the water will rush out? That in short is what 3G would mean.
What prevented us from using 3G till now?
The usage of 3G needs a very high bandwidth and that spectrum needed to be freed from the defence sector. Our defence sector has agreed to give more allocation and hence based in that assurance, we can now go ahead with 3G.
Which are the other countries which use 3G?
Japan was the first to adapt 3G and this was followed by South Korea. It is today available in a number of countries like Italy, UK, Australia, Austria, Singapore, Canada and US among others. It accounts for close to 7% of mobile service population. Countries such as Turkey, China, Indonesia, have not awarded 3G licenses and customers await 3G services. China has been delaying its decisions on 3G for many years, partly hoping to have the Chinese 3G standard, TD-SCDMA, to mature for commercial production. So here too, we may be able to trudge much ahead of China!
How will 3G change things for us?
It will revolutionise the way we use the mobile phones. Once we get onto the 3G, we will be able to transmit text, digitised voice, video, and multimedia data at rates up to 2Mbps in a fixed or stationary wireless environment, and 384kbps in a mobile environment. You can watch movies directly from the internet on your mobile and get it connected to your TV. Video conferencing will now be possible on the mobile phone and IPTV would become as easy as talking on the phone.
All cannot be roses and peaches. What are the thorns which one can encounter in 3G implementation?
For India, implementation is in itself a big challenge. For companies, implementing this technology would entail a huge amount of capital expenses. Even in the developed countries, where the technology has been implemented, many telecom companies are sitting on large amounts of debt, making it a big challenge to build the necessary infrastructure for 3G. There would be other challenges like expensive input fees for the 3G service licenses.
For the man on the street, 3G will be an expensive service. More importantly, the mobile phone which we use today, is based on 2G technology and if we decide to upgrade to 3G, we may have to buy a new mobile phone too. Don’t be surprised to see new launches of mobile phones over the next few months, touting 3G technology. Also, coverage could be spotty as it is still a new service. Also the power usage is also very high, so when you buy your new 3G phone, be sure to check on the battery life and re-chargeability.