What is the difference between GSM, 2G & 3G technologies?

GSM is Mobile Phone based technology. Wireless communication equipment operating at a certain 'radio' frequency.

As the technology improves ie: the frequency goes higher,  ie: gets faster, it is capable of more demanding data intensive tasks like streaming live HD video for example.

GSM was the start of mobile communications 

GSM then became 2G (2nd generation GSM)

GSM then became 3G (the Internet generation)

GSM is now 4G (faster Internet generation)

GSM will be 5G (the fastest Internet generation yet)

So as you can see, mobile technology is now just becoming mobile internet technology... 

History of GSM

Second Generation (2G) technology was launched in 1991 in Finland. It is based on the technology known as 'Global System for Mobile Communications' (ie: GSM). 2G is basically just a fancy name for the original 1st generation GSM technology. GSM technology enabled many networks to provide services like text messages, picture messages and MMS. In GSM technology all text messages are digitally encrypted due to which only the intended receiver receives message. These digital signals consume less battery power, so it helps in saving the battery of mobiles. 

The technologies used in 2G are either TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) which divides signal into different time slots or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) which allocates a special code to each user so as to communicate over a multiplex physical channel.
3G technology generally refers to the standard of accessibility and speed of mobile devices. It was first used in Japan in the year 2001. The standards of the technology were set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This technology enables use of various services like GPS (Global Positioning System), mobile television and video conferencing. It not only enables them to be used worldwide, but also provides with better bandwidth and increased speed.
This technology is much more flexible as it can support 5 major radio technologies that operate under CDMA, TDMA and FDMA. CDMA accounts for IMT-DS (direct speed), IMT-MC (multi carrier). TDMA holds for IMT-TC (time code), IMT-SC (single carrier). This technology is also comfortable to work with 2G technologies. The main aim of this technology is to allow much better coverage and growth with minimum investment.

Main Difference between 2G & 3G Technology

·         Cost: The license fee to be paid for 3G network is much higher as compared to 2G networks. The network construction and maintenance of 3G is much costlier than 2G networks. Also from the customers point of view the expenditure for 3G network will be excessively high if they make use of the various applications of 3G. 
·         Data Transmission:  The main difference between 2G and 3G networks is seen by the mobile users who download data and browse the Internet on the mobile phones. They find much faster download speeds, faster access to the data and applications in 3G networks as compared to 2G networks. 2G networks are less compatible with the functions of smart phone. The speed of data transmission in 2G network is less than 50,000 bits per sec while in 3G it can be more than 4 million bits per sec.
·         Function: The main function of 2G technology is the transmission of information via voice signals while that of 3G technologies is data transfer for internet, video conferencing, MMS etc.
·         Features: The features like mobile TV, video transfers and GPS systems are the additional features of 3G technology that are not available with 2G technologies.
·         Frequencies: 2G technology uses a broad range of frequencies in both upper and lower bands, under which the transmission depends on conditions such as weather. A drawback of 3G is that it is simply not available in certain regions.
·         Implication: 3G technology offers a high level of security as compared to 2G technology because 3G networks permit validation measures when communicating with other devices. 
·         Making Calls: Calls can be made easily on both 2G and 3G networks with no real noticeable differences except that in 3G network video calls can also be made. The transmission of text messages and photos is available in both the networks but 2G networks have data limit and the speed of the data transmission is also very slow as compared to 3G.
·         Speed:  Download & upload speeds available in 2G are up to 236 Kbps. While in 3G technology the download and upload speeds are up to 21 Mbps and 5.7 Mbps respectively.

Do I need 2G or 3G?

If you're in the UK, we put it to you like this. You don't go into the Apple shop and say "I'll have last year's iPhone thanks". No you get the latest, why? Because technology moves forward. The legacy systems that once supported the hardware become old news and you're stuck with equipment that stops performing.

Until very recently, most of the GSM systems on the market needed only SMS and voice of which 2G can handle well. Now we're in a completely Internet driven world. Adopting 3G now is the best choice because the demands of users and the capability of the latest hardware is only restricted using 2G. It's like having a smart TV and no internet connection. What's the point?

The UK networks are still saying they support 2G, which they do to a degree, however in the past 6 months (written August 2017), we've noticed a definite deterioration in 2G signal in certain areas. This is due to the bandwidth being consumed by the network's ventures into 4G and beyond. 

If you're in the US, Asia, or Australia for example, you need 3G products as that's the only network you can get in your country.

In the UK, if you take a 2G product now you may save a small amount to start with but you'll certainly pay in the end.


We trust the above has confused you no end. The short story is, technology, by default should be kept up to date to get the best out of it. You can use an old TV for a very very long time but then again you won't experience all that TV has to offer if your TV isn't capable....

3G will be supported for a very very long time. It's internet capable mobile technology. 2G has had it's day. Most of the World has already begun a shift away from 2G.

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