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3G refers to the technical standards used for the Third Generation cellular network. 3G systems can provide global mobile communications and support multimedia applications.


3G cellphones have broadband connections for voice and data transmission. It supersedes 2.5G. 3G services typically use a licensed cellular network architecture that has been upgraded to carry data, in addition to voice.

3G networks enable network operators to offer users a wider range of more advanced services while achieving greater network capacity through improved spectral efficiency. Services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, video calls, and broadband wireless data, all in a mobile environment. Additional features also include HSPA data transmission capabilities, which provides users with data rates up to 14.4 Mbit/s on the downlink and 5.8 Mbit/s on the uplink.

Subscribers can access the Internet while mobile-using devices such as laptop computers equipped with a wireless modem card, cellular phones, and personal digital assistants.

The first commercial release of 3G was in Japan in 2001; the technology successfully debuted in the United States in 2003. 3G technologies can support multi-function devices, such as the BlackBerry and the iPhone. 3G Internet service is available to approximately 96% of the U.S. population, co-extensive with traditional cellular phone service.

3G service covers roughly 60% of U.S. land mass.[1] In addition, approximately 77% of the U.S. population lived in an area served by three or more 3G service providers, 12% lived in an area served by two, and 9% lived in an area served by one. About 2% lived in an area with no provider.[2]


  1. The approximate of 60% is based on total landmass area. In 2008, this figure was 39.6%. See Implementation of Section 6002(b) of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1993; Annual Report and Analysis of Competitive Market Conditions With Respect to Commercial Mobile Services, WT Docket No. 08-27, Thirteenth Report, 24 FCC Rcd 6185, 6257, tbl. 9 (WTB 2009).
  2. Data from American Roamer shows geographic coverage by technology. The actual service quality of data connections experienced by end-users will differ due to a large number of factors, such as location and mobility. Further, the underlying coverage maps do not include information on the level of service (i.e., signal quality and the speed of broadband service) provided; nor is coverage defined by providers in the same way. Thus, coverage as measured here does not correspond to a specific minimum signal quality or user experience.

See also[]

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