The Demise of 3G Cellular Service

The Demise of 3G Cellular Service Explained 

This article explains The Demise of 3G Cellular Service.

The bulk of phones in use now are 4G/LTE, and the globe is moving toward 5G, while up to 10 million in the US still use 3G. Also, several older gadgets like Kindles, iPads, and Chromebooks use 3G networks. Some older internet-connected devices, such as home security, auto navigation, and entertainment systems, as well as solar panel modems, require 3G. 

So why are telecom companies shutting down 3G networks? Engineer in wireless communications, I can explain. The answer starts with 3G vs. later technologies like 4G/LTE and 5G. 

A family vacation. Ihre teen-daughter is listening to music and chatting with her friends on her phone, while her younger sibling is playing an online game with his friends. All those talks and data streams seem to be happening concurrently across the cellular network. Have you ever pondered how the cellular system can handle all those actions from the same car? 

Getting across all of those 

Multiple access is the answer. Imagine using a piece of paper to write 100 private messages to 100 separate pals. 3G networks use multiple access technology, which is like writing every message to each of your pals on the same sheet of paper. And each of your friends has a distinctive pair of glasses that only reveal the color designated for that person. 

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To transmit messages to more people than the quantity of colored pens allows, you must start mixing colors. Now, when a buddy puts on their special lenses, they can view some of the messages. They won’t be able to read the other messages, but the overlapping may blur the message intended for them. 

3G networks use Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) for multiple access. It was created by Irwin M. Jacobs and other notable electrical engineers. The method uses spread spectrum technology, which dates back to the early 1900s. Jacobs showed in 1991 that CDMA can double cellular capacity over existing systems. 

CDMA allows all users to send and receive signals at all times and frequencies. If 100 people want to make a call or utilize a mobile service at the same moment, their signals will overlap throughout the whole cellular spectrum. 

Interfering signals cause noise. For each user, CDMA creates a unique signature: A coding sequence that can be utilized to recover each user’s signal. In our paper analogy, the code is the color. The codes can overlap if there are too many concurrent users. Interference rises with user count. 


Others divide access by time or frequency rather than allowing users to share the entire cellular spectrum. Time division creates slots. Each connection can last for numerous time slots, but each time slot is so short (milliseconds) that the cellphone user doesn’t notice the disruptions. The link appears to be permanent. Time-division multiple access (TDMA). 

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Frequency division is also possible. Each link has its own frequency band inside the cellular spectrum, and it is permanent. This is FDM (frequency division multiple access) (FDMA). 

Like cutting a sheet of paper into 100 strips and writing each secret message on one strip. FDMA uses horizontal strips, while TDMA uses vertical strips. Each message is separated by a strip. 

4G/LTE and 5G networks use OFDMA, a highly efficient combination of FDMA and TDMA. If you think about OFDMA as a paper, it’s like dividing the paper into many squares and giving each user a different set of squares based on their data needs. 

3G is dead

Now you know the differences between 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G. You may wonder why 3G must be turned down. Due to the variations in access technologies, the two networks require entirely separate equipment and algorithms. 

3G devices and base stations utilise the entire cellular spectrum. 4G/LTE and 5G utilise narrowband or multi-carrier systems that use spectrum slices. From the cell tower antenna to the components in your phone, these two systems require fundamentally different technology. 

A 3G phone cannot connect to a 4G/LTE or 5G tower. Cellular service providers have been maintaining 3G networks while creating new 4G/LTE and 5G networks with new tower equipment and servicing new devices. Imagine running two networks for the same goal at the same time. One must depart. Now that carriers are actively deploying 5G infrastructure, 3G’s time has come.

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