THE EMERGING trend of third-generation technology (3G), with its video call, music, and video streaming, excites techies. But unknown to many, there is more to 3G than videos and music.

3G provides an increase in bandwidth or data transfer frequency, making faster downloading possible. The fast Internet access is like having a portable wireless computer with the mobile phone acting as modem itself.

According to Electronics and Communications Engineering professor Emmanuel Guevara of the UST Faculty of Engineering, 3G is the availability of network services with increased bandwidth. The 3G network, however, is not limited to mobile phones, as it can also be accessed by computers using a “3G card” that works like a Wi-fi card.

3G serves more the transfer of big data that can be transferred. “It will not matter if phones do not have dual cameras,” Guevara explained. “While video calling enhances in-your-face communication, data access is still more important.”

The other G’s

The newest to invade the Philippine telecommunications market is the High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) or 3.5G, with a 1.8 Megabits per second (Mbps) downloading rate.

“With HSDPA, more bandwidth is available for downloading,” Guevara said. “People regularly download but seldom upload, so more speed is needed for downloading.”

The channel used in 3G is not limited to voice, since voice has its own isolated network separated from non-voice data. Data connection is more heightened than regular modem because both voice and non-voice data can be used at the same time. The 1.8 Mbps data rate allows users to stream videos and use audio-video conferencing.

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Prior to 3G and General Packet Radio Service, the earlier phone generations used only one channel to transfer both voice and non-voice data. Due to data traffic, the phone lines become busier since both data are competing for the same space, contesting for a single line that causes time lag or delay.

The first-generation technologies offer only voice services, while the second-generation 2G features the popular short messaging services, aside from voice calls.

While 3G was introduced in Japan and Korea five years ago, it was offered in Europe only two years back.

“Europe learned from the mistakes of Japan and came up with an improved version of the 3G system,” Guevara told the Varsitarian.

“The systems used in Japan and in Europe are completely different,” Guevara said. “Since the Philippine telecommunications system is based on European standard, it would be incompatible for us to use the technology offered in Japan.”

Japan and Korea systems are based on i-Mode, from the Code Division Multiple Access platform, a method of transmitting signals. On the other hand, European standard uses the Universal Mobile Telephone System (UMTS), the 3G successor of Global System for Mobile Communications.

“UMTS uses a different frequency from i-Mode mainly due to regional allocations,” Guevara said.

Not a phone away

Add-on devices to switch to 3G are burdened on the network, such as system upgrades of mobile phone providers. Since there are still no available add-ons in the Philippines, consumers need to change phones in order to access 3G.

But before changing your phone, look at 3G’s requirements first. For 3G to work, the subscriber, cell site, and even the telephone office should all be upgraded to accommodate the faster transfer rate of data. Any of the three lacking would mean incompatibility, and thus, no 3G access.

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“The 3G system is still young. Even in Europe, there are still new advances in cellular phone technology, so wait for a few more perks before changing your phone,” Guevara advised.

However, users should not be alarmed about any system incompatibility when changing to phones like Nokia N72 or Sony Ericsson’s W850. Phones using the older systems can still be accommodated by the new 3G technology, only with lesser features.

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