Difference Between 2G and 3G Network Technology

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between 2G and 3G Network Technology

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The industry of telecommunication has developed so far as to launch a fifth model of global wireless standards and it is nothing short of a commendable achievement. The initial model i.e., 1G is nothing compared to the remarkable amount of services that the latest model i.e., 5G has to offer. The term 'G' in all these models stands for generation and each of these is a global wireless standard for mobile communications and cellular networks.

Two of these standards that contributed to the most revolutionary developments were the 2G and 3G network technologies with the invention of digital encryption and video communication respectively. Let us take a closer look at how they differ in the standards they set and the services they provide.

2G vs. 3G

The main difference between 2G network technology and 3G network technology lies in the bandwidth they provide to the users. 2G network systems provide the users with a data speed of 170 - 200 kbps whereas 3G network systems can provide the users with a data speed of up to 2Mbps, which is a tremendous development from its former model. Thus, many users in the present day prefer 3G network systems to 2G network systems.

Difference Between 2G and 3G Network Technology in Tabular Form

Parameters of Comparison 2G Network Technology 3G Network Technology
Frequency 2G technology employs a wide range of frequencies in both the upper and lower bands. 3G does not have such flexibility and is not available in some areas.
Security 2G is less secure when compared to 3G networks. 3G networks are highly secure as they allow validation measures when communicating with any other devices.
Speed Data transmission rate while uploading or downloading media is around 200 kbps. Data transmission rate while uploading media is nearly 6Mbps and that while downloading media is 21Mbps.
Technology 2G network systems are based on GSM technology. 3G network systems are based on WCDMA technology.
Expenses Construction and maintenance costs are comparatively cheaper. The license fee for 3G is much higher. Thus, both construction and maintenance costs are higher than 2G network systems.
Video calls 2G network systems do not support video calls. 3G network systems can support video calls.
High-end features 2G network systems do not allow high-end features. 3G network systems provide features such as GPS systems, MMS and mobile TV, etc.

What is 2G Network Technology?

First launched in Finland by Radiolinja in 1991, 2G network technology is considered to have  many significant developments over its predecessor i.e1g network systems. The most notable upgrade of this development is the evolution of analog systems to digital systems. However, this is not the only advancement that the world benefited from the development of 2G network  technology. Here are few of the benefits that 2G systems provide to the user over 1g systems:

  • Encryption: 2G network technology provides digital encryption of telephone conversations that primarily exists between the mobile and the cellular base station.
  • Data services: Mobile data services such as SMS texts are provided to the user.
  • Quality: The user enjoys better quality during voice calls when compared to 1g network technology.
  • Higher bandwidth: In 2G systems, there is an efficient usage of the Radiofrequency(RF) spectrum, providing higher bandwidth to the users.

Digital signals are said to consume lesser power, allowing the mobile user to enjoy longer-lasting battery life. Let us look at a few more key features of 2G network technology:

  • Speed: 2G systems provide a data transmission rate up to 200 kbps.
  • Frequency: It uses frequency bands around 1.8Ghz.
  • Network: The core network used by 2G network systems is a Public Switched telephone network(PSTN).
  • Technology: 2G network systems are based on Global System for Mobile communication(GSM) technology and Personal Digital Cellular(PDC).
  • Multiplexing: This type of network technology allows multiple users on a single channel. This provides higher user capacity for the network. There are three kinds of multiplexing techniques that 2G networks employ to transmit data. They are Code Division Multiple Access(CDMA), Time Division Multiple Access(TDMA), and Frequency Division Multiple Access(FDMA).
  1. Code Division Multiple Access(CDMA):-  CDMA is different from the other two modulation techniques where the user is allotted only a small portion of the available bandwidth for every call. Here, the user can access the entire bandwidth during the call by distinguishing each user with different Walsh codes. There are up to 64 such codes that are orthogonal to each other. A signal is selected from a given code and it will not develop ISI since there won't be any crosstalk due to orthogonality.
  2. Time Division Multiple Access(TDMA):- TDMA is a digital modulation technique that is used in the industry of telecommunications and radio communications. In this technique, we divide the frequency spectrum and allot a particular portion of time to each call on that frequency. Once the user is allotted a time slot, the slot is freed and the user must wait for their turn to transmit data again. This allows multiple users to make calls simultaneously over the same channel. There are different kinds of TDMA techniques depending upon the slot division. A two-slot TDMA allows two users to share the same frequency and a three-slot TDMA allows three users to share the same frequency and so forth.
  3. Frequency Division Multiple Access(FDMA):- FDMA is a modulation technique used for analog transmissions of data. while it will still be for digital transmissions, it is not as efficient and is preferred for analog methods only. In this method, the frequency spectrum is divided into different channels of a certain bandwidth and each call can be carried at each of these channels. This is done by using guard bands between each of these adjacent frequency spectra to avoid crosstalk where a call can bleed into another spectrum. However, a disadvantage of this method is the wastage of frequency spectrum due to the guard bands. There is also a reduced level of inter-symbol interference(ISI).

2G networks can be primarily divided into two parts: GSM and PDC technologies

  • Global System for Mobile communication(GSM):- GSM is a technology used in the industry of mobile communications. Here, data is compressed after converting it to digital mode, following which it is sent through channels in different streams with the help of TDMA techniques. This allows a data rate of up to 120Mbps. GSM employs a circuit-switching system that allows the division of each channel of 200kHz frequency into 8 different slots of 25kHz each. GSM provides customers with higher efficiency of the spectrum with high-quality voice calls and low costs of mobile sets.
  • Personal Digital Cellular(PDC):- PDC, unlike GSM, is a 2G mobile telephone communications standard that was released and employed exclusively in Japan. AThe standard saw its zenith in service and popularity around 2005 after which it slowly faded out due to the development of 3G network technologies. Some major operators that shut down were NTT DoCoMo, SoftBank Mobile, au, and TU-KA.

What is 3G Network Technology?

3G technology was first launched in the year 2001 in Japan to overcome the slow data rates and unreliability offered by 2G network technology. This technology is built upon the standards set by the Internal Telecommunication Union(ITU) that enables various high-end services such as Global Positioning System(GPS), Mobile TV, and video transfers. Similar to 2G networks, 3G also works upon the modulation techniques such as TDMA, CDMA, FDMA, etc. 3G network technology took over the world quickly, owing to an expanded range of improved services when compared to 2G. let us look at a few elements that made 3G a better version than its predecessor:

  • Improved data rate: 3G network technology provides a higher data rate, leading to a tremendous change in the speed provided to the customers.
  • Increased bandwidth: 3G technology uses WCDMA techniques that allow appropriate distribution of the bandwidth to all the customers.
  • Provision of video calls: Unlike 2G network technology, 3G technology allows customers to enjoy high-quality video communications such as video calls, video conferences, streaming, and video transfers.
  • Higher security: 3G network technology allows the customers to have validation measures when communicating with other telephone devices. This end-to-end security provides the connections from any potential breaching.

 Although the dissection of 3G technology does not look very complicated, the development was revolutionary and made a huge, significant mark in the history of telecommunications and the relevant technologies. Let us look at a few key features that reason why 3G was such a revolution:

  • Speed: 3G network technology provides stationary or walking customers with a minimum data rate of 2 Mbps and around 348 kbps while the customer is in a moving vehicle.
  • Frequency: 3G network technology is not available in some areas and thus only occupies frequency bands from 1.6-2 GHz.
  • Network: The 3G network architecture uses a Core Network(CN) architecture that is made up of circuit-switched core networks(CSCN) and Packet Switched Core Networks(PSCN).
  • Technology: 3G network technology is built for Wideband Code Division Networks(WCDMA) that provide a dramatic change in the capacity and the efficiency already being provided.

So how exactly does WCDMA work and how does it improve 3G services?

Wideband Code Division Multiple Access(WCDMA):- WCDMA is a 3G network technology standard that provides it with higher speed and capacity, owing to the use of techniques such as Frequency-Division Duplexing(FDD) and Direct-Sequence Code Division Multiple Access(DS-CDMA).WCDMA has two modes: FDD and Time Division Duplexing(TDD) which help separate users while allocating them in the frequency spectrum. While FDD uses different frequencies in the uplink connection and the downlink connection, TDD uses the same frequencies for both connections and separates them by using codes and time. It employs a channel bandwidth of 5 Mhz, allowing it to carry more than 100 voice calls simultaneously.

Main Differences Between 2G and 3G Network Technology in Points

  • 2G network systems use a wide range of frequencies in both upper and lower bands. Thus, they have a higher range whereas 3G network systems aren't as flexible. they are often not available in some areas.
  • 2G network systems are not as secure as 3G networks. This is because 3G network systems allow validation measures when the device wants to communicate with other devices, making it highly secure.
  • The data transmission rate or the bandwidth provided by the systems that use 2G network systems is around 200 kbps while uploading or downloading various files. On the other hand, the data transmission rate provided by 3G network systems is significantly more than that of 2G systems. 3G systems provide nearly 6 Mbps while uploading files and up to 21 Mbps when downloading files.
  • 2G network systems are built based on GSm technology whereas 3G network systems are built on WCDMA technology.
  • The expenses for establishing both these networks accumulate due to the construction and maintenance of such systems. 2G network systems have comparatively cheaper costs than 3G network systems since 3G network systems have a higher license fee.
  • One of the biggest advantages of 2G network systems is the absence of features that are relevant to videos such as video transfers and video calling. 2G network technology does not allow video calls whereas 3G network allows the user to enjoy the feature of video calls.
  • 2G network technology lacks several features that are now considered basic among a lot of smartphone users. 3G network, on the other hand, allows modern features such as GPS technology, MMS transfers, mobile TV, etc.
  • 3G network technology is preferred by majority of the smartphone users as the features of 3G technology are more compatible with a smartphone when compared to the features of a 2G network technology.


While it can be difficult to understand how far the integration of WCDMA techniques into 3G technologies can improve its service, it is commendable to note how the features of a 3G network system are far better than that of a 2G system. The invention and addition of video communication in 3G network systems have made drastic and revolutionary impacts throughout the world, taking a huge step in the field of telecommunication.


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"Difference Between 2G and 3G Network Technology." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Jul. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-2g-and-3g-network-technology-239>.

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