Difference Between GSM and 3G

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: April 30, 2023


Difference Between GSM and 3G

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GSM and 3G are examples of mobile communication technologies that have progressed (3rd Generation mobile technology). Different access methods allow GSM and 3G devices to connect to the network, changing the nature of the web. Despite certain similarities, GSM and 3G differ significantly in many aspects. The current and most extensively used mobile phone standard is the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), but 3G, the next-generation mobile technology, has started to take GSM's position. Compared to GSM, 3G is still in its infancy and only covers a relatively tiny geographic region.

The 3G mobile technology and the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) are examples of mobile communication technologies that have developed over time. While 3G was first suggested by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) in 2000, GSM was first presented as a standard in 1989. Different multiple access technologies are used by GSM and 3G mobile stations to access the network, resulting in modifications to the network's architectural design.

GSM vs. 3G

The primary distinction between GSM and 3G is the varying data speeds. 3G technology uses packet-switched communications technology and offers a substantially greater data rate or bandwidth. On the other hand, GSM employs circuit-switched data technology and provides a considerably lesser data rate or bandwidth than 3G. As a result, GSM has dominated the technology of mobile phones. GSM's supremacy has not changed despite competition from other technologies. Mobile phones now have a wide range of options thanks to this technology, including text messaging and even slow internet access. The next stage was the development of GPRS and EDGE, which improved the capabilities of GSM networks.

When contrasting GSM and 3G technologies, 3G offers the end-user substantially better data rates (bandwidth) than GSM. Additionally, while GSM employs circuit-switched data, 3G technologies use packet-switched technology. The development from GSM to 3G has as one of its main objectives the result of effective and robust mobile internet access. By effectively utilizing the current spectrum, which is seen as a scarce resource in most countries, 3G enables better data speeds than GSM. Although 3G requires more significant investment from mobile operators, it has provided significantly higher data speeds that are impossible with GSM.

3G is a brand-new technology that will replace GSM, which is getting old. Over GSM, 3G offers several benefits in practically every area. Mobile internet speeds for 3G networks start at 384kbps, comparable to DSL rates. For technology, they also employ packet-switched data. The fastest 3G speed is HSDPA, which is substantially quicker than GSM at 7.2 Mbps. To compare various architectural designs, 3G replaced the pre-existing BTSs and BSCs with a Node-B node and an RNC module.

Difference Between GSM And 3G in Tabular Form

Parameters  Of Comparison GSM 3G
Data speed Far less so than 3G. Higher than GSM by a wide margin.
Investment Reduced investment Increased investment
Technology The technology of the second generation. The technology of the third generation.
Several Access Points Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) and Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) is employed. Wideband - Code Division Multiple Access, or WCDMA, is employed.
Combining Technology Data switched on a circuit. Data is exchanged using packets.
Compatibility Compatible With Almost All Devices Supports network only in smartphones.
Data Rates Less Data Rates Much More Data Rates
Consideration Considered As 2G Considered As 4G

What Is GSM?

Mobile phone users in Europe and other regions of the world frequently utilize the digital mobile network known as GSM (Global System for Mobile communication). The most popularly known of the three digital wireless telephony technologies—TDMA, GSM, and CDMA—is a version of time division multiple access (TDMA) (CDMA). GSM converts data to an electronic form, compresses it, and delivers it together with two other streams of user data, each in its time slot, down a channel. Either the 900 MHz or 1,800 MHz frequency band is where it works. The development of wireless mobile telecommunications has included several technologies, such as High-Speed Circuit-Switched Data (HSCSD), General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Enhanced Data GSM Environment (EDGE), and Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service, in addition to GSM (UMTS).

To reduce inter-cell interference between adjacent cells, GSM reuses the same frequency channels in non-concentric cells. As a result, it can handle 14.4 kbps of circuit-switched data. Thanks to this technology, mobile phones now provide a wide range of options, including text messaging and even slow internet access. Next, GPRS and EDGE were introduced, improving GSM networks' capabilities.

Beginning Of The GSM Era

GSM predecessors created with analog technology include Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) in the U.S. and Total Access Communication System (TACS) in the U.K. However, when more people adopted them, these telecommunications networks could not grow. These systems' flaws highlighted the need for a more effective cellular technology that could be applied globally. In Finland, GSM-based mobile services were initially introduced in 1991. The GSM standard frequency band was increased from 900 MHz to 1,800 MHz in the same year. GSM accounted for 80% of the worldwide mobile market in 2010. However, some telecom companies, like Telstra in Australia, have shut down their GSM networks. Singapore's 2G GSM network was shut down in 2017.

GSM Network's Composition

The connected application itself, the base station subsystem (BSS), the network switching subsystem (NSS), and the operation and support subsystem are the four different components of the GSM network that cooperate to operate as a whole (OSS). Hardware is used to connect the mobile device to the network. The network receives identification details about the mobile user from the subscriber identity module (SIM) card. Users may frequently use their phones when they go to other countries since many GSM network carriers have roaming agreements with international operators. Switching from SIM cards with home network access setups to ones with metered local access can drastically lower roaming expenses without affecting service.

GSM Benefits Include A More Suited Network And Powerful Features.

  • International calls are free of roaming fees.
  • Comprehensive coverage and global connections.
  • GSM uses the SAIC and DAIC methods, which offer outstanding transmission quality.
  • The SIM card powers the phone, making it simple for customers to switch between various phone models.
  • There is no degradation of GSM signals.
  • GSM is simple to combine with other wireless technologies like CDMA and LTE.
  • It may make use of repeaters.
  • Talk time is typically long due to the pulse-like pattern of transmission.

GSM Drawbacks Include

  • Multiple users using the same bandwidth cause bandwidth latency, which might cause interface problems during transmission.
  • Repeaters must be added to expand coverage.
  • Because of its restricted data rate capacity, sophisticated GSM devices are employed for effective data rates.
  • Since Qualcomm owns the patents on much of the GSM technology, a license must be secured from them.
  • Because there isn't a large market for IS-95 products, manufacturers often install them in tiny towers.
  • GSM has a fixed, concise maximum call site range of 35 kilometers.
  • User data is not entirely encrypted.
  • The GSM standards include several incompatibilities.

What Is 3G?

The third-generation (3G) wireless network technology offers mobile devices high-speed bandwidth (high data transmission rates). Due to the fast data transmission rates, 3G networks can provide multimedia services that combine speech and data. The following maximum data transfer speeds are supported explicitly by 3G wireless networks:

  • 2.05 Mbits per second to fixed devices
  • 384 Kbits/second for machines that move slowly, like a phone carried by a walker.
  • For quick devices, such as mobile phones in moving automobiles, 128 Kbits/second is recommended.

These data rates are the utmost possible values. For instance, in the stationary situation, the 2.05 Mb/second rate corresponds to one user using the base station's total capacity. If there is voice traffic, this data rate will be significantly lower (the actual data rate would depend upon the number of calls in progress). The maximum data rate for moving devices is 128 Kbits/s, roughly ten times faster than what is currently possible with 2G wireless networks. 2G networks, in contrast to 3G networks, were created to transport speech but not data. The capacity of 3G wireless networks allows for the delivery of voice and data services simultaneously. High-speed mobile I.P. services, information technology, rich media, and a variety of content will be smoothly incorporated into 3G services.

Persists A 3G Standards

The 3G standard is being developed by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). ITU eventually accepted a family of five 3G standards, which are a component of the 3G framework known as IMT-2000, after attempting to produce a single 3G standard:

  • There are three CDMA-based standards: CDMA2000, WCDMA, and TD-SCDMA.
  • In addition, there are two TDMA-based standards: FDMA/TDMA and TDMA-SC (EDGE).
  • The most popular 3G protocols are CDMA.

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS), a 3G standard that uses WCDMA at 2.1GHz, has been adopted by Europe, Japan, and Asia. Note that UMTS and WCDMA are frequently used interchangeably.WCDMA will need to use a different radio frequency range in the USA and other countries in the Americas. By the way, UMTS is the technology that most cellular carriers worldwide have opted to utilize.

Some Benefits of 3G

  • 3G networks provide customers with benefits like:
  • To ease congestion in current systems, more radio spectrum is needed.
  • More security, dependability, and bandwidth.
  • Between service providers; interoperability.
  • Variable and fixed data rates
  • Variable data rates.
  • Device backward compatibility with current networks. Always-connected gadgets. Since I.P. is a packet-based protocol, 3G will use it (not circuit based).
  • Services for rich multimedia.

Few 3G Drawbacks

There are various problems with 3G deployment:

  • The base station and cellular infrastructure upgrades to 3G are pretty expensive.
  • Requires various handsets, and the availability of handsets is a problem. The 3G phone is a complicated product. It hasn't been proven that roaming and making data and voice functions are possible. Additionally, larger handsets, shorter conversation times, and larger batteries are required due to the more significant power needs (more bits with the same energy/bit). Base stations also need to be placed closer to one another (more cost).
  • Costly spectrum licenses, network deployment expenses, subscriber handset subsidies, etc.
  • Wireless service companies in Germany and Britain paid exorbitant rates for the spectrum licenses they obtained in auctions. Because of this, they don't have much money left to invest in infrastructure. As a result, the rollout of 3G in Germany and the U.K. will be delayed.

Applications That SupportS 3G

There has been a paradigm change from the voice-centric world of earlier generations of wireless networks to the multi-media-centric world of 3G. Due to the high 3G bandwidth and packet-based architecture, 3G devices will have features that combine those of a phone, P.C., and T.V. Examples of services that 3G networks will be able to provide include:

  • users only pay when sending or receiving packets via an always-on connection.
  • Web browsing.
  • The email includes multimedia files and instant messaging.
  • Services depend on location.
  • Services that may push material to consumers and are personalized.
  • Video conferencing and streaming video are examples of broadband multimedia data services.
  • Taking faxes in.
  • Global traveling potential
  • Use a multi-modal user interface to obtain maps and directions.
  • Personal entertainment.

Main Differences Between GSM And 3G in Points

  • Compared to 3G, the former offers a significantly lower data rate or capacity. The latter, however, provides a far larger data rate or bandwidth.
  • The former employs technology that uses circuit-switched data, while the latter uses packet-switched data.
  • GSM primarily uses TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access). On the other hand, 3G mainly utilizes WCDMA, also known as Wideband - Code Division Multiple Access.
  • The latter has required a more significant investment, whereas the former has needed less.
  • A second-generation technology is the former. The latter, however, is regarded as third-generation technology.
  • The third-generation mobile technology, or 3G, has started to take the place of GSM, the current and most generally used mobile phone standard.
  • When contrasting GSM and 3G technologies, 3G offers the end-user substantially better data rates (bandwidth) than GSM. Additionally, while GSM employs circuit-switched data, 3G technologies use packet-switched technology.
  • The development from GSM to 3G has as one of its main objectives the result of effective and robust mobile internet access. Furthermore, by effectively utilizing the current spectrum, which is seen as a scarce resource in most countries, 3G enables better data speeds than GSM.


GSM and 3G have advanced mobile communication technologies (3rd Generation mobile technology). The adoption of different access methods has changed how the web functions by enabling GSM and 3G devices to connect to the network. Despite certain similarities, there are numerous areas where GSM and 3G are very different.

Most telecoms install more recent 3G radios while keeping the more traditional GSM radios in place to retain backward compatibility. While keeping 2G technology, mobile phone manufacturers also add 3G capability. As more and more 3G radios are installed, and more 3G mobile phones are produced, this will eventually decrease. It wouldn't take very long for 3G technologies to replace the GSM network completely; this is not a battle but rather a smooth transfer from old technology to a new one. It would be logical to consider this when buying a new mobile phone and get one that supports 3G technology.

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"Difference Between GSM and 3G." Diffzy.com, 2024. Fri. 19 Apr. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-gsm-and-3g-631>.

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