3G Broadband Guide
3G stands for the third generation of mobile phone standards, as set by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU). It is currently the most commonly used technology in mobile networks, with Ofcom reporting that 73 per cent of UK premises can receive a signal outdoors from all 3G network providers. However, this may change with the recent introduction of 4G coverage.
3G allows more service options to its users than its predecessor, 2G, including broadband internet. It makes more efficient use of mobile bandwidth than 2G. Basically, more data is transmitted at a faster speed. As a result of this increased efficient usage of mobile bandwidth, 3G can deliver broadband speed internet to dongles, tablets and mobile phones. This allows you to surf the internet, check email, download files, music and view video clips on the go.
3G coverage is currently available through the 3G mobile phone network and is provided by Orange, T-Mobile, O2, Three and Vodafone. 3G download speed is roughly 2Mbps to 6Mbps, with the quicker connections available on HSDPA networks (High Speed Downlink Packet Access ), which is sometimes called 3.5G. A variety of contracts, SIM-only and pay-as-you-go arrangements are available.
The advantages of 3G
As we’ve touched on before, 3G is the most widespread type of broadband coverage in the United Kingdom, providing portable internet access. It is especially good for those people who are on the move and need to get online, such as travellers, business people and students. Whether you are at home or abroad, you can connect to the internet as long as you’re in an area with a signal (check with your ISP first).
Although 3G is not as fast as the new 4G technology, it is much less expensive and has more than one provider. The five 3G providers offer between them a variety of standard contracts, SIM-only contracts, short term contracts and pay-as-you-go contracts. 3G coverage is also much more widespread than 4G, with the new technology only available in towns and cities.
The disadvantages of 3G
3G, looks set to be superseded by 4G technology in the near future. With speeds up to five times faster than 3G, the newcomer provides a significantly faster service. As we mentioned earlier, there is currently only one 4G provider in the UK (EE) and the cost of using 4G is much higher than 3G. However, other mobile companies are set to introduce their own 4G services in later in 2013 and with the onset of competition, we can guess that prices will begin to fall in the near future.
Although 3G coverage in the UK is generally good, less densely populated areas may find coverage to be patchy. Therefore according to Ofcom, there are 7.7 million UK households that do not have a choice of all five mobile broadband providers. If you are in doubt about whether you have coverage in your area, take a look at our mobile broadband coverage checker.
Another disadvantage of 3G is that it is unlikely that you will be able to find a package that is suitable for the heavy user (e.g. if you are downloading around 2-3Gb of data a day). This is because there are very few unlimited broadband deals on the market. If you are downloading this amount, then you are probably better off looking for a fixed unlimited broadband package.