#TechExchange: What Are The Real Speeds For 2G, 3G & 4G?

Zimbabwe’s telecommunications sector is considered the most lucrative in the Southern Africa region because of many variables. Two of these major factors include a well regulated competition with a few vibrant players aided by the use of a multi-currency regime which has been adopted to resuscitate the economy in recent years.

However, the greatest controversy comes when Zimbabwean subscribers try to enjoy the value for their money when they buy data from their service providers to browse the internet. One thing for sure is that Zimbabwe’s mobile network operators have never been honest about the speeds they offer especially on their latest 4G broadband (they boast about) and its predecessors like 3G & 2G.

By Cisco Eng. Shingie Lev Muringi 

Most Zimbabweans save for techies do not know the difference between 2G, 3G, and 4G technologies and with this ignorance telecom companies seem to  offer them a bummer. So, just to clarify on the speeds which subscribers expect to receive depending on the network generation compatible with their phones, read on this data speed review written using my telecoms expertise as a Cisco Solutions Technician.

2G Technology

Lets start with 2G, the forerunner to 3G. Second Generation (2G) technology was launched in the year 1991 in Finland. It is based on the technology known as global system for mobile communication or in short we can say GSM.  2G technologies gives users a maximum 0.1Mbps download speed for GPRS compatible handsets while reaching a theoretical 0.3Mbps for EDGE phones.

This technology enabled various networks to provide services like text messages, picture messages and MMS. In this technology all text messages are digitally encrypted due to which only the intended receiver receives message. These digital signals consume less battery power, so it helps in saving the battery of mobile phones.

3G Technology

Next in line from 2G is 3G defined as the 3rd Generation Network which came with far much better speeds than its predecessor. 3G technology generally refers to the standard of accessibility and speed of mobile devices. It was first used in Japan in the year 2001. It gives a satisfactory 0.3Mbps for basic users while achieving a good 7.2Mbps for High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) mobile handsets.

The standards of the technology were set by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). This technology enables use of various services like GPS (Global Positioning System), mobile television and video conferencing. It not only enables them to be used worldwide, but also provides with better bandwidth and increased speed.

This technology is much more flexible as it can support 5 major radio technologies that operate under CDMA, TDMA and FDMA. CDMA accounts for IMT-DS (direct speed), IMT-MC (multi carrier). TDMA holds for IMT-TC (time code), IMT-SC (single carrier). This technology is also comfortable to work with 2G technologies. The main aim of this technology is to allow much better coverage and growth with minimum investment.

4G Technology

4G services make it much quicker to surf the web on your mobile, tablets and laptops or desktops. Because of this, 4G is ideally suited for services which demand more capacity like video streaming, mapping and social networking sites.

For the typical user, download speeds of initial 4G networks could be around 5-7 times those for existing 3G networks.

While downloading a music album on a 3G phone takes 20 minutes, a 4G device needs less than 4 minutes. This is based on existing 3G speeds being 1Mbit/s on average and 4G speed being 6Mbit/s (average of 5 and 7 times faster).


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