What is "3G" wireless technology? How does it relate to J2ME?

Bill Day

Cellular phone technologies have evolved in several major phases, denoted by "Generations", or "G" for short.

"3G" refers collectively to third generation cellular technologies. These technologies build upon the core knowledge and experience derived from the preceeding generations of wireless technologies, while extending the two major camps of 2G/2.5G wireless technologies, GSM (3G version known as UMTS in Europe, WCDMA most other places) and CDMA (3G version referred to as CDMA2000 and related notations), for much higher data rates in the future.

Because 3G networks use different transmission frequencies and require different infrastructure from 2G and 2.5G networks, operators and carriers are amassing significant expenses (in the billions of US dollars worldwide) building out their 3G infrastructure. 3G systems are available in limited deployments in Japan and Europe as of the time of this writing, with more deployments expected over the next several years worldwide. Most carriers' 3G networks will not be completely built out until at least 2003-2005.

Whereas 2G networks provide about 9.6kpbs throughput to handsets and 2.5G networks increase it to around 56kpbs, 3G technologies promise upwards of 100-300kpbs initially, ramping up to 1-4Mbps over time and with network and device upgrades. Because of this, 3G devices make excellent J2ME clients, and in fact a very large number of 3G devices (tens of millions) will come with J2ME support built in. This is an excellent opportunity for Java developers.

GSM-based 3G technologies are being driven by the 3G Partnership Project, or 3GPP, whereas just for fun, the group driving the evolution of CDMA 3G technologies is known as the 3GPP2. Learn more by visiting the 3GPP at:

and the 3GPP2 at:

There is additional information on the GSM Association's 3G page:

and in the related FAQ entries on 1G, 2G, and 2.5G cellular technologies.

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