International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT—2000), better known as 3G or 3rd Generation, is a generation of standards for mobile phones and mobile telecommunications services fulfilling specifications by the International Telecommunication Union. Application services include wide-area wireless voice telephone, mobile Internet access, video calls and mobile TV, all in a mobile environment. Compared to the older 2G and 2.5G standards, a 3G system must allow simultaneous use of speech and data services, and provide peak data rates of at least 200 kbit/s according to the IMT-2000 specification. Recent 3G releases, often denoted 3.5G and 3.75G, also provide mobile broadband access of several Mbit/s to laptop computers and smartphones.
The following standards are typically branded 3G:
- the UMTS system, first offered in 2001, standardized by 3GPP, used primarily in Europe, Japan, China (however with a different radio interface) and other regions predominated by GSM 2G system infrastructure. The cell phones are typically UMTS and GSM hybrids. Several radio interfaces are offered, sharing the same infrastructure:
- The original and most widespread radio interface is called W-CDMA.
- The TD-SCDMA radio interface, was commercialised in 2009 and is only offered in China.
- The latest UMTS release, HSPA+, can provide peak data rates up to 56 Mbit/s in the downlink in theory (28 Mbit/s in existing services) and 22 Mbit/s in the uplink.
- the CDMA2000 system, first offered in 2002, standardized by 3GPP2, used especially in North America and South Korea, sharing infrastructure with the IS-95 2G standard. The cell phones are typically CDMA2000 and IS-95 hybrids. The latest release EVDO Rev B offers peak rates of 14.7 Mbit/s downstreams.
A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1981/1982. Each generation is characterized by new frequency bands, higher data rates and non backwards compatible transmission technology. The first release of the 3GPP Long Term Evolution (LTE) standard does not completely fulfill the ITU 4G requirements called IMT-Advanced. First release LTE is not backwards compatible with 3G, but is a pre-4G or 3.9G technology, however sometimes branded "4G" by the service providers. WiMAX is another technology verging on or marketed as 4G.
The 3G (UMTS and CDMA2000) research and development projects started in 1992. In 1999, ITU approved five radio interfaces for IMT-2000 as a part of the ITU-R M.1457 Recommendation; WiMAX was added in 2007.
There are evolutionary standards that are backwards-compatible extensions to pre-existing 2G networks as well as revolutionary standards that require all-new networks and frequency allocations. The latter group is the UMTS family, which consists of standards developed for IMT-2000, as well as the independently developed standards DECT and WiMAX, which were included because they fit the IMT-2000 definition.