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Friday, April 07, 2006

Time to buy a new phone to use 3G

I was a bit curious on how 3G works and why it requires newer phone models (if firmware upgrade is just enough). Let's first look at the technology and how it evolved.

First we started on 1G which is the grassroot technology; there were 2 different types of network implementation namely TDMA and CDMA which powered the first Mobile Call and SMS. I won't discuss the properties of the two but the difference is basically the first uses time division scheme and the other is by using different frequencies, both has it's pros and cons.

The second stage is 2G which gave us MMS capabilities, this is where TDMA networks evolve to GSM. Although WAP is present its not yet widely used and it’s mostly constrained to delivery of MMS due to bandwidth restriction 2G imposes. However converting WML to WBXML can greatly speed up WAP by transforming WML to binary format but it didn’t work well with dynamic pages.

Shortly GSPR-EDGE started the 2.5G by piggy-backing on base CDMA technology to arrive compatibility with GSM and NT Do Como, this gave us the MMS inter-compatibility between to networks (however the 2 network can also exchange MMS via MX servers over the Internet but this complicates things by encapsulating MMS into Mail and back to MMS, its a nasty hack but it works). WAP is widely used and newer phone were release that has XHTML capabilities, compared to WML, XHTML gave the first true mobile Internet experience since the protocol is more flexible (XHTML sites take up more bytes compared to WAP but 2.5G's bandwidth is just right for this)

With the advent of 3G, CDMA networks enjoyed a direct migratory path by just upgrading the software (according to Nokia) to CDMA1X (other version include CDMA20001XRTT and CDNA ED-VO) while GSM suffered a complicated migration to W-CDMA or UTMS due to the piggy-backing. 3G boosted not only mobile browsing but also the interest in streaming data and that is where the video compression H.263 came into play giving us the true viable video call feature. If you’re a fan of video compression you can check out:

So for my question why we need to buy 3G phone? The old phone model lacks the chip that can process the video and the speed of the 3G that is also why the migration required telecoms to license higher frequencies (licensing is required to make sure frequencies doesn’t overlap, you wouldn’t want your phone calls interrupting your frequency for TV, Radio and other networks). 3G also required newer changes to be incorporated in your SIM to upgrade it into a UTMS SIM (that’s basically what you download to activate your 3G, its a 3G profile for your SIM)

If your interested to dig more into UTMS visit:, it also shows a detailed diagram of components for the Telco 3-phase migration from 2/2,5G to 3G without disrupting service.

I found an article before (which I forgot to take down the URL) that non-3G SonyErricson phones can be upgraded to 3G phones by downloading the firmware from SE's site (so maybe you don’t need to buy newer SE phones).

Another important fact is that 3G phones is required to be tri-band or quad-band, i'm guessing that aside from the required bandwidth, video call routes its video delivery on the extra-bands so it wont disrupt your voice calls. I still need to dig into Nokia technology to verify this.

That's basically answered my question and I therefore conclude that I have to buy a new phone. Damn :))

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