An ode to 3G
My dearest 3G,
It feels like an age since we last spoke, which feels somewhat ironic due to your status as the network that revolutionised communications as we moved into the 21st century. Considering it has been quite a dramatic few years, I hope you understand why I have not been able to get in contact more often than I should have.
For starters, let’s address the elephant in the room; why I’m writing a letter rather than just messaging you on WhatsApp, or even texting if I wanted to go fully retro. I thought that a letter would help get my points across in a more personal way since emotions couldn’t be conveyed accurately if I was relying on a keyboard and emojis. Writing was a shock in itself, since an era of high connectivity has almost made handwritten messages near obsolete. But, when taking the circumstances into consideration, a more personal touch is appropriate.
Though newer technologies have since emerged,
We’ll always remember the way you converged,
Communication and technology in to one,
Oh 3G, you were second to none.
Over the last few years, I’ve seen news stories break about the ‘sunsetting’ of your networks, as providers shift to the more ‘reliable’ and ‘powerful’ networks of 4G and 5G. A lot of nations have already begun to bid farewell to their 3G networks, like the United States, South Korea, the Netherlands, India, Malaysia- you know what, I’ll spare listing them all off, as this is probably still a touchy subject for you. Either way, it’s fair to say that the move away from 3G is well and truly underway.
There’s no need to despair, though. As I’ve already mentioned, you helped to herald in a new dawn (pardon the Sun puns) in connectivity, as we all made our way to this strange place called ‘the Internet’. 2G certainly wasn’t capable of upholding this mass drive towards surfing the web, so times had to change. You stepped up to the plate and gave us all the mind-blowing power to exceed download speeds of 3Mbps! OK, 5G could probably end up peaking at 10-50Gbps at some point in the future, but back in the early 2000s, 3Mbps was more than enough for us to open our Hotmail inboxes and send our enquiries to Ask Jeeves. Times were simpler back then.
But it was so much more than faster connection speeds. You gave people the means to enjoy a more highly defined experience for streaming, video calls, and even gaming. We were brought closer together, especially as smartphones began to become more common. While being ‘stuck to our screens’ is still a concern in the 2020s, everyone in the early 2000s was blown away by having the means to enjoy connectivity on the move. It even set society up for the adoption of hybrid working models, as we could view our emails away from the traditional office space. Higher quality video conferences could now take place, regardless of time and location, giving businesses that crucial component of enabling collaboration from anywhere.
Sadly, it was this early enablement that led to your untimely demise. As the 2000s progressed, we needed faster access to a higher quantity of data, and it was just too much for you to handle. Society had moved on from a simple call or email on the go. We wanted to stream videos while commuting or enjoy a lag-free game with our friends. The definition had to be better, our downloads had to be faster, and our desire to be connected was greater than ever. This, inevitably, transferred to our professional lives, with employees requiring instant access to information in order to get their job done. Crucial business conversations could be made null and void without a more reliable network connection. Once the COVID-19 pandemic confined us to our homes, and hybrid working became the norm, it was time for you to be put to rest.
Boy, that got heavy, didn’t it? I know you don’t want me or anyone else to continue detailing the tale of 3G’s phasing out, but it’s worth reminding you that this tends to be the norm. I mean, you were the third generation of network connectivity, brought in to take the baton from 2G, who took it from 1G. Bear in mind that the highest 1G speeds tended to be just over 2Kbps and could only deal with voice calls, so obviously that was never going to last. Our continued quest for connection always leads us to the next step in mobile technology; therefore, we now find ourselves in the epoch of 4G and 5G.
3G was the first mobile network technology to simultaneously use voice and data. This means that users could make phone calls and use data services such as browsing the internet or sending emails at the same time, whereas previous 2G networks would have required users to choose between the two.
This marked a significant advancement in mobile technology and allowed for greater flexibility and convenience for users.
Kids today may laugh at how futuristic it felt to send an email on the go at the beginning of the 21st century, yet it was just what we wanted. The next generation in connectivity had arrived, and it felt amazing.
Our gratitude for what 3G gave us will remain.
As network providers conduct ‘spectrum refarming’ and devote the lower bands of the spectrum to these faster connections, you find yourself facing the end of your usage. But while people can enjoy their 5G-enabled smart cities with real-time traffic updates and energy efficient buildings, the memories of what came before will remain. Colleagues can hop onto a Teams call and begin to collaborate with ease, yet look back fondly on how far we’ve come. Our needs have changed to adapt to our more data-driven lives, but our gratitude for what 3G gave us will remain.