Tuesday, March 16, 2021

3G, 4G and 5G

We all know that China is in a leading position in the global 5G SA (Standalone Architecture) field. 

The country now has more than 700,000 5G sites nationwide – and plans to achieve full urban/rural coverage of the 5G network by 2025. 

It is said that compared with NSA (Non-Standalone Architecture) networks, 5G SA can support larger and broader industry applications as well as the Internet of Things economy, and bring more industry transformation and value-added benefits. 

[If you’re interested to know, the main difference of NSA and SA is that the former anchors the control signaling of 5G Radio Networks to the 4G Core, while the SA scheme connects the 5G Radio directly to the 5G core network, and the control signaling does not depend on the 4G network at all]. 

And like it or not, China is so far, far ahead! 

In Malaysia, we’re still 3G and in urban centers, 4G. Supposedly. And yet, there are still pockets that have poor or no 4G signal. 

One news report said Celcom Axiata, a leading telecommunications company in the country expect their fourth-generation broadband cellular network technology (4G) coverage to reach 97% nationwide upon shutting down their 3G network (which has been around since 2013) by year-end (StarBiz, The Star, March 05, 2021). 

We’ve got a long way to go!

To be fair, many countries are in the same boat and still deploying both 3G and 4G. From some of the reports I read, Canada’s 3G shutdown is planned for 2022, Australia's 3G network will be switched off totally in June 2024 and Sweden only in 2025.

Still, we need to recognize that 3G opened the door to high speed, wireless internet access, meaning that mobiles could be used for video calls, internet browsing, and GPS navigation.

By today’s standards, 3G’s internet speeds would be considered sub-par, but at the time 3G was a revolution in mobile technology. And while it might be seen as ‘outdated’, the majority of phone services (i.e. calls, texts) are handled by 3G networks, as they still have the widest coverage of all network types.

4G, of course, is the most common network available – offering increased bandwidth and speed over 3G. Unlike 3G, which facilitated the use of wireless networks on smartphones, 4G allows for extra technologies to connect with smartphones and each other. 

To put it simply, the present is 4G, the future is 5G. But for China, the future has arrived.

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