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3G Service

For the past few years, cellular carriers and handset manufacturers have talked a lot about third-generation (3G) services for mobile phones. Despite all the talk, however, the companies haven't done a particularly good job of explaining what it all means. To many customers, the real meaning of 3G has been lost among promises of amazing features and zippy data speeds--promises that haven't lived up to reality. It's only in 2005 after years of delays that we're finally seeing the services come in any widespread form to the United States. But the question remains: What exactly is 3G?

Simply put, 3G cellular technology will bring wireless broadband data services to your mobile phone. Boasting speeds from 144Kbps (roughly three times faster than a 56K dial-up modem connection) to 2.4Mbps (close to cable-modem speed), 3G networks let you speed through Web pages, enjoy streaming music video, watch on-demand video programming, download and play 3D games, and videoconference with your fellow chatterers. While the interface is undoubtedly different on a cell phone, the experience of surfing, downloading, and streaming stands to be very close to that of a broadband connection on a computer.

Sound good? Well, yes, it does. If they materialize as planned, the swift data speeds will bring a whole new level in functionality to the mobile world. You'll pay for the services, of course, but stateside users can finally catch up with their European and Asian counterparts. But judging by the technology road so far, full rollout of 3G won't be easy.

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See how it all started for cell phones

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