Understanding the Differences between 2G, 3G, and 4G Networks

The mobile phone industry involves a lot of abbreviations and specific lingo, which can be difficult for the average consumer to sift through. One of the most basic terms to wrap your head around is the “G” in 2G, 3G, or 4G networks. The “G” simply stands for generation, with 2G networks being an earlier generation of network. The higher the number is before the “G,” the more powerful, speedy, and efficient the wireless network. The first generation of mobile networks was 1G, which was really only suitable for text messaging and placing phone calls. Since then, networks have grown in leaps and bounds.

2g 3g 4g

 – Image Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain


The most basic smartphones as we know them today are able to operate on a 2G network, also known as GSM or Global System for Mobile. A 2G network transmits signals digitally, improving phone call quality and allowing users to transmit both text and picture messages. 2G network users can also access the internet, although the connection is relatively slow.


The third generation of mobile networks has become increasingly widespread, first introduced in the early 2000’s and enabling video calling and faster internet speeds. 3G networks allow you to watch streaming online videos, play games, and transmit higher volumes of data. There have been a number of upgrades to the 3G network options, including the HSPA or High-Speed Packet Access family. Phones marked 3G, H, or H+ are all on a 3G network.


For those who want even more, the 4th generation of mobile networks, also known as Long Term Evolution or LTE provide speeds ranging from 100MBPs to 1GBPs. This allows you to take part in conference calls, view videos or listen to music without waiting, and download large quantities of data at high speeds. To allow these high speeds, the network must be LTE enabled and your phone must have the proper chip.

Compatibility between Networks

There are many phones that are able to work on more than one of these networks, which is useful if you’re travelling from one region to another. However, networks run on different frequencies. Although consumers understandably want access to the higher generation networks, at the moment 2G or GSM is still the most widespread. GSM only phones aren’t able to communicate with 3G WCDMA only networks. To help enable compatibility between the different networks, phone manufacturers include several frequency bands for both 2G and 3G networks. This allows the devices to be used on a number of different networks and locations. A phone with multiple frequency bands could run on a 2G network, as well as WCDMA with Nokia Networks in a 3G location, for example.

Why is all of this important? As you’re comparing mobile phone options, be sure to look at its specifications to see what frequencies it supports. The most useful options are those that are compatible with 2G and 3G networks, at the very least. This will help you get the most coverage from your phone when you travel, while accessing the most efficient networks.

Comments (16)

  • Hello Atish,

    Great Information :).Actually I am not a very techy person but yes I always love to learn new things.Thanks Atish for sharing this wonderful information with us.

    Minakshi Srivastava
    Minakshi Srivastava recently posted…Top 10 free website builders to build your website for freeMy Profile

  • Nice post I like the way you made a good breakdown in explaining everything. Thank you.

  • Hi Atish,

    Useful and interesting information you shared.

    In Tamilnadu, politician’s of familiar political party have been arrested under 2g scam. On that time, i don’t about this. Now i got idea about 2g, 3g and 4g.

    Even in the recent movie kathi released on diwali came with the main theme of this 2g scam.

    Anyway thanks for sharing this useful info.
    Raaja Anandhan recently posted…How Do I Get Freebies & Make Money Blogging?My Profile

    • Author

      Thank you for stopping by Raaja. Thanks for sharing info as how you got to know about these stuff.

    • Hey Raaja,

      I’m wondering that you’ve discussed the “2G scene of Kathi Movie” here. You know, a defamation case has been filed in the Madurai court against Vijay and Murugadoss for the 2G corruption usage dialogue. Anyway, I’m a great fan of Vijay and thus watched first day first show of Kathi movie at my hometown 🙂 🙂

      @ Atish

      2G, 3G and 4G differences are well described in this post, thanks for sharing 🙂
      Nirmala recently posted…Grab Your Share at Stores With Student DiscountsMy Profile

  • These network generations are providing some great user experience to the cell phone users Atish. But, 4G is still not the cup of tea for everyone. And 3G is what people can’t have access due to its cost. Hope to see the downfall in cost and more effectiveness in their respective networks. Thanks for describing about all generations of networks available.
    Aditya Antil recently posted…Why Assigning the SEO work to Internet Marketing Companies Always Works?My Profile

  • Great post Atish,
    I didn’t know much about 4G yet but this post has given me some brief idea.

  • Very well explained Atish. I have found so many people around me who have done B.CS and they still don’t know the difference.

  • Yes, I agree that 2G network is still the most widespread. But personally I prefer 3G because if you are using a 2G network its nicest in terms of performance, it’s not bad at all but, if you switch to 3G then you realize the difference between them. And I’ve no idea about 4G now, I think it’s obviously better than 3g.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • 1G => Voice
    2G => Voice + Data
    3G => Voice + Data + Video (Broadband)
    4G => Long Term Evolution aka LTE (Ultra-Broadband). Faster than 3G.

  • Thanks Atish for sharing this differences between 2G, 3G and 4G. I have studied about them in my wireless subject also. Nowadays, 3G is widely used by people as it provide good speed. Looking forward for 4G.
    Sudipto recently posted…Best Affordable Android PhoneMy Profile

  • I am thinking that you’ve mentioned the “3G world of Kathi Movie” here. You realize, a defamation case has been registered in the Madurai court against Vijay and Murugadoss for the 2G crime application conversation

  • Hello Atish ,You have explained the difference between some of the most common queries of people in a very simple way and I guess every one who reads this will understand 2g,3g and 4g without any issue.I also searched the web to find that out but things were much more complicated.

  • Hello Atish..First I want to say thanks to this nice post..cuz As You know that Everybody know 2G, 3G, 4G but maximum people don’t know difference about them and you shared here in this article this information..our many doubts can clear here..Thanks Atish..

    Rimpi Saini
    Rimpi recently posted…India VS Bangladesh Quarter Final 19 Mar 2015 LiveMy Profile

  • Hey Atish,
    Nice conclusion indeed!
    This post make a huge sense of 2G, 3G and 4G and very informative. Thanks for sharing it with us.


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