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Last updated: April 24, 2017 at 12:06 pm

Real 3G Speeds – 2mbps, 7.2mbps or 21 mbps ?

This is real question to which I have not been able to find an answer and I am looking forward to our expert readers to chip in.

The big Question is:

What real data transfers speed does 3G technology support – i.e: what is the top data transfer speed one should get on a 3G device in ideal conditions ?

The reason I am putting this question across to readers is because, yesterday while answering to a question in Parliament on 3G & 2G , Indian minister Sachin Pilot (Minister of State in the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology) responded by saying

3G (3rd generation) mobile telecommunications is the generic name for the next generation of mobile networks that combines wireless mobile technology with high data rate transmission capabilities. The 3G network is capable of providing higher data rates upto 2 Mbps and supporting a variety of services such as high-resolution video and multi media services in addition to voice, fax and conventional data services.

Now, when minister of Communication & IT says that in parliament, it should be taken note of. And that’s where is the confusion! I have personally not gone into exact details of the speed that 3G technology offers, however, I always thought it was upto 3.6 mbps.

Then, there is another side of confusion where 3G telecom Operators talk of 3G speeds ranging from 3.6 mbps to 21 mbps on 3G network. Just to give you an example, if you visit Reliance 3G page, here is what it says

reliance 3G

If you see the Tata Docomo plans, they also have plans which talk about 7.2 mbps and 21 mbps speeds for their 3G e-stick. The state run BSNL is more modest and advertises 3G speeds upto 3.6 mbps. In reality all of them are using the same 3G network (that’s what I think atleast)

The actual reality is a different story all together – I have tried 3 different telecom operators for their 3G services and sometimes the speed are as low as Edge speeds.

Here is my take – the speeds which these telecom operators advertise are actually the speeds that the modem supports and not the actual 3G speed that you will get – The actual data transfer speeds will always be around 2 mbps range (in ideal conditions).

In Ideal conditions, this is what 3G speeds should be.

Generation Standard  Radio Maximum Theoretical Download Speed Maximum Theoretical Upload Speed
3G UMTS (WCDMA) GSM Up to 384 Kbps Up to 384 Kbps
3G HSPA GSM Upto 14.4 Mbps Up to 5.76 Mbps
3G HSPA+ GSM Upto 42 Mbps Up to 11.5 Mbps
3G EvDO Rev. A CDMA Up to 3.1 Mbps Up to 1.8 Mbps
3G EvDO Rev. B CDMA Up to 4.9xN MbpsN: number 1.25 MHz carriers Up to 1.8xN Mbps

Would love to hear your comments on this !

"Real 3G Speeds - 2mbps, 7.2mbps or 21 mbps ?", 5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings.


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  • I am using bsnl 3g with 8 mbps Speed. 1 mb per Second but only in the range of few Networks . BSNL Broadband is also a great choice but reliance Gives 40 GB Data for 999 . Idea gives nearly 1.6 mb/sec in my phone . If you want speed go with Idea otherwise cheap one is bsnl …

  • Guys, I want to ask about Maximum Port Speed of Modem (Control Panel -> Device Manager -> Modem) Is it possible for modem with 7,2 mbps download to have only 115 kbps of Maximum Port Speed? Coz I think its weird for modem with 3,6 mbps download has 460 kbps of Max Port Speed but why my 7,2 mbps modem only has 115 kbps of Max Port Speed Please give me some info Thanks

  • I use Aircel for internet. In 2G it gives 50 KB/s and in 3G it gives 1 MB/s and sometimes it goes to 2 – 3 MB/s for a few seconds. In 3G I download 100 MB files in less than 2 minutes !

  • In my Assam I get on airtel 3G download speed maximum 300kbps and every time 100kbps only and here in Assam airtel 2G is very slow 15kbps only and 21Mbps on browsing speed only

  • Google data compress service was working fine downloading current webpage in just 580 KBs before I upgrade to current version UC, nowafter updating UC takes 3MB to download thesame. Earlier every site I visited google compress was working now it is unavailable why so?

  • unfortunatelly in my town every compny is providing 2g data. I used all sim but vodafone is the best but costlier I use BSNL sometimes very fast and generally slow. Uninor is cheaper and provide 48-56 kbps.

  • i use 2g docomo in my phone and gives fair speed upto 60kbps in nagpur. and in 3g i get upto 300 kbps which is slow.also i am having reliance netconnct dongle with 10gb plan, it is the worst of all service i have seen ..never got more than 350kbps speed on netconnect mode..so i switched over to docomo wifi dongle and happy..with speed and connectivity up to 4 users with 1.2 mbps….

  • Actually before posting you should have had prior knowledge of speeds. No company is misleading in any kind of speeds. Mbps is mega bits per second and MBps is mega bytes per second. Now 1 Byte = 8 bits and so when they say its 21Mbps divide it by 8 you get 2.7 MBps. Quite close enough, isn’t it? I guess you will understand the rest by yourself. Or else you have my email buddy.

  • Never ever choose Reliance data card. It is the number one worst service. Worst paid customer service. Before any customer care executive comes to the line, your balance would be reduced by half. They will promise upto 14.7 Mbps but reality it will not cross 100 kbps..

    • Hi I am using MTS 3G data card of Rs999 postpaind plan. but getting only up to 100 kbps speed. no body is listening my complain just the MTS guys are saying work is going on when complete you will be informed. this going on from 3 moths.

  • Hi any one want to go for 3G then only go for reliance and docomo rest all company have same and very low speed never buy IDEA and AIRTEL VODAFONE at all instead of them you better to choose our BSNL which have very ghatiya service sitll its better than those blood sucking company

  • i am using 2g in my mobile and 2g speed is 5kbps in idea. 15kbps in airtel. 20kbps in vodafone. 20kbps in BSNL. it is very bad.

  • I used both 2g n 3g connection in my nokia Lumia 520,but never got downloading speed in mb.it rarely cross 50 kbps downloading speed. ritesh

  • I am using idea 3g in kerala. I get about 10Mbps downloading speed. In 2g I get about 250Kbps downloading speed. I think Docomo and BSNL are also providing fair 3g speed in kerala. My friend use airtel but it is very slow.

  • The telecom isp providers will never provide you great speed anyhow as the wireless spectrum has limited capacity(5-8mhz in india) and that’s the reason why it is meant to be used in efficient way to earn high gross revenues by providing its maximum speed to business markets and so very limited capacity is left for public users and also network is not robust especially 3g network which is not owned by anyone on pan india level and so it is not contigous. We have crappy mobile network on top of that they are providing maximum speed to business markets so think what speed you should get in peak hours(day time) .Can ever these teleco provide 21mbps to our highly populated country on their inefficient network. This is the main reason for slow speed in our country as we get throttled even by paying high amount for such less data and not to forget that rs.250 for 1 gb 3g or rs.199 for 1.25gb for bullshit 2g(of which they reduced the speed so that people use 3g for their great income) is costly atleast for rural population(70% of total indian population stays in very small villages where there is not even electricity) as an average income of people in india is 8-10 times less than developed countries where data is offered same price i.e $4 you might be getting response that its network congestion problem in peak hour(which is a lie in 95% cases) when you complain about your 3g data speed even if you got full bars (network strength capacity) shown by your handset. Corporate people get cheap call and data rates i know it very well as my father and uncle are using airtel postpaid connection which is under corporate segment. Telecom operator follow the fact that corporate world maintains long term relationship which is true and so they are benefitted. Even if your residence or society is situated very close to bts(mobile tower) you might not get desired connection speed even upto 2 mbps(i.e downloading speed of 256 kbps). Telecos claim to give highest speed on their data card only and this is most foolish of them because those days are gone when each handset used to be different in terms of user interface and operating system. At present we have very capable hardware in almost all mobile handsets as andriod ,microsoft mobile os, ios, etc has almost unified the world in many terms. I dont want to get in technical details. But to be clear they use the same dongle that most of you use and they are huawei and zte dongles and also their dongles follow same algorithm as that of open market dongles. The difference only lies in their useless user interface which is of no use. So never ever believe these greedy telecos when they try to sell their bullshit locked dongle by blaming your dongle’s hardware as there is no diamond inside it and also cost of both telecos and open market dongles are same(usually open market dongles are priced a little higer by rs.100 or 200 and nothing more). Just check when buying a dongle(not telecom operator dongle) that it should support all of the below:- 1)900mhz & 1800mhz for 2g 2)900mhz & 2100mhz for 3g Its their congested network during peak hours to be blamed which is heavily used in business markets and they blame your open market dongle(data card accepting any sim) to sell their dongle and get you locked to their network so that you remain on that network as long as you use their locked dongle. It takes a lot of time for a small things to get implemented in our country as no one cares much about it.

  • Rajasthan reliance wale to sabse bade lutere h …aaye din koi n koi VAS activate kar date h bina permission me ..jab check karta hu to koi VAS activate in milti but balance kaat lete …almost 200 rs is tarah she in logo be loot liye mujse ,, reliance ka coustmr care to hum jaiso me liye sabse bada majak h ..kbi call ni lagega ..reliance ki 3g n 2g sabse ghatiya h Rajasthan me ..no full coverage of 3g even in Jaipur …bakwaas operator ..only looting many n making fool people ..plz don’t opt for reliance at any condition..

  • i don’t know all but I hv vodafone 3g and i realise that the speed of vodafone 3gp is great I downloaded fb messanger in just 9 seconds…

  • I recently use aircel 2g at rs.148 unlimited data plan but their speed is poor only 177kbps . I waste my money.

    • Its not unlimited. There is a cap after 2 or 4 GB (not sure which) which, if exceeded(They send you a text mentioning “you have used up your high speed data”) gives you barely 2 kBps :(

  • i was also confused with what these companies advertise, lately i realized that they don’t promise false figures, it is us who fail to recognize the tacit information. Companies claim speed in range of 2 Mbps to 21 Mbps. Here Mb stands for megabit and not megabyte. For megabyte MB is used. And 1 MBps = 8 Mbps. So speed range is 250 KBps to 2.6 MBps (or 2 Mbps to 21 Mbps).

    • By now everybody knows about the conversion. Despite that we are cheated and the 21.1 Mbps is a false figure! I use Vodafone’s 3g network in Mumbai that promises the coveted 21.1 Mbps (theoretically 2790 kBps download speed) with a 5 GB data cap. I’m barely able to pull 1.6-2.1 Mbps (roughly 200-300 kbps when doing direct downloads from Steam) which is like 10% of the speed promised. Vodafone attributes the low speed to my area having poor reception (which is an euphemism by all telcos for “screw you”). So what am I supposed to do? Relocate? Or are the bastards supposed to do something about the “poor reception”? And yes- we are being cheated and milked off our hard earned cash.

    • yes you are right…they make us fool…they orally says mb…and one is not able to recognize what they say…but modi ji should do something in this field too…internet contributed a lot in making him PM…he should kill ISPs…i hate them

      • Hi I am using MTS 3G data card of Rs999 postpaind plan. but getting only up to 100 kbps speed. no body is listening my complain just the MTS guys are saying work is going on when complete you will be informed. this going on from 3 moths.


  • Hi All, I am using idea 3G and I have have found its speed up to 1.5 Mbps as I tested downloading a game of 34 mb which took me nearly 25 seconds to finish downloading.

    • 34 Mb (megabytes) in 25 sec = 1.36 megabytes per sec. = 10.88 Mbps (megabits per sec.) 21 Mbps means 2.625 megabytes per second. You got 10.88 Mbps in reality is a pleasant shock.

  • when i personally tested speed with speedtest on idea cellular i did get 5 to 6 mbps download speed

    • I think Satelite on your home that time thts why you got that much speed other wise 0.10 mb/ps is actual 3G speed of Idea its claimed by aditya birlam himself

  • Weekly Wrap-up: Google Doodles, 3G Internet, iPad2 launch, Internet Kill switch & more... says:

    […] back to 3G services – One thing that has been confusing me is the real 3G speeds. What are they – 2mbps, 7.2 mbps or 21 mbps […]

  • I have been searching a lot for a view of the actual speeds available through a wireless dongle. There never has been a more blatant lie and cheat operation. If you go by the speeds that is. All advertisements make a serious effort with images of space shuttles and race cars with their dongles on them, giving a picture that even if you think about the site, it will appear on your screen. That is a lie of course. All these shameless cheats of a company are doing all to suck money out of desirous and serious internet users. Some of the users have had the brutal realisation that whether it’s a 21 Mbps or a 21 Gbps dongle, the final speed available is going to be some measly 512 kbps. Even that is a best shot. Usually never exceeds 50 kbps is what I have found. I think what they have is a single or a couple of 21 mbps leased lines and then milk the whole of Mumbai on to it.

  • I have experienced the 3g speed of idea , dokomo , bsnl , but they never go ahead of 1.5mbps by using my mobile phone, but now I have purchased huawei e1820 usb modem with max. speed of downloading 21 mbps , but when I connected this modem to internet the upload speed is more than download speed and download speed is highly fluctuates between 0 to 250 kbps , why this happens so. can u plz suggest any solution to this problem , whether the problem is with modem or network connection or of my anti virus.

    • lol your modem can have speed up to 21 MBPS dude , of course if you active 2G data service there will be low speed its based on internet connection or which kind of service you want to active , not fault of modem if you active 2G data and got speed up to 250 :P ( sorry fucking bad English )

  • I dont know how this is working but i get 400kbps in vodafone with MMX144F and as long it stays makes me happy

  • Guys i am using a 2g sim and changed into 3g.i get a maximum downloading speed of 550 kbps.in idea they say no more 3g sim is available.

  • Guys. I am using idea in my phone and recently activated 3g. But still i am using 2g plan and yes it is working.Although I am not getting exact 3g speed but it is quite greater than 2g speed.

  • Hi, Your conversation is Very interesting and I would like your advice : I am coming back to India to do research at the end of the month and my first port of call is Hyderabad but I will be moving between Delhi,Mumbai,Bangalore,Chennai and South Goa and I need a SIM for my phone and a USB Dongle data card for my laptop : My phone is a Samsung Google Nexus S I9020 which is : GPRS Yes EDGE Yes Speed HSDPA, 7.2 Mbps; HSUPA, 5.76 Mbps WLAN Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n, DLNA, Wi-Fi hotspot http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_google_nexus_s-3620.php but it seems NOT CDMA. So what is the Best solution for those locations to have speed, consistency and reliance (easy to recharge,no roaming charge). Thank you so much for your enlighten advice. Mac Duff

  • Fisrt of all u guys must understand the different between data speed by names in clear way like their a massive difference between m bits and m bytes bcoz m bytes is 100 times faster than m bits. And I have noticed many broadband play games with customers just by saying that they offer 20 mbps or 50 mbps or even 100 Mbps but they never specify that they are offering m bits or mega bytes. Bcoz that’s a clear market policy played all over the world. But I guarantee 1 hong kong as the fastest Internet in the world as I have stayed their for 2 years n that was the only place were I have seen with own eye when my speedtest touched the speed of 980 mbps almost 1 giga bps but now I don’t it was 980 mbits or m bytes per second. But I download many HD movies from 1 gb to 5 gb files in minutes and even sometimes in seconds. I think honk kong broadband service is the name of the company and only braodband service provider in the world that offers the speed of 1 giga bits or 1 giga bytes am really not sure.

    • If it is Mega Bytes, the abbr. is MBps, if its Mega Bits abbr. is Mbps. Small b stands for bits. Capital B stands for Bytes. MB is not 100 times more than Mb. Its exactly 8 times. 8 bits = 1 Byte. 1 Mbps = 128KBps 8 Mbps = 1MBps

  • I activated bsnl 3g last month. Got a max speed of 3920 kbps in speedtest. Usually get around 3000 kbps.

  • Of course! all operators are bound to their business ethics (!) NOT to reveal original actual connection speed of each company. I think Tech Geeks are not worried about this issue..

  • relax guys…if u don’t want to spent ur money in these costly 3g plans then use handlers and open vpn…i’m also using and getting a 800 -900 mbps downloading speed.n this is absolutely free.so jst think abt free service not speed…..

    • bhai mere paas reliance 3g usb modem hai but uski bohot slow hai to main kya karu plz..????

    • hi iam using docomo estick with my reliance 3g sim but iam gettin only 50 90 kbps download speed on it

    • yes brother you are absolutely correct.. I am using Vodafone 3g in my Samsung Galaxy ACE and getting average upload speed 156kbps(download speed 2Mbps)

      • You are using samsung ACE not IPhone so .. Be calm… Internet speed is also depend on your headset features…if your stomach is not empty.. How do u eat more and more ?? Because of your headset you got problem… bhukhe pet khana nahi utregaa…

    • guyz drez a lot of difference between 2mbps n 2MBps …. the speed our providers r givin is 2mbps which is nearly equal to 200KBps … if u download torrentz u vl understand …

  • hey which will be the best and cheap 3G phone which will be the best to connect to pc 4 net? and what will be the best operator?

  • hey which will be the best and cheap 3G phone which will be the best to connect to pc 4 net? and what will be the best operator?

    • I suggest you buy a USB 3G Datacard of Huawei. Make sure the data card is of the latest model and supports atleast upto 7.2 mbps. Using a mobile phone to connect internet on PC is a bad idea, because it eventually leads to deterioration of the battery life and also heats up the phone.

  • hey which will be the best and cheap 3G phone which will be the best to connect to pc 4 net? and what will be the best operator?

    • bROTHER YOU USE IDEA ,AIRTEL 3g BECAUSE THER R give time base plan ex- idea 3G 21rs 20min free 1min -35mb downloading so 20 min yani -700 mb 21 rs me milti hai

  • I stay in mumbai and i bought reliance 3G plans 100MB for Rs.100/-…..and its working very nicely…..though reliance is claiming about its speed that it gives 21.6mbps unrestricted speed but its working on 10 to 15 mbps speed…..still I can get more speed rather than any other 3G phone so I am quite happy with this speed at least I can browse very well….

    • I don’t get it! What’s with people talking about speed??!!! There ain’t any unlimited plans around. And even if there is, the telecom operators are cheating us. I had a very bitter experience with tata photon+. I opted for the unlimited plan and I got a maximum speed of 10kbps. Even google wouldn’t show up. I had one hell of a fight with the customer care. And the best advice he could give me was to opt for a limited plan. Why would I do that??!! Since then I am sticking with BSNL broadband. At least it doesn’t cheat. Most of the users need unlimited plans. The greater the speed is the more data hungry you’ll become. And if there is no unlimited plan, you’ll end up with empty wallets. Think about it.

    • bROTHER YOU USE IDEA ,AIRTEL 3g BECAUSE THER R give time base plan ex- idea 3G 21rs 20min free 1min -35mb downloading so 20 min yani -700 mb 21 rs me milti hai

  • HSDPA = 3.6 Mbit/s HSDPA+ = 7.2 Mbit/s HSPA+ = 21.6 Mbit/s unfortunately all these HSDPA, HSDPA+ and HSPA+ technologies come into 3G category. what speed u get is depends upon the hardware of the service provider. having said that it also depends on the type of usb modem you have… if the service provider offers HSDPA+ speeds but if the modem at ur end is of type HSDPA modem, then max u can get is 3.6Mbit/s.

  • Yes, It can get very confusing with 2G, 3G and even 4G where speeds up to 100 Mbps are possible! And we haven’t even talked about 3.5 and 3.75G yet!! This statement below is from Wikipedia page on 3G section Data Rates: “ITU has not provided a clear definition of the data rate users can expect from 3G equipment or providers. Thus users sold 3G service may not be able to point to a standard and say that the rates it specifies are not being met.” Having said that, 3G is in general capable of minimum 2 Mbps when stationary and 384 Kbps when on the move..

  • I m using the BSNL 3G and getting 2mbps speed when i m within 1KM range of BTS. I have also used tata docomo 3G and got 7 MBPS speed on its launch offer Thats what i felt

  • why is that i get some post in my feed reader and some not? As i havent got this one, i came through twitter… Also the 3g speed as u must be knowing has evolved over the time, the HSDPA and HSUPA as we know came only in 2008 and has varied hardware implementation and so it depends on what the telecom company has installed..i can talk abt this in much details bt currently i need to stop…

    • Prajwal, I am quite surprised that you have not recd. this post in the feed reader…I just checked and it shows up in the RSS feed. Has it happened earlier as well ? Thanks for pointing it out. I will see what the issue is..

      • k.. I recieved it just now… I dont know where the problem is as i use google reader and all your feeds come too late than when u actually post them… On the other hand, i receive other blog feeds on regular time.. Within 15-45 min. Max… U please check ur feeder if it has problem or google reader has a fething issue…

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Speed_Packet_Access Read the first line & User Equipment categories.

    • THIS IS IT! Here’s my story… I got a dongle which advertised 3G speeds of 2 Mbps.. whereas I only ever got a maximum of 256kbps.. When I called to complain, they said that 256 kbps is 2 Mbps. And the explanation was that Mbps and MBps are two different things and what they advertised was Mbps and not MBps – i.e., Megabits, and not Megabytes. A very clever way of roping in people and then later saying we only advertised Megabits, and not Megabytes. So in the context of the original post above, 21 Megabit/s = 2625Kb/s = 2.6 Megabytes/s. Which is well within the capability of the 3G network. Hope that answers your question – however, the thing is, according to me there is rampant misrepresentation going on in the market. And something needs to be done.

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