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

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[Updated: Aug 2014. See the chart at the end of the article]

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 !

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About Arun Prabhudesai

Arun Prabhudesai is founder / chief editor at trak.in. He jumped the Entrepreneurship bandwagon in early 2008 after a long 13 year stint in I.T Industry. You can follow him on twitter @trakin and Facebook. Arun’s Google+ Profile

56 comments

  1. I use reliance modem which I got 6mbps speed

  2. 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 :(

  3. 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.

  4. CHINMAY KUMAR MALLICK

    YES FINLY THESE 3G ALL ARE CHEATERS BSNL BROAD BAND WITH WEIRED CABLE MODEM IS THE BEST OF ALL IT HAVE A STALE SPEED

  5. 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.

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

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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

  13. 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

  14. SABSE BEST SPEED RELIANCE 3G IN PALI RAJASTHAN my modem 21mbps my speed 1.471mbps ki speed my plan 247 1gb

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

  16. It depends on oparator, technology used and obviously on your handset.

  17. 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..

  18. w.r.t wireless USB modem connection – Which operator is best in speed? Reliance(3.2mbps) or any other?

  19. 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…..

    • 800 to 900 mbps ? is it Real? Mega-bits-per-second OR Mega-bytes-per-second? Please give me more details about VPNs & handlers

  20. Any type networking 2G 3G or 3.5G Problem. contact me kisi bhi network kaaaaaaaaa.

    • DexterouZz Rá?ül Jáí?

      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

  21. Just fooling indian customer..

  22. Just fooling indian customer..

    • 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)

    • 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 …

  23. 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?

  24. 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.

  25. 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

  26. 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.

  27. Sanket Jaruhar

    Ya I agree with u.

  28. Sanket Jaruhar

    Ya I agree with u.

    • 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

  29. As far as my conection is concerned … it never gone up by 1.2 MBPs

  30. 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.

  31. 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..

  32. 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

  33. 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…

    • Arun Prabhudesai

      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…

  34. Dhananjay Nene

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

  35. 3G is very much popular these days.But really the network providers are supporting only 128kbps

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