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Chapter Highlights from ITU Internet Reports 2002: Internet for a Mobile Generation

Chapter Two:  Towards convergence and interoperability  

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“We have learned from 2G that person-to-person messaging, simple interfaces and timely content delivery will be the key to 3G success… On a technical level, continued efforts towards the interoperability of radio interfaces and the evolution to an IP-based core network will be crucial”

Although the shift to 3G is a radical one, in most cases entailing the construction of new networks, the transition from 2G to 2.5G services is likely to be accompanied by a more significant conceptual shift than that from 2.5G to 3G, introducing the concept of “always-on” mobile communications. This is already beginning to bring the Internet and mobile communications onto a more common ground. The shift to 3G mobile will take this concept even further, but will essentially involve convergence and interoperability.

Although mobile data services are already available on 2G platforms through WAP, i‑mode and short message service (SMS), it is through the advent of 2.5 and 3G that users will begin to fully reap the benefits of the mobile Internet, through high-speed communications and multimedia applications. Figure 2 shows possible migration paths from 2G to 3G technologies. What we have learned from the success and failures of 2G technologies is that person-to-person messaging, simple interfaces and timely content delivery will be the key to future service development and revenue generation. A mere simulation of the fixed-line Internet experience will not compel users to take up mobile data services. The development of an adequate payment system for mobile devices is also crucial: for “always on” applications, per-minute billing may have to give way to volume-based billing.

The combination of mobile and Internet technologies—for instance in the form of SMS messaging—is already transforming the way people interact and the way business is done. Some 24 billion SMS messages were sent worldwide in the first quarter of 2002. Messaging services have also brought information technology closer to groups that have traditionally had limited access to it, such as children and the deaf community. High-speed data services combined with additional functionality, such as location technologies and improved security, will further enhance the user experience.

On a technical level, the viability of future 3G services will rely on continued efforts towards the interoperability of radio interfaces, the evolution to an IP-based core network and the harmonization of formats for content delivery. At the service level, convergence between the fixed and mobile Internet is already happening, through services such as mobile instant messaging and fixed-line SMS. This interoperability will eventually encompass complimentary and alternative network technologies, such as wireless LANs, short-range connectivity technologies, fixed broadband networks etc. Regulators and industry players alike need to realize that there are a number of different options for providing mobile Internet services, and that 3G services must be considered in their global context. As Figure 2 indicates, 3G technologies are only a part of the overall picture.


Figure 2: Radio access systems for mobile data

Possible migration paths from 2G to 3G

Ranges and data rates

Note:     Bottom chart uses logarithmic scales.

Source: ITU. Bottom figure adapted from European Information Technology Observatory 2002).


Relevant links

Allocation of 3G mobile licences in selected countries worldwide ( PDF)

Operating frequencies for CDMA2000 operators ( Excel)

ITU IMT-2000 portal  

ITU Working Party on IMT-2000 and Systems beyond IMT-2000

ITU Website on Licensing Policy for 3G Mobile  

UMTS Forum

GSM Association 

CDMA Development Group 

European Commission Information Society Website 


NTT DoCoMo’s i-mode  

NTT DoCoMo FOMA website

3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project)


IPv6 Taskforce 

WECA, the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance

Bluetooth  and

"ITU, Licensing 3G Mobile: The Case of Japan" (2001)

Blackberry website

Sony Ericsson T68i MMS Handset

AOL Instant Messenger

 MSN messenger site

 ICQ website 



Location Information Forum (LIF)



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