Is EDGE 2G or 3G?

The different network generations have been achieved through various cellular technologies in mobile communications, which can be slightly confusing, especially if you are new to the industry. If you live in the US, it may be even more confusing due to multiple technologies for both 2G and 3G networks. EDGE is a technology that belongs to the second generation (2G) of mobile networks, and this post aims to explain how it fits in the overall mobile network evolution and what you can expect from it.

What does EDGE stand for?

EDGE stands for Enhanced Data for Global Evolution and it is an enhancement that was added to the GSM networks. GSM or Global System for Mobile Communications is the network technology that enabled the second generation (2G) of mobile networks. Initially, GSM networks only had limited data capability, facilitated by HSCSD (High-Speed Circuit Switched Data). Later with the introduction of a packet-switched technology, GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), GSM networks were able to achieve higher data rates in a more network efficient way. EDGE is an enhancement that followed GPRS just before the introduction of 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System). EDGE can enable peak download speeds of up to 384 kbps; however, the average data rates are between 130 kbps and 200 kbps.

What does 2G mean?

2G represents the second generation of mobile networks, which was achieved through different technologies in various parts of the world. Originally, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) and D-AMPS (Digital Advanced Mobile Phone System) were the two key 2G technologies introduced in the early 1990s. Both GSM and D-AMPS employed a combination of FDMA and TDMA for the radio interface to accomplish wireless connectivity. FDMA stands for Frequency Division Multiple Access, and TDMA stands for Time Division Multiple Access. By the mid-1990s, another technology, IS-95 (Interim Standard 1995), was launched, which later became an essential track for the evolution of cellular technologies moving forwards. Mobile network evolution originally started in Europe, America, and Japan; however, the technologies developed in Europe and America were also used in other parts of the world. D-AMPS was mainly launched in America/Canada, and GSM was primarily a European technology that quickly reached the rest of the world. D-AMPS networks have now been decommissioned and have either been replaced by GSM or IS-95 networks.

What does 3G mean?

3G represents the third generation of mobile networks, which was delivered through the evolution of the 2G technologies that existed at the time in various parts of the world. By the time 3G networks began their journey, the two real contenders in the 2G world were GSM and IS-95, which led to two tracks of 3G network development. GSM networks were a huge success and became the most widely deployed 2G standard worldwide. The 3G migration for the GSM networks required a new technology UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System). UMTS networks are CDMA-based, but they use wider bandwidths (generally 5 MHz or more). The radio access technology for UMTS is therefore referred to as Wideband CDMA (WCDMA). IS-95 networks are commercially known as cdmaOne, and they used the CDMA2000 technology to migrate to 3G. CDMA2000, as the name suggests, is based on the CDMA technology but employs narrower bandwidths (1.25 MHz) compared to the UMTS networks. Before the launch of UMTS, EDGE was the latest technology for GSM networks for enabling mobile data.


EDGE stands for Enhanced Data for Global Evolution, and it is a 2G network enhancement added to the second generation (2G) GSM networks. The predecessor of EDGE is GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), and the successor of EDGE is 3G UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunication System). EDGE can be seen on mobile phones as the ‘E’ symbol, and it can enable average data rates of 130 to 200 kbps.

Here are some helpful downloads

Thank you for reading this post, I hope it helped you in developing a better understanding of cellular networks. Sometimes, we need some extra support especially when preparing for a new job, or studying a new topic, or maybe just buying a new phone. Whatever you are trying to do, here are some downloads that can help you:

Students & fresh graduates: If you are just starting, the complexity of the cellular industry can be a bit overwhelming. But don’t worry, I have created this FREE ebook so you can familiarise yourself with the basics like 3G, 4G etc. As a next step, check out the latest edition of the same ebook with more details on 4G & 5G networks with diagrams. You can then read Mobile Networks Made Easy which explains the network nodes e.g. BTS, MSC, GGSN etc.

Professionals: If you are an experienced professional but new to mobile communications, it may seem hard to compete with someone who has a decade of experience in the cellular industry. But not everyone who works in this industry is always up to date on the bigger picture and the challenges considering how quickly the industry evolves. The bigger picture comes from experience which is why I’ve carefully put together a few slides to get you started in no time. So if work in sales, marketing, product, project or any other area of business where you need a high-level view, Introduction to Mobile Communications can give you a quick start. Also, here are some templates to help you prepare your own slides on product overview and product roadmap.

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