Choosing a Phone: 3.5G is not 3.5G

Posted by Mister Mobility

Recently, I had reason to take my SIM out of my primary smartphone and put it in another phone. All of a sudden, I was experiencing mind-boggling internet speeds. The difference in speed blew me away. I was reminded of the fact that 3.5G is not 3.5G. How do I mean? The previous phone in which I had my SIM had an HSDPA (that’s 3.5G) rating of 21 Mbps download speed, while the new one is rated 42 Mbps. Twice the speed. Or more accurately, twice the capacity.


I know for a fact that the average person does not pay too much attention to the network data speed specifications of phones when choosing what device to buy for use. We are mostly satisfied to know that phone has at least 3.5G. Yet, a closer look at the figures will reveal that different phones are differently rated. For example, there are phones rated at 7 Mbps. Then there are those rated 21 Mbps HSDPA. That is thrice the capacity. There are also those rated at 42 Mbps. Your mobile network operator may offer as much as 42 Mbps and you may be able to harness only one-sixth of that speed, depending on your phone.

There are operators in Nigeria that currently offer up 57 Mbps on HSPA+. The question is, Does your phone or modem let you take advantage of that? It isn’t that you will get actual quoted speeds. No subscriber anywhere in the world gets to experience theoretical maximum speeds, but it makes a great difference to have a device that can push the boundaries. If you are looking for the fastest broadband speeds for heavy downloads and uploads, you need to pay closer attention to the data ratings of your devices.

Cost also comes to play. The low-end market will not offer you 42 Mbps, after all the higher you go, the hotter it becomes. Or so they say. Many low-end devices are rated 7 Mbps. Of curse, that isn’t a problem if that is all one can afford.


3.5G Glossary

Here is a quick glossary of some of the most popular 3.5G ratings:

HSDPA: High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (theoretical download speeds up to 42 Mbps)
HSPA+: Evolved High Speed Packet Access (theoretical download speeds up to 168 Mbps). Think of HSPA+ as 3.5G on turbo providing 4G speeds. If your network and your device support HSPA+, you are pretty much at par with the person using 4G for the most part.

The smartphone that I recently put my SIM into lets me take advantage of HSPA+ on a network that offers a theoretical maximum of 57 Mbps in downloads. While I do not experience anything close to that maximum speed, its performance simply blows everything else I have seen out of the water. No; 3.5G is not 3.5G.

Here is a little assignment for you: check for the network data rating of your phone. What is its maximum speed capacity? 7 Mbps? 21 Mbps HSDPA? 42 Mbps HSDPA? HSPA+? Questions and comments are welcome.

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10 comments

  1. Wao.

    this information is pure unalloyed gold.

    I have always had this attitude that. people drooling over the micro_spex of devices are just plain paranoid.

    Now, I know I am the one that is deluded…all along.

    this golden nugget Mr Mo just dropped here reminds me of the other one about micro SdCards having different ratings. And the implication.

    That was another Diamantine tip

    More cores to your processors Oga!

  2. Saiddigge.

    The Lumia 920 is it. HSPA+ up to 57 Mbps.

    the BlackBerry Z30 is listed as having HSPA+ support too, but I’ve been unable to confirm its specific rating.

  3. I just checked the network data rating for my phone, Blackberry Torch 9800, and noticed its 3.6Mbps. Way too low.

  4. Now my question will now be a samsung galaxy core with 1.2 ghz processor dual core and a single core 800mhz processor galaxy y pro duos, both have 7 mbps HSDPA. Which will be faster with browsing?

  5. Hmmmmmm. No be small thing oooo. All along I have never thought of this whenever I check or compare phone specs.
    thanks for the tip, as from today I will take note of that.
    My 808PV has HSDPA of 14.4 Mbps while my Lumia 920 has HSDPA of 42.2 Mbps.

  6. Very useful information there. I’ve always known the implication of those speed but buying decision is always a combination of other factors and thus, the HSDPA may not carry so much weight in swaying my decision since there are other things to be considered. For one, file downloads which is where this speed becomes very noticeable is not something I do every other time and even the size is files involved most times, like application update files are not so big to produce enough frustration. Still I understand the way these things are, if you experience 42mbps HSDPA or above, then what seems to be adequate now may begin to cause frustration. EDGE for normal browsing is a typical example though I still use it when it is available because of battery life consideration

  7. I used to do this comparison a while ago but pulled a halt when ‘I thought’ it’s very useless here in Nigeria. We do not get anything close to the max speed; Instead, we play around with the minimum or even lesser – That was from my growing brain.

    From what you’re saying now, you mean the difference of HSPA and HSPA+ can be felt or seen now in this region (our networks)? Let me take my time to believe you.

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