The 3G Tale

Poetic expansion of 3GPP Acronyms

Sujatha R
3 min readMay 2, 2022

As technology professionals, we often come across Standards and Specifications. Is there a technology very special to you? Did you happen to wander by its kingdom?

There is something magical about the early twenties with wonder in the eyes, and wings in the mind. I happend to write this poem, expanding about 35 of the 3G acronyms in 25 lines. My older self fondly calls it craziness, gibberish as I cannot get that moment that again. And cannot parse lines with so much complexity.

A scholarly friend mentioned it was remarkably skillful, balancing technology jargons with classical english and worth a bigger share.

I met last week a new joiner, who had worked in 4G wireless. That took me down the lane of my own days in 3G wireless.

In an era more than two decades from now, back in India where mobile phones were hardly a thing. And the grand idea of 3G wireless was a bit of imagination and an enchanting space.

By the Kingdom of UMTS and UTRAN.. By the Universal Mobile Telecom System and the Terrestrial Radio Networks.. I was a young RLC engineer, figuring out the lofty standards and amendments.. And I had to implement reliable radio links between Mobile and the Radio towers.

The lower layers worked very hard. Cutting and Boxing of the long messages.. The anxiety of the transmitter. Noisy highways causing loss and delays.. The acknowledgment letters sent by the receiver…Piggybacking of messages. Ah the economy of bits..

The highways of paging channels, broadcast channels, common channels and dedicated channels. The Signal to Noise challenges.

The protocol handshake between the tower and the mobile.. Mobility issues and Make before Break paradigm. Concept of Emergency Numbers and Power measurements of the Signal.

Pages of reading specifications, followed by design and flowcharts. And wondering how would I ever implement these nifty features.

And Bitmaps, Binary filters coming to rescue. Function pointers and OS hooks showed a promise of life.

The verbiage and diction were all over my head. And one day, Alice did go to Wonderland. The mighty acronyms expanded into a romantic storyline.

It took me now a while to identify and write the legend “networking layer” wise. I was no writer back then.. I guess I was having fun transforming from one domain to another.

3G being a cousin of 2G.. AMR codec and its relation with music.. Tried to put some sensability into the poem.. I guess, it does not have much more than this.

I still recollect the “men in black” and “still in blues” for the broadcast-related “master information block” and “system information block”. Looks like it did not gel with the storyline, and I had to drop it.

UE User Equipment
GSM Global System for Mobiles
3G Third Generation

AMR Adaptive Multitate Audio Codec
WAP Wireless Access Protocol
RB Radio Bearer
QoS Quality of Service

NAS Non Access Service
NT, DC, GC, MH service access points for call, mobility, SMS, paging

AS Access Stratum
RRC Radio Resource Controller
PDU Protocol Data Unit

RLC Radio Link Controller
AM Acknowledged Mode
UM Unacknowledged Mode
TM Transport Mode
SN Sequence Number

MAC Medium Access Controller
TFI transport format indicator
TC Transport Control

RACH Random Access Channel
FACH Forward Access Channel
PCH Paging Channel
BCH Broadcast Channel
DCH Dedicated Channel
MIB Master Information Block
SIB System Information Block

PHY Physical Layer
RL Radio Link
DTx Discontinuous Transmission

SH? EH?

Let me know what you feel about it. Maybe the hidden alchemist in you is inspired by a challenge. Or yet another pile of Entropy and Information :)

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Sujatha R

I write.. I weave.. I walk.. कवयामि.. वयामि.. यामि.. Musings on Music, Linguistics & Patterns