1G – First Generation
This was the first generation of cell phone technology . The very first generation of commercial cellular network was introduced in the late 70’s with fully implemented standards being established throughout the 80’s. It was introduced in 1987 by Telecom (known today as Telstra), Australia received its first cellular mobile phone network utilising a 1G analog system. 1G is an analog technology and the phones generally had poor battery life and voice quality was large without much security, and would sometimes experience dropped calls . These are the analog telecommunications standards that were introduced in the 1980s and continued until being replaced by 2G digital telecommunications. The maximum speed of 1G is 2.4 Kbps .
2G – Second Generation
Cell phones received their first major upgrade when they went from 1G to 2G. The main difference between the two mobile telephone systems (1G and 2G), is that the radio signals used by 1G network are analog, while 2G networks are digital . Main motive of this generation was to provide secure and reliable communication channel. It implemented the concept of CDMA and GSM . Provided small data service like sms and mms. Second generation 2G cellular telecom networks were commercially launched on the GSM standard in Finland by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa Oyj) in 1991. 2G capabilities are achieved by allowing multiple users on a single channel via multiplexing. During 2G Cellular phones are used for data also along with voice. The advance in technology from 1G to 2G introduced many of the fundamental services that we still use today, such as SMS, internal roaming , conference calls, call hold and billing based on services e.g. charges based on long distance calls and real time billing. The max speed of 2G with General Packet Radio Service ( GPRS ) is 50 Kbps or 1 Mbps with Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution ( EDGE ). Before making the major leap from 2G to 3G wireless networks, the lesser-known 2.5G and 2.75G was an interim standard that bridged the gap.
3G – Third Generation
This generation set the standards for most of the wireless technology we have come to know and love. Web browsing, email, video downloading, picture sharing and other Smartphone technology were introduced in the third generation. Introduced commercially in 2001, the goals set out for third generation mobile communication were to facilitate greater voice and data capacity, support a wider range of applications, and increase data transmission at a lower cost .
The 3G standard utilises a new technology called UMTS as its core network architecture – Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. This network combines aspects of the 2G network with some new technology and protocols to deliver a significantly faster data rate. Based on a set of standards used for mobile devices and mobile telecommunications use services and networks that comply with the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 ( IMT-2000 ) specifications by the International Telecommunication Union. One of requirements set by IMT-2000 was that speed should be at least 200Kbps to call it as 3G service.
3G has Multimedia services support along with streaming are more popular. In 3G, Universal access and portability across different device types are made possible (Telephones, PDA’s, etc.). 3G increased the efficiency of frequency spectrum by improving how audio is compressed during a call, so more simultaneous calls can happen in the same frequency range. The UN’s International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard requires stationary speeds of 2Mbps and mobile speeds of 384kbps for a “true” 3G. The theoretical max speed for HSPA+ is 21.6 Mbps.
Like 2G, 3G evolved into 3.5G and 3.75G as more features were introduced in order to bring about 4G. A 3G phone cannot communicate through a 4G network , but newer generations of phones are practically always designed to be backward compatible, so a 4G phone can communicate through a 3G or even 2G network .
4G – Fourth Generation
4G is a very different technology as compared to 3G and was made possible practically only because of the advancements in the technology in the last 10 years. Its purpose is to provide high speed , high quality and high capacity to users while improving security and lower the cost of voice and data services, multimedia and internet over IP. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony , gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television, and cloud computing.
The key technologies that have made this possible are MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing). The two important 4G standards are WiMAX (has now fizzled out) and LTE (has seen widespread deployment). LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a series of upgrades to existing UMTS technology and will be rolled out on Telstra’s existing 1800MHz frequency band. The max speed of a 4G network when the device is moving is 100 Mbps or 1 Gbps for low mobility communication like when stationary or walking, latency reduced from around 300ms to less than 100ms, and significantly lower congestion. When 4G first became available, it was simply a little faster than 3G. 4G is not the same as 4G LTE which is very close to meeting the criteria of the standards. To download a new game or stream a TV show in HD, you can do it without buffering .
Newer generations of phones are usually designed to be backward-compatible , so a 4G phone can communicate through a 3G or even 2G network. All carriers seem to agree that OFDM is one of the chief indicators that a service can be legitimately marketed as being 4G. OFDM is a type of digital modulation in which a signal is split into several narrowband channels at different frequencies. There are a significant amount of infrastructure changes needed to be implemented by service providers in order to supply because voice calls in GSM , UMTS and CDMA2000 are circuit switched, so with the adoption of LTE, carriers will have to re-engineer their voice call network. And again, we have the fractional parts: 4.5G and 4.9G marking the transition of LTE (in the stage called LTE-Advanced Pro) getting us more MIMO, more D2D on the way to IMT-2020 and the requirements of 5G .
5G – Fifth Generation
5G is a generation currently under development , that’s intended to improve on 4G. 5G promises significantly faster data rates, higher connection density, much lower latency, among other improvements. Some of the plans for 5G include device-to-device communication, better battery consumption, and improved overall wireless coverage. The max speed of 5G is aimed at being as fast as 35.46 Gbps , which is over 35 times faster than 4G.
Key technologies to look out for: Massive MIMO , Millimeter Wave Mobile Communications etc. Massive MIMO, milimetre wave, small cells, Li-Fi all the new technologies from the previous decade could be used to give 10Gb/s to a user, with an unseen low latency, and allow connections for at least 100 billion devices . Different estimations have been made for the date of commercial introduction of 5G networks. Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance feel that 5G should be rolled out by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands.