Mobile Networks: Evolution from 1G to 4G Explained

Most of us uses smartphone with 3G or 4G mobile networks, well mostly 4G after Jio Storm. But do you ever think what does it means? I mean what the heck a G is? It refers to the generation of cell phone network technology used by your provider’s towers and the radio in your mobile device.

How many G’s you have affects the features, speed, availability and reliability of your mobile network.

First Generation: 1G

First generation of cell phone network was Analog. It didn’t even support roaming, didn’t encode voice calls digitally and had no support for mobile Internet.

Which I guess makes sense, since that was pretty much sci-fi, when 1G was rolled out starting in the e4arly 80s.

Second Generation: 2G

The successor of 1G, second generation 2G rocketed us into the digital fast-lane allowing voice calls to be transmitted more efficiently via compression and cell phones become smaller thanks to the reduced radio power requirements. What we also got with 2G was confusion.

Roaming to different territories was much improved but only if the mobile network you were roaming on used the same type of second generation network. The main two of which being CDMA and GSM.

CDMA was being used by limited number of carriers in limited areas, considering the dedicated frequency band for each and every users.

GSM was being used by most of the world, considering the dynamic frequency band assignment technology, which assign you frequency band to communicate whenever you receive a call or you try to call someone, increasing number of allowed users per tower.

While initial true 2G offerings were too slow for a mobile internet experience beyond text based emails, interim standards like GPRS and EDGE colloquially referred as like 2.5 G or 2.75 G could deliver data rates as high the minimum 200 Kbps transfer speed required to call something 3G.

Third Generation: 3G

3G is why the line is so blurry because carriers had to try and balance backwards compatibility and future-proof ness with performance and coverage today. Not an easy thing to do, when you are trying to save all that money.

Third Generation or 3G didn’t simplify matters at all. With technologies like EDGE being technically allowed to be marketed as 3G, thanks to fulfilling the speed requirements, even though almost no one did that since it’s an upgrade dead end at all.

Competitive with standards like WCDMA which is later upgrades like HSPA and HSPA+ could achieve pretty kick ass mobile broadband speeds in excess of a 100 Mbps.

Fourth Generation: 4G

So, did fourth generation 4G make things simpler? I don’t think so. The term 4G is used pretty fast and loose by cell phone providers for one thing. if they are trying to convince you that they have the fastest stuff. But it also has a few different real meetings.

So, some companie use 4G to refer to a standard called HSPA+, which if you remember, I mentioned two paragraph ago, actually technically turbo charged 3G. Which is why many carriers now are differentiating their Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks by specifically calling them out as 4G LTE.

LTE offers enhanced voice quality with HD voice and dramatically better downstream data rates for watching YouTube videos and streaming for Game of Thrones season 7. We are talking up to 300 Mbps and on top of that you can see dramatically better upstream performance.

Which is critical for video calls and even mobile gaming in some cases, but then is 4G LTE the end of the huge Alphabet soup of different wireless names? The answer is no.

I mean there is a newer version of LTE called LTE advanced, that is being marketed as true 4G since LTE wasn’t technically 4G then, they kind of changed the rules so they could call it that for marketing purposes.

So, that is on the horizon offering even greater reliability due to its use of several different LTE frequency bands at once which is very important, when you are travelling around or in a densely populated City, also there is a one company in South Korea that has already rolled out what it calls Giga-LTE.

Which is today capable of speeds of over 1 Gbps on compatible phones from Samsung and LG. Absolutely incredible as long as there is a nearby tower. So, speaking of nearby towers, will this kind of performance ever be available in the technologically backward areas?

Well, perhaps not, but at least those of us stuck under the oppressive heels of our local carriers can take comfort knowing that the next generation of South Koreans will be enjoying the latest premium games in glorious 4K.

So, this is it for 1G to 4G Network evolution, my next blog will be about 5G network. Let me know if you have any queries about this network evolution and anything else about this blog.


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