History of 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, And 5G Technology. Mobile networks have been operating for 40 years, and roughly every 10 years, a new generation of mobile networks emerges. Around 1980, the first commercial mobile network was created, and since then, numerous technologies have contributed to the development of the mobile communication sector. As a result, there are a plethora of terminologies, acronyms, and abbreviations used to describe various technologies developed during the previous 40 years. This article delves into the definitions of all of the major mobile network generations, including 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G.
1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, And 5G Technology Stand For
The five generations of mobile networks are 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G, where G stands for ‘Generation’ and the digits 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 denote the generation number. Every 10 years or so, since the early 1980s, a new generation of mobile networks has emerged. Each generation of mobile networks has its own set of needs, which are met by the cellular technologies that allow it. Cellular technologies include AMPS, GSM, UMTS, CDMA2000, and LTE, among others.
Let’s go into the specifics of 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G cellular technology. If you’re a professional who prefers slides, like most senior executives, you may go right to our Introduction to Mobile Communications – Pro Series, which takes a more visual approach to teach mobile networks and related technology. You may also read Mobile Networks Made Easy, a PDF document that explains the various components of a mobile network.
Analog technology was utilized to offer mobile communications services in the initial generation of mobile networks. We later went into the secure realm of digital communications as a result of technological advancements and the continual need for new services. The FDMA method was used in analog mobile systems (Frequency Division Multiple Access). To send and receive wireless communication, several frequency bands were employed. To facilitate communication between the base station and the mobile phone, the frequency bands were then split into several sub-frequencies or channels.
Analog communications systems, unlike digital systems, lack encryption capabilities, making them vulnerable to security threats. Because of the continuous nature of radio transmission, analog systems are more susceptible to noise.
The second generation of mobile networks, or 2G, ushered in the digital era of mobile communications. There were two paths taken by the technical standards that allowed 2G. The first track included FDMA and TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technologies, while the second track employed CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access). When compared to older technologies, 2G networks have a greater bandwidth. All mobile networks have employed digital communications since 2G. Let’s take a look at all of the many generations of mobile networks and the technology that enables them.
The digital era of mobile communications began with the second generation of mobile networks, or 2G. The technological standards that enabled 2G had two different approaches. The first track used FDMA and TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technologies, while the second track used CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) technologies (Code Division Multiple Access). The bandwidth of 2G networks is higher than that of previous technologies. Since 2G, all mobile networks have used digital communications. Let’s take a look at the many versions of mobile networks as well as the technology that makes them possible.
The second generation of mobile networks, which superseded the first generation, is known as 2G. Voice calls, text messaging (SMS), and limited mobile data services were all possible on these networks. 2G networks first appeared in the 1990s and were implemented using various digital technologies in various regions of the world. The Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMC) is the most frequently utilized technological standard for second-generation mobile networks (GSM). Other technologies utilized for the introduction of second-generation mobile networks include the Digital Advanced Mobile Phone System (D-AMPS) and Interim Standard 95 (IS-95) (2G).
Time Division Multiple Access (TDMA) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) were two new access methods used in the second generation of mobile networks. The radio portion of a mobile network uses access methods to link mobile phones to the network wirelessly through radio waves. GSM and D-AMPS networks were not designed to deliver efficient data services since they were circuit-switched.
GSM networks included a feature called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which added new network nodes to the GSM architecture in order to deliver more efficient mobile data (internet) services. GPRS is sometimes known as 2.5G since it cleared the door for 3G data services, which used the same network nodes as GPRS. SGSN (Serving GPRS Support Node) and GGSN (Gateway GPRS Support Node) are the network nodes in question, and you can read more about them in this post.
Another upgrade, EDGE – Enhanced Data for Global Evolution, was introduced after GPRS but before 3G networks to increase peak download rates from 171.2 kbps to 384 kbps (with GPRS) (with EDGE). On our dedicated page, we go through the differences between GPRS and EDGE in further detail.
IS-95, also known as cdmaOne in the commercial world, was another significant technology of the 2G period. IS-95 was the world’s first CDMA-based mobile network, and it was built to enable mobile data as well. IS-95 was released in two versions: IS-95 A and IS-95 B. Peak download data rates of up to 14.4 kbps are supported by IS-95 A. IS-95 B can boost these speeds to 115 kbps. IS-95 is particularly significant since it is the technology that led to the development of CDMA2000, which is used in 3G cellular services. IS-95 versus CDMA2000 has a separate page that will help you grasp the differences between these two technologies.
The third generation of mobile networks is referred to as 3G in mobile communications. There have been two major 3G migration paths, both of which were based on CDMA technology (Code Division Multiple Access). The first track was UMTS, which was used to migrate GSM networks to 3G, and the second track was CDMA2000, which was used for IS-95 and D-AMPS.
Universal Mobile Telecommunication Systems (UMTS) is a system based on Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA). It has peak download speeds of up to 2 megabits per second and average data rates of up to 384 kilobits per second. We have a separate article dedicated to 3G UMTS, which includes information on the technology, frequencies, bandwidths, and more. HSPA – High-Speed Packet Access – networks are also based using UMTS as the underlying technology. Peak downlink and uplink speeds for HSPA are 14.4 Mbps and 5.76 Mbps, respectively.
HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access), and Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) were introduced as part of the 3GPP Release 1999, and later saw enhancements in the form of HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access), and Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) to provide HSPA+ can deliver downlink data speeds of up to 42 Mbps and uplink data rates of up to 11.5 Mbps.
The CDMA2000 track was primarily for IS-95 and D-AMPS. In both the downlink and uplink, CDMA2000 can provide peak data speeds of up to 153 kbps. Later, through EVDO, the data rates on CDMA2000 networks were improved (Evolution-Data Optimized). Maximum download rates of up to 14.7 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 5.4 Mbps are possible with EVDO.
The fourth generation of mobile networks is known as 4G. It is made possible by a technology known as LTE (Long Term Evolution) (of mobile networks). LTE is the 4G upgrade path for popular 3G technologies such as UMTS and CDMA2000. Despite the fact that another technology, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access), may also meet 4G criteria, LTE has been the dominant technology for global 4G installations.
Unlike prior 2G and 3G networks, which were both circuit and packet-switched, LTE networks are packet-based. Voice over LTE (VoLTE), a packet-based technique, can be used to allow voice and SMS in LTE. LTE networks, on the other hand, include a circuit-switched backup, which means that if the device or base station does not support VoLTE, the LTE network can still offer voice and SMS through 2G and 3G networks.
In comparison to 3G networks, LTE may provide peak downlink data speeds of up to 300 Mbps and reduced latency. Because of the typical speeds that 4G LTE networks can provide, they can provide dependable mobile broadband services to customers. LTE on your phone may potentially be used as a mobile hotspot to supplement your home connection.
Following the debut of LTE, some improvements in the form of LTE Advanced (LTE-A) and LTE Advanced Pro were launched. LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro are referred to as LTE+ on mobile phones and can offer theoretical maximum speeds of 1 Gbps and 3 Gbps, respectively. These max speeds are significantly lower than normal 4G LTE speeds. According to certain speed tests we conducted in the UK, 4G LTE Advanced networks may deliver download rates of approximately 65 Mbps on average. Take a peek at this page to see the results of our 4G LTE data speed testing.
LTE is based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA), a more efficient radio access technology compared to previous radio access technologies. OFDMA also supports the QAM – Quadrature Amplitude Modulation – modulation technology, which may provide greater data rates and make better use of available bandwidth. For more basic knowledge of 4G LTE networks and what it implies for you as a customer, see our page What is the Meaning of LTE. Check out this slide deck prepared for beginners if you’re new to mobile communications and want to get a fast knowledge of mobile networks and how the business operates.
The fifth generation of mobile networks, or 5G, is the most recent cellular generation. It is made possible by the New Radio (NR) technology, which is based on OFDMA. 5G differs from previous generations of mobile networks in that it can accommodate a wide range of use cases because of its inherent flexibility. 5G is extremely fast and capable of supporting a huge number of devices, which can aid in the digitization of many sectors. It also has the ability to work in a variety of frequency ranges, including both high and low frequencies.
The 5G higher frequency bands have limited coverage but extremely low latency (less than 1 millisecond), making them ideal for real-time services. Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), massive machine-type communication (MTC), and ultra-reliable low latency communications are the three primary categories of 5G application cases (LLC). We have an article devoted to eMBB, mMTC, and uRLLC that might help you comprehend these three essential 5G foundations.
The principles of physics dictate that lower frequency bands have higher latency but better coverage. As a result, lower frequency bands can help with the broad rollout of 5G in more areas. Higher frequency bands, on the other hand, offer reduced latency and are thus suitable for real-time applications such as self-driving vehicles, manufacturing, virtual reality (VR), and other IoT (Internet of Things) services. Learn more about what 5G means to you as a client in our dedicated post.
In comparison to 4G LTE networks, 5G NR networks can provide much greater data speeds on average. While 5G’s max downlink speed is above 10 Gbps, typical downlink rates of 150 Mbps are normal. Most 5G installations are now non-standalone (NSA), which implies they are not complete 5G deployments. When 5G technology is enabled by combining 4G and 5G networks, it is referred to as 5G non-standalone.
As a 5G client, I’ve been utilizing 5G NSA for the past six months and have had a positive experience. If you’re thinking about switching to 5G for your home internet, read this post on my personal experience with 5G non-standalone. You can also view the average 5G speeds I’ve witnessed so far with my 5G SIM and router combination in this article.
The primary difference between 4G LTE and 5G NR is that 5G networks have far greater maximum bandwidth than 4G LTE networks. As a result, 5G NR networks can support far greater data rates than 4G LTE networks. LTE-Advanced has an average download speed of approximately 65 Mbps (UK-Berkshire), whereas 5G NR has an average download speed of around 130-150 Mbps. It’s worth noting that 5G networks are still in their infancy, with most installations so far being non-standalone. To learn more about the major distinctions between 4G and 5G, read this article.
From a technological standpoint, 5G can deliver peak speeds of up to 10 Gbps, compared to 3 Gbps for LTE-Advanced Pro. 5G is arguably 10 times better than 4G LTE on average. It’s important to remember, however, that how much capacity your mobile operator allocates, as well as the configurations they employ, are all dependent on your mobile provider. With the introduction of LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro a few years ago, 4G LTE networks are now mature. 5GNR networks are in development and, like LTE networks, are expected to improve over the next few years.