Mobile connectivity and networking have taken great leaps since they were introduced. Despite the slow-paced start, the present technology is an extensive umbrella of intertwined signals providing uninterrupted networking and connectivity functionalities. One step at the time, the system fostered into becoming the most sought after technology. This gradual growth and the steps taken to reach this point is indicated by the letter ‘G’, which simply stands for generations.
These generations or eras indicate the development of wireless connectivity in the cellular devices upgraded per the advancement in mobile technology and networking systems.
What started as 1G in 1979, — which many data users are apathetic of, has evolved to 4G — soaring freely in open space for consumers’ benefit. The transition of the generations can be seen as an ongoing time (approx. Years) to get to where it is presently at.
Evolution of Mobile Connectivity
Prior to upgrading the system, the boundless network reach, that we have today, was initially limited to a very narrow expanse. Network range, in its initial days, hardly covered all of Japan, where the technology initiated from. Nonetheless, fast forward five years and the Japanese starter company — NTT (Nippon Telegraph and Telephone) –made data accessibility available across the Japanese boundaries. Similarly, in Europe in 1981, NMT (Nordic Mobile Technologies) made the same technology available in Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland. However, it wasn’t until 1983 that the service reached the United States.
1G refers to the first generation of mobile technology and unlike its successors; this generation depended on the use of analog telecommunications for functioning purposes. Comparing the technology with the upgraded system that we have today, it wouldn’t be wrong to put that its successors have an ample advantage over it. However, being the first wireless connection system, 1G paved the way for the evolution of wireless technology.
The major constraint of the system was its use of analog signals, which made information transmission less effective. Additionally, its speed was significantly slow and lacked widespread signal capabilities. Also, the analog signals had the tendency to suffer interference problems, which led to the use of mobile phones with analog signal difficult.
- Voice signals only
- Operation via analog cellular phones
- Speed: 2.4 kbps
- Frequency range: 150 MHz
- Poor battery life
- Poor voice quality
- Large phone size
- No security
- Limited capacity
- Poor handoff reliability
Second generation, 2G, cellular telecom networks were introduced on GSM standard in Finland in 1991. Unlike its predecessor — the 1G technology — 2G uses digitally encrypted technology for phone conversations. In comparison, this technology was more efficient allowing for far greater mobile phone penetration levels. Furthermore, 2G introduced data services for mobile, starting with SMS text messages.
2G also featured a collection of services 1G never did, including text messages, picture messages, and multimedia messages. The digital encryption maintained confidentiality allowing only the intended receiver to receive and open them.
- Digital voice data can be compressed and dispatched with more efficiency. Unlike the analog method, 2G omits the use of various codes which allows more call transmission using the same amount of radio bandwidth.
- The system emitted less radio power from the handset, consequently leading the size of the handset to shrink.
- Data speed: 64Kpbs
- It included services like text messages, picture messages, and multimedia services.
- Frequency diversity: Frequency dependent transmission impairments have less effect on signals.
- Multi-path assistance: Chipped codes used for CDMA exhibit low cross correlation and low autocorrelation.
- Privacy: 2G phones are more private than the 1G phone, as the calls on the digital cells are almost impossible to spy on by use of radio scanners.
- Signal strength can vary according to geographic locations due to inaccessibility of cell towers. This is usually a problem with the system deployed on higher frequencies. However, the problem may not necessarily occur on low-frequency networks.
- Analog reception is bound to decrease with the increase in distance from the cell towers, but digital reception has a tendency of losing transitions from clear signals. When conditions worsen digital signals will start to fail to result in call abruptions or being unintelligible.
The third generation of wireless technologies comes with enhancements over previous wireless technologies, including high-speed transmission, advanced multimedia access, and global roaming. 3G is widely popular as a medium to communicate or connect to the internet through mobile phones and handsets. 3G telecommunication networks support services that provide an information transfer rate of at least 200 kbps.
However, the transformation from 2G to 3G required major upgrades to existing networks while simultaneously planning a new mobile broadband. This lead to the establishment of two distinct 3G families: 3GPP and 3GPP2. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) was introduced in 1998 to foster 3G networks that descended from GSM.
- 3G supports greater voice and data capacity and high data transmission at low-cost.
- 3G devices operate on both 3G and 2G technology.
- It provides greater security features than 2G. Safer Network Access Security, Network Domain Security, User Domain Security, and Application Security are some examples of improved security provided by 3G networks.
- This technology has localized services for accessing traffic and weather updates. Also, video calls and video conference is another major feature of 3G.
- Speed exceeds up to a maximum of 2Mbps when operated in stationary mode
- It allows devices to be used as a modem for computers unable to access the internet.
- Larger bandwidth – higher data rate
- Provides high-quality voice and video calls
- Increases bit rate which helps ISPs to provide high-speed internet facility and many applications to its customers
- Greater subscriber capability
- Enhanced multimedia services
- Enables real-time activities such as multiplayer gaming and location based service.
- Offers offline services such as virtual banking and online selling.
- High price to cover initial demands and fixed cost.
- Needs more tower. The higher density requires towers to be closer together
- Expensive cellular infrastructure and high upgrading station base
- High power consumption
Like its predecessors, the fourth generation has also been provided with an acronym related to the change in generations of wireless network connectivity. 4G aims to offer faster and more reliable mobile broadband internet for its correlated connective devices. In 2008, a set of standards was set by ITU-R, which was later upgraded two years later in 2010. The standards specified the set of speed and connection standards 4G broadband providers required to adhere. Minimum speed required to meet the specified target of 100 Mbps for mobile use and for stationary uses to reach at least 1gbps.
Primarily, the standard was unheard of in the practical world, because they were intended as a target for technology developers. However, the future can be seen gearing towards advancing towards the requirements, by significantly upgrading the existing technology. The systems that power these networks caught up and found their way into products.
Advantage over 3G
- Though speed is the only prominent difference between the two networking technologies, upgrading your data carrier to 4G ensures future usability.
- Scalability so it can handle huge traffic with efficient use of transmission bandwidth
- Interoperable with 3G
- High security
- Roaming service with lower handover time to achieve lower handover time to achieve lower communication connection latency.
- New frequencies mean new components in cell towers
- High data price for consumers
- Consumer is forced to buy new devices to support 4G
- 4G is yet to reach a global level
5G – The Future of Wireless Connectivity
While the world is still getting accustomed to 4G technology, companies have started working on the next generation of wireless technology prior to the 2020 summer Olympics. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and Finland’s Nokia are working together to develop networks running at high frequencies for use expected to be showcased at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. However, the precise standards have not been presented as yet but organizations like 5GPPP see the major tenets of 5G as follows:
- 1000 times higher wireless area capacity and more varied service capabilities compared to 2010
- The capability of saving up to 90% more energy.
- Reducing the average service creation time cycle from 90 hours to 90 minutes
- Creating a secure, reliable and dependable Internet with a “zero perceived” downtime for services provision
- Facilitating very dense deployments of wireless communication links to connect over 7 trillion wireless devices serving over 7 billion people
- Ensuring for everyone and everywhere the access to a wider panel of services and applications at lower cost
Technology accelerates from its original towards advancement at a rapid pace. It comes in with innovations and improvements topping the former developments. Wireless technology is no different to other evolutionary innovations. Like the way the blueprints for the next generation is already being prepared even prior to complete implementation of the current network, we can only speculate what later generations may have in store.