Cell Phone Generations 1G, 2G, 3G and now 4G -
08-25-2010, 09:31 AM
1G : Cellular Networks
The main technological development that distinguished the First Generation mobile phones from the previous generation was the use of multiple cell sites, and the ability to transfer calls from one site to the next as the user travelled between cells during a conversation. The first commercially automated cellular network (the 1G generation) was launched in Japan by NTT in 1979. The initial launch network covered the full metropolitan area of Tokyo's over 20 million inhabitants with a cellular network of 23 base stations. Within five years, the NTT network had been expanded to cover the whole population of Japan and became the first nation-wide 1G network.
The second launch of 1G networks was the simultaneous launch of the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) system inDenmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden in 1981. NMT was the first mobile phone network featuring international roaming.
Several countries were among the earliest to launch 1G networks in the early 1980s including the UK, Mexico andCanada. The first 1G network launched in the USA was Chicago based Ameritech in 1983 using the famous first hand-held mobile phone Motorola DynaTAC. In 1984, Bell Labs developed modern commercial cellular technology, which employed multiple, centrally controlled base stations (cell sites), each providing service to a small area (a cell). The cell sites would be set up such that cells partially overlapped. In a cellular system, a signal between a base station (cell site) and a terminal (phone) only need be strong enough to reach between the two, so the same channel can be used simultaneously for separate conversations in different cells.
Cellular systems required several leaps of technology, including handover, which allowed a conversation to continue as a mobile phone traveled from cell to cell. This system included variable transmission power in both the base stations and the telephones (controlled by the base stations), which allowed range and cell size to vary. As the system expanded and neared capacity, the ability to reduce transmission power allowed new cells to be added, resulting in more, smaller cells and thus more capacity. The evidence of this growth can still be seen in the many older, tall cell site towers with no antennae on the upper parts of their towers. These sites originally created large cells, and so had their antennae mounted atop high towers; the towers were designed so that as the system expanded—and cell sizes shrank—the antennae could be lowered on their original masts to reduce range.
2G : Digital Networks
In the 1990s, the 'second generation' (2G) mobile phone systems emerged, primarily using theGSM standard. These 2G phone systems differed from the previous generation in their use of digital transmission instead of analog transmission, and also by the introduction of advanced and fast phone-to-network signaling. The rise in mobile phone usage as a result of 2G was explosive and this era also saw the advent of prepaid mobile phones
In 1991 the first GSM network opened in Finland. In general the frequencies used by 2G systems in Europe were higher than those in America, though with some overlap. For example, the 900 MHz frequency range was used for both 1G and 2G systems in Europe, so the 1G systems were rapidly closed down to make space for the 2G systems. In America the IS-54standard was deployed in the same band as AMPS and displaced some of the existing analog channels.
The second generation introduced a new variant to communication, as SMS text messaging became possible, initially on GSM networks and eventually on all digital networks. The first machine-generated SMS message was sent in the UK on 3 December 1992. The first person-to-person SMS text message was sent in Finland in 1993. Soon SMS became the communication method of preference for the youth. Today in many advanced markets the general public prefers sending text messages to placing voice calls.
The first data services appeared on mobile phones starting with person-to-person SMS text messaging in Finland in 1993. First trial payments using a mobile phone to pay for a Coca Cola vending machine were set in Finland in 1998. The first commercial payments were mobile parking trialled in Sweden but first commercially launched in Norway in 1999. The first commercial payment system to mimic banks and credit cards was launched in the Philippines in 1999 simultaneously by mobile operators Globe and Smart. The first content sold to mobile phones was the ringing tone, first launched in 1998 in Finland. The first full internet service on mobile phones was introduced by NTT DoCoMo in Japan in 1999.
3G : High speed IP data networks
As the use of 2G phones became more widespread and people began to utilise mobile phones in their daily lives, it became clear that demand for data services (such as access to the internet) was growing. Furthermore, if the experience from fixed broadband services was anything to go by, there would also be a demand for ever greater data speeds. The 2G technology was nowhere near up to the job, so the industry began to work on the next generation of technology known as 3G. The main technological difference that distinguishes 3G technology from 2G technology is the use of packet switching rather than circuit switching for data transmission.
The first pre-commercial trial network with 3G was launched by NTT DoCoMo in Japan in the Tokyo region in May 2001. NTT DoCoMo launched the first commercial 3G network on October 1, 2001, using the WCDMA technology. In 2002 the first 3G networks on the rival CDMA2000 1xEV-DO technology were launched by SK Telecom and KTF in South Korea. By the end of 2002, the second WCDMA network was launched in Japan by Vodafone KK . European launches of 3G were in Italy and the UK by the Three/Hutchison group, on WCDMA. 2003 saw a further 8 commercial launches of 3G, six more on WCDMA and two more on the EV-DO standard.
The high connection speeds of 3G technology enabled a transformation in the industry: for the first time, media streaming of radio and even televisioncontent to 3G handsets became possible, with companies such as RealNetworks and Disney among the early pioneers in this type of offering.
In the mid 2000s an evolution of 3G technology begun to be implemented, namely High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA). It is an enhanced 3G (third generation) mobile telephony communications protocol in the High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA) family, also coined 3.5G, 3G+ or turbo 3G, which allows networks based on Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to have higher data transfer speeds and capacity. Current HSDPA deployments support down-link speeds of 1.8, 3.6, 7.2 and 14.0 Mbit/s. Further speed increases are available with HSPA+, which provides speeds of up to 42 Mbit/s downlink and 84 Mbit/s with Release 9 of the 3GPP standards.
By the end of 2007 there were 295 Million subscribers on 3G networks worldwide, which reflected 9% of the total worldwide subscriber base. About two thirds of these were on the WCDMA standard and one third on the EV-DO standard. The 3G telecoms services generated over 120 Billion dollars of revenues during 2007 and at many markets the majority of new phones activated were 3G phones. In Japan and South Korea the market no longer supplies phones of the second generation.
4G : Growth of mobile broadband
Although mobile phones had long had the ability to access data networks such as the Internet, it was not until the widespread availability of good quality 3G coverage in the mid 2000s that spe******ed devices appeared to access the mobile internet. The first such devices, known as "dongles", plugged directly into a computer through the USB port. Another new class of device appeared subsequently, the so-called "compact wireless router" such as the Novatel MiFi, which makes 3G internet connectivity available to multiple computers simultaneously over Wi-Fi, rather than just to a single computer via a USB plug-in.
Such devices became especially popular for use with laptop computers due to the added portability they bestow. Consequently, some computer manufacturers started to embed the mobile data function directly into the laptop so a dongle or MiFi wasn't needed. Instead, the SIM card could be inserted directly into the device itself to access the mobile data services. Such 3G-capable laptops became commonly known as "netbooks". Other types of data-aware devices followed in the netbooks' footsteps. By the beginning of 2010, E-readers, such as the Amazon Kindle and the Nook from Barnes & Noble, had already become available with embedded wireless internet, and Apple Computerhad announced plans for embedded wireless internet on its iPad tablet devices beginning that Fall.
These types of devices marked the need to consider to evolve towards the fourth generation of the technology. By 2009, it had become clear that, at some point, 3G networks would be overwhelmed by the growth of bandwidth-intensive applications like streaming media. Consequently, the industry began looking to data-optimized 4th-generation technologies, with the promise of speed improvements up to 10-fold over existing 3G technologies. The first two commercially available technologies billed as 4G were the WiMAX standard and the LTE standard, first offered in Scandinavia by TeliaSonera.
One of the main ways in which 4G differed technologically from 3G was in its elimination of circuit switching, instead employing an all-IP network. Thus, 4G ushered in a treatment of voice calls just like any other type of streaming audio media, utilizing packet switching overinternet, LAN or WAN networks via VoIP.