Telecommunications as we know it today arguably began when Morse, in 1838, demonstrated his version of the electric telegraph. This led to the establishment of the historic Washington-Baltimore telegraph line which was run by the United States Post Office. This was only the beginning …
Since then, there have been five different generations (hence, the ‘G’) of mobile networks. Mobile networks have been around since the 80s with a new generation network premiering approximately every decade. ‘Generation’ in this context refers to the specific set of standards that were established for each phone network. And with each generation, network speeds increased. Let’s take a closer look at the evolution of wireless telecommunication over the years.
1G – where it all began (1987-1991)
Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in Tokyo launched the first generation of mobile networks, or 1G as they were labelled when the next generation was introduced, in 1979. By 1984, 1G was rolled out to the whole of Japan. The United States approved the first 1G operations in 1983 which saw Motorola’s DynaTAC become one of the first “mobile” phones. Countries such as the United Kingdom and Canada soon followed suit rolling out their own 1G networks. However, coverage was poor and sound quality low with roaming being absent completely. Perhaps most alarming was the fact that calls were not encrypted.
2G – A revolutionary milestone in the telecommunication sector (1991-2001)
The early 90s saw the rise of 2G, the second-generation network that used digital signals instead of analog. This new network also included a digital tool for wireless transmission called Global System for Mobile, or GSM. 2G’s main aim was to provide a more reliable and secure communication option. It also introduced innovative (at the time!) features such as SMS, conference calls and roaming. However, it was still not able to handle complex data such as videos and required strong digital signals for mobile phones to work optimally.
3G – The data transfer revolution (2001-2009)
NTT DoCoMo, Japan deployed 3G in 2001which focused on standardising vendors’ network protocol. Now users could access data from anywhere with international roaming making its first appearance. 3G had 4 times the data transferring capacity as 2G which allowed for even more features such as video conferences, live video chat and emails. The 3G era also saw the first Blackberry being introduced in 2002 and the first iPhone in 2007.
4G – The streaming era (2009 – current)
4G was first deployed in Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo in 2009 as the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G standard. It was then introduced globally which made high-quality video streaming a reality for millions of consumers. In short, 4G brought us MAGIC: multimedia for mobile, anytime access, global support, integrated wireless solution, and customised service. However, the downside was that while transitioning from 2G to 3G was simply switching SIM cards; 4G compatible devices had to be designed that could support 4G.
5G – The Internet of Things (current)
Despite being in its early stages, 5G has been years in the making. It requires more towers than 4G and these towers must also be positioned closely together. 5G will offer faster speeds and lower power requirements to better support new Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Technology has developed so rapidly in recent years, it’s hard to really determine which event was most significant. Nevertheless, when looking at the two and a half decades highlighted above, it can give us a good idea of where things might be heading. Who knows, with 6G still being a work in progress, it might just be the world’s first teleportation tech.
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