Know your Cellular Tech

Owning and using a personal phone is such an ordinary thing now, that one cannot easily fathom that it was only till the 1980s that most people started owning mobile phones. We have undergone a tech transition from using analogy phones to what we now have been accustomed to “smartphones”.

These smartphones are powered by the cellular technology that enables various mobile phone networks to operate on. The cellular tech has been introduced to us, in generation batches abbreviated by the letter “G”.

From earlier this year, we can all recall how rumors surrounding 5G being the reason for the COVID-19 pandemic. Conspiracy videos flooded the internet, making people believe in that theory. To people who understood the 5G concept knew dissed such claims, but to others the term remained “5G” was and is still vague.

I am no connoisseur of the exact details that construct these generations of cellular tech, however I can explain in lame man terms, how one is different from the others, and their contributions and weaknesses relative to the society.

1G

1G represents the first-generation of cellular technology. Established in the 1980’s, where analogue telecommunications were prevalent. This tech had limited coverage and poor sound quality.

Like quality management, 1G started in Japan, when it was first launched by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in Tokyo, 1979. By 1984, 1G had been distributed to ensure total coverage all over Japan.

1G was powered by Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), Total Access Communications System (TACS) and Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT). AMPS enabled to separate frequencies and channels while using the phone (Frequency Division Multiple Access, FDMA). NMT had low frequency, which allowed the signals while on the call to travel longer. TACS on the other hand is considered as a development of the AMPS, which was more popular in the United Kingdom (UK).

2G

As the 1990s approached, the 2G network was launched and replaced the 1G system by introducing digital encoding of voice calls using Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). Phones were still analogue cellular and enabled to primarily make calls.

It also offered the first data services and SMS. The speed of data was relatively low, hence low premise for internet connectivity on phones. It allowed various mobile networks to offer services to send text messages, picture message and multimedia messages (MMS). Unlike 1G, 2G allowed for digital encryption of text messages and also digital signals which provided voice clarity & noise reduction

2.5G

This technology was launched as an intermediate or bridge between 2G and 3G. This was also known as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and allowed for packet switching which was more suited to accessing the internet. 2.5G can be used for MMS, Internet Communications such as emails and World Wide Web (www) access and Wireless Application Portal (WAP). It ushered in a new era of fast and high-capacity data transmission.

2G delivered digital voice,CDMA ( Code Division Multiple Access) where each call is assigned to a scrambled code over wise frequency spectrum and reconstructed at the receiving end

3G

The 3G network was developed to finally meet the growing demand for a fully data capable service such as the access to the Internet on the phone. 3G employed packet switching rather than circuit switching for transmitting data.

It improves the data rate for both voice and mobile access with enhanced audio and voice streaming. Other features such as video-conference were also introduced and created a better experience on not just mobile phones, but also other GSM-based devices.

Also known as Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) launched the connected community that the world currently is, as smartphones were introduced. It simply allowed more data, video calls and mobile internet with ease and sophistication from one’s phone.

4G

Also known as 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution), this cellular network type offers better data rate and quality than the previous 3G network. As more people started owning smartphones, the previous network technologies suffered with capacity, hence the advancement of 4G.

The goal with 4G was to offer data rates of at least 100Mbps, however, variations in 4G deployment have led to lack of coverage in some locations and thus you will still witness 4G devices drop to 3G and 2G for certain features. This can most commonly be witnessed when making voice calls. 4G allows packet for both voice and data switching by employing an all Internet Protocol (IP) network.

It was only after initial deployment of 4G that it was discovered that sending voice over LTE would lead to better quality, also known as HD calling or High Definition video calls. This development is known as VoLTE, or Voice over LTE. High quality audio and video streaming is prominent over end to end Internet Protocol.

5G

As growth of data has increased especially in the recent years, 5G network is expected to launch to enable virtual connection of people, machines, objects and devices. It is expected to disrupt various industries due to it’s ability to enable fast connection. The dream of fast cars and road sensors are bound to come intro fruition as 5G offers improvements in performance and latency.

According to Qualcomm, the wireless technology is designed to deliver higher multi-Gbps peak speed of data, low latency (gap time required for a data packet to travel from simulation to response), massive network capacity, increased availability, high performance and uniform experience across all users.

Image: 5G Features

Despite the scrutiny it hs faced, especially in the beginning of 2020, 5G will enhance user experiences in Artificial Intelligence such as Augmented Reality (AR), Cloud-based office solutions and Virtual Reality (VR) due to the enhanced mobile broadband features it possesses. It has so far, been deployed in 20+ countries and counting, which is more faster roll out and adoption compared to 4G.

Image: 5G and it’s application, in respect to latency and bandwith, Source: ZDNet

We are in 2020, even though the first half has not turned out to be what we envisioned, this is the year that 5G is bound to take off. Some continents may shut down the previous wireless technology such as 2G from this year, while others are expected to do a gradual transition until around the year 2024. However, 5G will not eliminate cellular technology such as 4G, but will rather work together to ensure connectivity is swift and advanced.

The significance of how the technology will perform is expected to have an impact on the stock markets (whether positively or negatively), while also impacting the job market, as it is bound to create more employment opportunities. As a result, mobile companies such as Samsung Electronics, Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, ZTE have all committed to supply 5G with next-generation antenna and stations that will power the network. Suppliers of the tech, are also entitled to a share of the plate including big names such as Qualcomm, Ericsson, Nokia, Skyworks Solutions, Marvell technology Group and Qorvo.

Important:

So you might ask yourself, is this everything you need to know about the cellular networks technologies? No, it is not. This is just a very simpler way to understand these terms that are often used in sentences, without people knowing exactly about their application or features. If the above explanations appear to be confusing, then scratch that! Below is an image that explains the evolution over the years, in way we love the most, VISUALS: