Difference between 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G

Ever wondered what the letter ‘G’ stands for in 3G, 4G or 5G? Well, it stands for ‘generation’ of wireless technology. Technology, in this context, has been fast evolving; one every decade roughly, taking the total number to 4 (1G, 2G, 3G, 4G). 5G is on the cards soon and is expected to be launched in 2020.

Most of us have must have witnessed the transition; from the time when mobile phones were heavy and brick like structures to the current smart phone era. Besides the structure, look and feel of the wireless device, much more has evolved. We are referring to the advancement of technology which brought with itself bigger facilities and better internet speed

Difference between 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G

What was 1G?

The father of wireless technology, 1G was launched in 1980’s. Despite of its limitations, it can be considered a revolution in true sense since it made ‘communication on the move’ possible for the first time.

A voice-only network, the technology transmitted radio waves in analog form. It allowed only specific number of users to communicate wirelessly at a time and was sensitive to other radio devices kept/used nearby, resulting in background disturbances. The good thing was its capability to transmit signal over a relatively larger distance resulting in lower call drops.

2G- Beyond voice transmission

People had been exposed to voice only service on their mobile phones for about a decade when 2G made its debut. In 1991, it was first introduced in Finland. Unlike 1G, 2G transmitted radio signals in digital format which made it more reliable and secured. Digitally encrypted signals consumed less power and thus helped the mobile batteries last longer.

Additional features like text messages and multi-media messages, which we take for granted today, were introduced by 2G generation. 2G technology allowed users to experience internet on their phones for the first time. 2G internet speed at up to 250 kbps, if compared to what we enjoy today was miniscule. However, that did not stop enthusiastic users from accessing World Wide Web back then.

The 2G digital network, popularly known as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communication) resorted to (TDMA) Time Division Multiple Access and FDMA (Frequency Division Multiple Access) technologies to do away with the barriers of limited user base and background disturbances.

3G network

Difference between 2G and 3G was quite apparent. The main contributor for this was massive jump in 3G speed. While 2G speed did not allow a user to perform many activities through mobile internet, 3G did. Introduced in 2001, 3G network used UTMS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) to deliver data at a significantly faster speed, paving way for facilities like video conferencing and mobile TV. 3G speedranges between 200kbps and 3mbps.

Code based multiplexing was used to transmit signals to multiple users on the same frequency band. Technological advancements in terms of mathematical and algorithm improvements led 3G network to transmit signals with higher efficiency and at lower wattage. 3G used a more secured encryption algorithm for data transfer, thus adding on its reliability.

4G and 4G LTE network

Another chapter was published in the history of wireless generations in 2011; 4G network came into being. Things with respect to technology, data speed and usage became quite different here on.

Switch from 3G to 4G, most noticeably was a switch from average data speed to a speed comparable to broadband connections. With speed up to 10 times faster (100 mbps on the move and at least 1 gbps when stationary) than erstwhile 3G network, 4G emerged as the future of mobile communication

4G networks are defined as ones that support amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television. Higher number of users could also be supported via the fourth generation of wireless technology.

When 4G was first introduced, though many mobile devices supported the new network, the physical wireless network structure was not ready in the background. Thus, despite the mobiles being rightly equipped, they struggled to catch scarcely available 4G signals. This made them run on 3G signals most of the time.

4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) eventually evolved to attain 4G speed as it was actually meant to be. However, this name (4G LTE), initially proved to be an advertisement gimmick for brands to sell their mobile phones. It was but recently that 4G data speed, as defined above, has actually become available for use in India.

5G technology – The future Generation

Expected to be launched in 2020 in India, hopefully with the rest of the world, 5G network shall set forth the course for internet penetration in our day to day lives. It shall be instrumental for machine to machine connect and is expected to deliver data speed above 1 gigabit per second.

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