4th July 2019

The Evolution of Mobile Tech

Summary

As we stand at the dawn of the much hyped 5G networks - here to revolutionise the world as we know it... - lets take a look back at the previous generations of cellular mobile technology and how they changed the world around them:

Which generation was your generation?

Greg Nott Head of Managed Services

As we stand at the dawn of the much hyped 5G networks – here to revolutionise the world as we know it… – lets take a look back at the previous generations of cellular mobile technology and how they changed the world around them:

1G

When was it launched?

The first ever mobile phone call made in Britain was 1st January 1985.

What was it in a nutshell?

The very first generation of mobile telecoms! It’s got a lot to answer for!

Why was it innovative?

It placed truly portable, genuinely mobile, communication devices into the hands of the consumer for the first time.

How did it improve upon the previous generation?

You no longer had to hunt out public phone boxes, or borrow 10p to make a call!

In technical terms, what did it bring?

Mobile phone calls. And LARGE phones!

What are the best applications of this particular mobile network?

Being analogue, first generation networks were replaced in the 90’s by the much more advantageous, digital, 2G networks.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of a breakthrough was it, and briefly why?

10. This was the very first appearance of mobile communications for the masses and set the scene for what is now our most used, most personal, digital tool.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of its potential was realised, and briefly why?

On its own – 7. High prices, huge phones and a perception as a ‘yuppy toy’ in the 80’s meant 1G networks were not as popular as maybe as they could have been. But, when considered as the first step in the following evolutions of mobile communications then it is impossible not to give it a 10+.

2G

When was it launched?

1991 onwards.

What was it in a nutshell?

The digital replacement for the analogue mobile networks of 1G. This is the basis for not just mobile voice communications, but also all the other services that we use on our mobiles today.

Why was it innovative?

More efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum and digital transmission technology saw the introduction of data based service, in addition to just voice calls.

How did it improve upon the previous generation?

Mobile phones started to get smaller & prices started to get cheaper, meaning more and more people could jump on the mobile band-wagon. More popularity led to future innovations.

In technical terms, what did it bring?

Text messages! Who could live without them? Later innovations on the network brought ‘General Packet Radio Service’ (referred to as ‘2.5G’ by marketing people…) which basically meant faster data speeds bringing with it MMS messages and mobile-based internet. Who remembers ‘WAP’ and looking at mobile-specific web pages on a 2” black & green screen?

What are the best applications of this particular mobile network?

2G is still in use today as the back-bone of voice calls in the UK. In rural areas where more recent networks are still not available, users can still hope to pick up a signal for voice calls, text messages and picture messages on the 2G network.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of a breakthrough was it, and briefly why?

10. This generation was transformative in bringing services other than voice to the mobile world. As well as the instant mass appeal of text messages and MMS, the 2G networks also allowed Blackberry to supply email on the go to business users worldwide. Another ‘yuppy-toy’ that has become commonplace for us all.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of its potential was realised, and briefly why?

9. Although the technical limitations of services such as WAP saw mobile internet as somewhat of a gimmick on 2G devices (quickly replaced by 3G) the fact that 2G is still in use today around the world is testament to its potential being put to good use. And lets not forget text messaging!

3G

When was it launched?

1998 onwards.

What was it in a nutshell?

The upgrade to the 2G and ‘2.5G’ mobile networks. 3G brought with it faster data speeds and more reliable data connections bringing more use cases with it.

Why was it innovative?

Although the technology itself was not wildly innovative, the ability of 3G networks to bring the ‘true’ internet and web-based services to mobile users has undoubtedly helped to shape society as we know it today from social media to video calls to mobile working.

How did it improve upon the previous generation?

Faster data speeds to mobile users, which broadened the horizons for what could now be done on mobile devices hugely. Mobile mapping and location based services, mobile TV/video streaming, music streaming, video conferencing and social media all became possible because of 3G.

In technical terms, what did it bring?

As well as faster data speeds, 3G networks benefit from increased end-to-end security and location-based services.

What are the best applications of this particular mobile network?

There is no bigger application than full-blown internet on the go and everything that brings with it. Outside of this location-based services such as live mapping and user/device tracking have brought important tools to us all. The ease of integrating mobile technology into a device along with 3G speeds and reliability has also spurred along the ‘Internet of Things’ with SIM cards now built-in to anything from smart-meters & traffic lights to eBook readers and cars.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of a breakthrough was it, and briefly why?

7. The technology changes themselves were not so ground-breaking as previous generations but how society utilised them, and changed as a result, has been.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of its potential was realised, and briefly why?

10. Still in use and going strong today, inspiring genuinely innovative use-cases such as Augmented Reality on the move, how 3G has shaped how society interacts with the internet and each other is truly incredible.

4G

When was it launched?

2013 onwards.

What was it in a nutshell?

The upgrade to 3G mobile networks. 4G built on everything that 3G brought with it, but at much faster speeds.

Why was it innovative?

Although the underlying technology is obviously very clever, 4G does not bring anything particularly new or innovative that 3G hadn’t already brought with it.

How did it improve upon the previous generation?

4G brought ‘more’. Faster downloading, higher quality video streaming, higher quality voice calls, quicker response times, faster uploading.

In technical terms, what did it bring?

Faster speeds meant high quality, larger downloads. Lower latency meant quicker response times for live services such as mobile gaming. 4G also brought crystal-clear voice calls where service was available, improving greatly over its 2G predecessor. Increased upload speeds also meant that 4G was a more viable for more business oriented applications such as internet back-up or remote office broadband connections.

What are the best applications of this particular mobile network?

Other than just enhancing the features that 3G already brings, 4G brings a viable mobile option to traditionally ‘heavier’ web applications such as internet back-up, live-video broadcasting and smart-sensors in vehicles where response times are critical.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of a breakthrough was it, and briefly why?

6. Although 4G hasn’t brought about massive change as 3G did before it, it has certainly enhanced the experience for us all.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of its potential was realised, and briefly why?

9. 4G is still very young and even now has not been experienced by everybody, yet it is still being superseded by 5G networks. That being said, its realistic potential to change was limited to enhancing everything we had already come to enjoy from 3G so in that respect it has definitely lived up to expectations.

5G

When was it launched?

2019

What was it in a nutshell?

The latest, greatest enhancement to mobile data connectivity. Applications are already being dreamt of on the promise of 5G and all it can bring.

Why was it innovative?

Most visibly 5G is faster than 4G. However, the key is down to how much faster and how it is faster. 5G is set to be up to 100 times faster than 4G. Lower ‘latency’ (the gap between data being sent and received) means that applications that require real-time exchange of information are now possible. Think driverless cars connecting to cloud-computing power and road-side sensors. Or remote ‘telesurgery’ where the smallest margin is critical. How about streaming 4K video instantly without any buffering?

How did it improve upon the previous generation?

The technical abilities of mobile communication including speed, capacity and capacity have all been enhanced massively. 5G networks are also ‘intelligent’ enabling them to ‘tailor’ the service they are providing to each device connected to it to ensure the best experience while being more efficient than previous networks.

In technical terms, what did it bring?

Significantly faster mobile data speeds. Lower latency connectivity. Intelligent networking bringing enhanced efficiency. Additionally enhanced capacity means even more devices can be connected to a cell site than ever before meaning there is no end to what can now be connected. Smart-benches….?

What are the best applications of this particular mobile network?

All of the above, but this is just what we know at the moment. Who knows what other applications will be made a reality on the back of 5G? Holographic calling anyone?

On a scale of 1-10 how much of a breakthrough was it, and briefly why?

10. More than just an iterative step change in speeds, the enhancement of all aspects of the connectivity of 5G opens up so many future possibilities that will help us all in unexpected ways and help shape society even more than 3G did.

On a scale of 1-10 how much of its potential was realised, and briefly why?

I guess we will just have to wait and see…

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