In 1895 a few years after invention of telephone, Marconi demonstrated the first radio based wireless transmission. The first radio based conversation was used in ships during 1915. The first public mobile telephone system known as Mobile Telephone System (MTS) was introduced in United States in 1946. AT&T Bell laboratories devised the cellular concept which replaced high power high coverage base stations used by MTS with a number of low power low coverage stations.

The area of coverage of each such base station is called a cell. The operating area of the system was divided into a set of adjacent, non-over lapping cells. The first generation (1G) of cellular system was designed in late 1960s and deployed in early 1980s. The first commercial analog system in the United States known as Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) went operational in 1982 with only voice transmission.

The disadvantages of Analog systems were overcome by second (2G) generation of cellular systems which represent data digitally. The first commercial deployment of 2G system called GSM was made in 1992. In 1993 as other 2G system also known as CDMA one (IS-95) was standardized and commercially deployed in South Korea and Hongkong in 1995, followed by United States in 1996.

Upgrade to 2G systems offering higher data speeds called 2.5G systems was developed. GSM has two such technologies called High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HSCSD) and General Packet Radio Service Similarly in CDMA an extension of IS-95 known as IS-95B or CDMA Two was developed. To meet the future bandwidth hungry services 3G cellular systems was standardized in
2000. The different 3G standards evolved include EDGE, CDMA2000 and WCDMA. It is envisioned that future of mobile communication will be towards an integrated system which will produce a common packet switched possibly IP-based system.

4G provides, in addition to the usual voice and other services of 3G, mobile broadband Internet access, for example to laptops with wireless modems, to smartphones, and to other mobile devices. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D television, and cloud computing.

LTE (Long Term Evolution) is commonly marketed as 4G LTE, but it did not initially meet the technical criteria of a 4G wireless service, as specified in the 3GPP Release 8 and 9 document series for LTE Advanced. Given the competitive pressures of WiMax and its evolution with Advanced new releases, it has become synonymous with 4G. It was first commercially deployed in Norway and Stockholm in 2009 and in the United States by Verizon in 2011 in their newly acquired 700 MHz band.

5G is a generation currently under development. It denotes the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the current 4G/IMT-Advanced standards.

NGMN Alliance or Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance define 5G network requirements as:

  • Data rates of several tens of Mb/s should be supported for tens of thousands of users.
  • 1 Gbit/s to be offered, simultaneously to tens of workers on the same office floor.
  • Several hundreds of thousands of simultaneous connections to be supported for massive sensor deployments.
  • Spectral efficiency should be significantly enhanced compared to 4G.
  • Coverage should be improved.
  • Signalling efficiency enhanced.
  • Latency should be significantly reduced compared to LTE.

Next Generation Mobile Networks Alliance feel that 5G should be rolled out by 2020 to meet business and consumer demands. In addition to simply providing faster speeds, they predict that 5G networks will also need to meet the needs of new use-cases such as the Internet of things (IoT) as well as broadcast-like services and lifeline communications in times of disaster.

First Generation (1G)

First generation mobile networks were reliant upon analog radio systems which meant that users could only make phone calls, they couldn’t send or receive text messages. The 1G network was first introduced in Japan in 1979 before it was rolled out in other countries such as the USA in 1980. In order to make it work, cell towers were built around the country which meant that signal coverage could be obtained from greater distances. However, the network was unreliable and had some security issues. For instance, cell coverage would often drop, it would experience interference by other radio signals and due to a lack of encryption, it could easily be hacked. This means that with a few tools, conversations could be heard and recorded.

Second Generation (2G)

The 1G network was not perfect, but it remained until remained until 1991 when it was replaced with 2G. This new mobile network ran on digital signal, not analog, which vastly improved its security but also its capacity. On 2G, users could send SMS and MMS messages (although slowly and often without success) and when GPRS was introduced in 1997, users could receive and send emails on the move.

Third Generation (3G)

Third generation mobile networks are still in use today, but normally when the superior 4G signal fails. 3G revolutionized mobile connectivity and the capabilities of cell-phones. In comparison to 2G, 3G was much faster and could transmit greater amounts of data. This means that users could video call, share files, surf the internet, watch TV online and play online games on their mobiles for the first time. Under 3G, cell-phones where no longer just about calling and texting, they were the hub of social connectivity.

Fourth Generation (4G)

The introduction of 4G went one step further than the revolutionary 3G. It’s five times faster than the 3G network – and can in theory provide speeds of up to 100Mbps. All mobile models released from 2013 onwards should support this network, which can offer connectivity for tablets and laptops as well as smartphones. Under 4G, users can experience better latency (less buffering), higher voice quality, easy access to instant messaging services and social media, quality streaming and make faster downloads.

Fifth Generation (5G)

The 5G network is yet to be released but is widely anticipated by the mobile industry. Many experts claim that the network will change not just how we use our mobiles, but how we connect our devices to the internet. The improved speed and capacity of the network will signal new IoT trends, such as connected cars, smart cities and IoT in the home and office. Mobile network operators claim that 5G will be available by 2020 but nothing is certain just yet. For more information on 5G and the IoT, check out our video interview of Dr Hamid Falaki, Technical Architect at Digital Catapult on how 5G will enhance the IoT.