(I) 1G: Voice Only
- Cell phones began with 1G technology in the 1980s. 1G is the first generation of wireless cellular technology. 1G supports voice only calls.
- 1G is analog technology, and the phones using it had poor battery life and voice quality, little security, and were prone to dropped calls.
- The maximum speed of 1G technology is 2.4 Kbps.
(II) 2G: SMS and MMS
- Cell phones received their first major upgrade when their technology went from 1G to 2G. This leap took place in Finland in 1991 on GSM networks and effectively took cell phones from analog to digital communications.
- The 2G telephone technology introduced call and text encryption, along with data services such as SMS, picture messages, and MMS.
- Although 2G replaced 1G and is superseded by later technology versions, it’s still used around the world.
- The maximum speed of 2G with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) is 50 Kbps.
(III) 2.5G and 2.75G: Data
- Before making the major leap from 2G to 3G wireless networks, the lesser-known 2.5G and 2.75G were interim standards that bridged the gap to make data transmission, i.e. slow data transmission, possible.
- 2.5G introduced a new packet-switching technique that was more efficient than 2G technology. This led to 2.75G, which provided a theoretical threefold speed increase.
- AT&T was the first GSM network to support 2.75G with EDGE in the U.S.
- 2.5G and 2.75G were not defined formally as wireless standards. They served mostly as marketing tools to promote new cell phone features to the public.
(IV) 3G: More Data, Video Calling, and Mobile Internet
- The introduction of 3G networks in 1998 ushered in faster data-transmission speeds; one could use their cell phones in more data-demanding ways such as for video calling and mobile internet access.
- The term “mobile broadband” was first applied to 3G cellular technology.
- Like 2G, 3G evolved into the much faster 3.5G and 3.75G as more features were introduced to bring about 4G.
- The maximum speed of 3G is estimated to be around 2 Mbps for non-moving devices and 384 Kbps in moving vehicles.
(V) 4G: The Current Standard
- The fourth generation of networking, which was released in 2008, is 4G. It supports mobile web access like 3G does and also gaming services, HD mobile TV, video conferencing, 3D TV, and other features that demand high speeds.
- The max speed of a 4G network when the device is moving is 100 Mbps. The speed is 1 Gbps for low-mobility communication such as when the caller is stationary or walking.
- Most current cell phone models support both 4G and 3G technologies.
(VI) 5G: The Future
- 5G is a not-yet-implemented wireless technology that’s intended to improve on 4G.
- 5G promises significantly faster data rates, higher connection density, much lower latency, and energy savings, among other improvements.