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Home/Blog/From 1G to 5G: The Evolution of Mobile Networks
25 May 2023 · 6 minutes read
· by Josephine Nuamah

From 1G to 5G: The Evolution of Mobile Networks

Our blog this week will embark on a journey through the evolution of mobile standards, exploring the key milestones and advancements that have shaped our mobile landscape today and what advancements in the future will hold.


In the ever-evolving world of technology, one of the most significant advancements has been the evolution of mobile communication standards. From the humble beginnings of 1G to the lightning-fast speeds of 5G, each generation has brought forth groundbreaking innovations that have transformed the way we connect and communicate via our cellular devices. 

1G: The Birth of Mobile Telephony

The first generation of mobile communication, commonly known as 1G, made its debut in the 1980s. 1G was first launched in Tokyo by Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in 1979.

By 1983, the US approved Motorola's DynaTAC as the first 1G ‘mobile’ phones to see widespread use stateside. Other countries such as Canada and the UK rolled out their own 1G networks a few years later. The Motorola DynaTac provided 30 minutes of talk time and took roughly 10 hours to charge. Nicknamed “The Brick,” the Motorola DynaTAC was valued at USD 3,995 (USD 10,300 today).

This marked the birth of mobile telephony, allowing users to make analog voice calls wirelessly using Frequency Division Multiple Access (FDMA) networks. These early mobile networks were characterised by low call quality, limited coverage, and large, bulky devices. However, they laid the foundation for the wireless revolution that was yet to come.

2G: Digital Revolution

The second generation, 2G, arrived in the 1990s and brought a significant shift from analog to digital communication. It introduced digital voice encoding, enabling better call quality, improved security, and more efficient use of the available frequency spectrum. The introduction of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) technologies marked the beginning of a new era in mobile communication. Calls could be encrypted and digital voice calls were significantly clearer with less static and background crackling.

But 2G was about much more than telecommunications; it helped lay the groundwork for nothing short of a cultural revolution. For the first time, people could send text messages (SMS), picture messages, and multimedia messages (MMS) on their phone quickly and affordably.

This simple innovation laid the groundwork for the explosion of mobile messaging and paved the way for future advancements. This led to mass-adoption by consumers and businesses alike on a scale never seen.

3G: The Age of Mobile Data

The third generation, 3G - launched by NTT emerged in the early 2000s and brought mobile data to the masses. NTT’s aim was to create a standardised network protocol which could not only be used by them but by outside vendors. With 3G networks, users could access the internet, send emails, and enjoy multimedia content on their mobile devices from any location around the world as “data packets” with data transfer capabilities (four times faster than 2G). It introduced international roaming services paving the way for the rise of mobile applications and mobile browsing.

3G also marked the introduction of video calling, enabling face-to-face communication and voice over IP (such as Skype). Although video calling was initially limited by the high cost and low quality, it laid the foundation for the rich, immersive video communication we enjoy today.

In 2002, the Blackberry was launched, and many of its powerful features were made possible by 3G connectivity. The twilight era of 3G saw the launch of the iPhone in 2007, meaning that its network capability was about to be stretched like never before. 


4G: The Era of Mobile Broadband

The arrival of 4G in the late 2000s ushered in the era of mobile broadband. 4G was first deployed in the nordic regions as the Long Term Evolution (LTE) 4G standard. With 4G networks, users experienced significantly faster data transfer speeds, low latency, and enhanced multimedia capabilities like video streaming, online gaming, and other data-intensive applications on mobile devices.

The improved efficiency and performance of 4G networks revolutionised mobile communication however, this transition from 3G to 4G was not as simple as switching SIM cards when users upgraded from 2G to 3G previously. This meant that mobile devices physically had to be designed to support 4G and therefore companies like Apple who had 4G-ready devices available was a big determining factor of them becoming the first trillion dollar company. 

4G brought countless new mobile capabilities however, many regions did not have the facilities to support the increase in 4G devices resulting in network patchiness and low 4G LTE penetration. 

Nonetheless, the reign of 4G lasted many years with some of the best selling 4G phones on the market being Apple’s iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. 

5G: The Dawn of a New Era

The fifth generation (5G) is now the latest and most advanced mobile communication standard. Introduced in 2019, 5G promises to deliver unprecedented speeds, massive device connectivity, and transformative capabilities. The technology also facilitates the development of the Internet of Things (IoT), where billions of connected devices seamlessly communicate and share data.

Even though 5G only hit the market in 2019, research into 5G capabilities and supporting analysis surrounding its potential use was already in the works. In 2008 (a year before the deployment of 4G), NASA helped launch the Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (M2Mi) Corp to develop IoT and M2M technology, as well as the 5G technology needed to support it.

With speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G networks unlock a world of possibilities and innovations for industries such as healthcare, transportation, manufacturing, and entertainment.

Today, we see technology integrate into our physical reality progressively. 5G-Advanced is the evolution from the foundations of 5G which is looking to expand capabilities within artificial intelligence and machine learning that will help to improve network performance. 5G-Advanced is scheduled to deploy in 2024 which will be able to withstand more demanding applications relating to virtual reality. 


6G: The Future Ahead

The groundwork ahead of 6G has already begun. Research is looking to encapsulate 6G as the bridge between the physical and human world which will seamlessly fuse to trigger extrasensory experiences like holographic communication.

There is still a lot of current innovation with 5G and new 5G-Advanced standards will facilitate many of the possibilities used for 6G. 6G is predicted to enter our society in around 2030 where our mobile devices and advancements relating to our everyday technology will support the new age of 6G.

From the humble beginnings of 1G to the groundbreaking advancements of 5G, the evolution of mobile standards has transformed the way we connect and communicate. Each generation has brought significant improvements in terms of speed, capacity, and capabilities and we hope to see the same with 5G-Advanced and 6G hereafter. As we embrace the era of 5G, we can look forward to an interconnected world where devices, people, and information seamlessly converge.


What are your views on the possible advancements when 6G is available? Drop us a message on our WhatsApp Community here :)

Published 25 May 2023 by Josephine Nuamah
Josephine Nuamah
E-commerce Executive

When Josephine isn't busy dealing with customer queries....she is busy getting all the latest content about trends in technology.

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