group of people using smartphones

Generation Gap: the History of Mobile Networks by Generation

5G offers vastly superior performance compared to the present internet speeds we are familiar with today. Apart from speed, 5G is said to have extremely low latency that opening web pages and streaming 4k HD video is even faster than doing it from the hard disk of your computer. Completely lag-less and crystal-clear, remote companies are also looking at 5G for VoIP phone systems. Any small business will likely receive the biggest benefits of a 5G network.

Why is 5G light years ahead of the current generation? To illustrate that, a wayback machine is needed to look at how our mobile network technology has evolved over the years.

1G

The “G” in 5G stands for “generation,” which usually happens because each mobile or wireless generation happens to improve every 10-20 years. The first wireless phones in the late 70s were retroactively termed to fall in the 1G era, whose maximum speed is about 2.4 kilobits per second. 1G is also notoriously unreliable, whose voice quality is even worse than a two-way radio (its only saving grace is that it has, theoretically, better range). 1G is purely analog and replaced by 2G in 1991.

2G

2G happened when Finland pioneered the GSM standard, which, for the first time, made wireless networks digital. As the first standard to use encryption, it also allowed more users in a single frequency. 2G also moved to a packet-based system to transmit data, which also saw the rise of “sub-generations” like GPRS (general packet radio service, called 2.5G) and EDGE (Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution, called 2.75G). The GSM standard and 2G heralded the advent of Nokia as the leading cellular phone maker, which allowed mobile phones to become smaller and cheaper, and the rise of SMS (short message service), or “texting.” At its peak, 2G, including EDGE, boasted up to 1 megabit per second of data transfer.

3G

internet network concept with devices

First commercially adopted in 2001, the roots of 3G originated in the 80s. 3G was the first standard to be broken up into several “families.” Although countries adopted 3G, they used it through one of these five families, which includes UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access). The Philippines uses the UMTS family.

3G also made it possible to browse the internet on your phone and gave rise to streaming and Web 2.0, where the Internet became a platform instead of a repository of documents. 3G doubled the peak performance of 2G.

4G

This is the current generation. 4G, 4G LTE (Long-Term Evolution) and an even faster LTE-Advanced boasted speeds that a user with a 3G phone could only dream about. The most advanced 4G LTE networks, for example, have peak bit rates of 979 megabits per second. These high speeds allowed the streaming of high-definition content, accelerated the use and adoption of smartphones, and made the internet even more accessible to more people than ever before.

The Next Generation: 5G

5G is a massive upgrade of 4G, with download speeds of up to 10,000 megabits per second (10 gigabits per second). Latency, or how long a packet of data is sent and received, will be less than one millisecond, 50 times faster than the fastest LTE network. The blisteringly fast speeds of 5G and its extremely low latency will allow applications like autonomous driving synced to a cloud, augmented reality, remote surgeries, non-local storage of media, and even holographic calls a la Star Wars.

5G is still a few years away, especially in the Philippines, but preparing for the inevitable transformation to a 5G-enabled country is acting with forethought. New technology is disruptive, but it will only disrupt those who are not ready for it.