1G (analog cellular): The first analog cellular service was launched in Japan in 1979. In 1983, the Advanced Mobile Phone Service (AMPS) was launched in North America. Analog cellular signals permitted only voice traffic and were not encrypted, so they could be easily intercepted. 1G service consumed lots of spectrum and used the frequency division multiple access (FDMA) channel access method. FDMA allocates one or more frequency bands (or channels) to a user for communication. 2G (digital cellular): The second generation of cellular technology was launched in 1991 with the commercial release of the Global Standard for Mobile Communications (GSM) in Finland. Major innovations in 2G networks included:
Digital: Digital signals generally have less static and background noise, and they use available spectrum more efficiently than do analog signals. Encryption: 2G digital calls can be encrypted to make eavesdropping and intercept more difficult. Data: Short message service (SMS) text messages were first introduced in 2G networks — O-M-2G! 2G technologies use either time division multiple access (TDMA) or code division multiple access (CDMA) channel access methods. TDMA divides a signal into different time slots, enabling multiple callers to share the same frequency channel. CDMA assigns a code to each caller and uses spread-spectrum technology to create a signal with a wider bandwidth.
In 2000, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) created the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), which implemented packet-switched domains, in addition to existing circuit-switched domains. GPRS was dubbed “2.5G” and had nothing to do with Two and a Half Men, introduced by CBS three years later.
3G (data driven): Apple and Google brought smartphones to the masses with iPhones and Android devices, respectively, in the early 21st century. These powerful devices and the mobile apps installed on them (including Global Positioning System or GPS, location-based services, and on-demand video) created an insatiable appetite for faster download speeds. The first 3G networks, introduced in 1998, provided minimum information transfer rates of 200 kilobits per second (Kbps). The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has never formally defined a standard for 3G data rates, so downlink data speeds vary widely from 384 Kbps in a moving vehicle for Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (W-CDMA) to 42.2 megabits per second (Mbps) for Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+), also known as 3.5G, and 168 Mbps for Advanced HSPA+.
4G (Long Term Evolution): Commercially available 4G mobile networks were rolled out in 2008, and 4G LTE followed in 2010. However, unlike 3G, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) defined minimum 4G standards — but neither “4G” nor “4G LTE” meets those standards! The ITU-R International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT-Advanced) requirements include (among other things):