By Hrishikesh Menon. Edited by Arjun Chandrasekar.


5g is the latest wireless cellular network which is still in development. Major telecom companies in the US like Verizon, Qualcomm, Marvell, etc, have 5g equipped with their products but it is still in its introductory stages. In this article, we will go through the history of cellular networks which led to the 5g network.

From 1G to 5G

The concept of mobile phones has been around for a very long time. It evolved from the telephone which was first patented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1874. For an entire century, many inventors tried to perfect the mobile phone until one became successful: Motorola.


Motorola engineer Martin Cooper made the first handheld cell phone call in 1973. Soon after in 1979, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone launched the first wireless cellular network or also known as 1G. By 1983, 1G was available in the US and Canada. Motorola incorporated 1G into its first-ever cell phone, the DynaTAC (aka “The Brick”). Although advanced for its time, 1G had many problems like slow download speeds, below-average coverage, problematic audio, etc. Even so, it was a groundbreaking innovation and gave way to the growth of cellular networks. 


About a decade later in 1991, Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) launched 2G in Finland. 2G was much better than 1G as not only did it have modified 1G features but also new ones. 1G did not include data features but 2G did. Data transferring allowed new features to be included such as text messaging (SMS), multimedia messaging (MMS), faster downloads, more clarity, etc. The popular phone for the 2G era was the Nokia 3210, also called the “Candy Bar” phone. 


Fast-forwarding another decade to 2001, NTT DoCoMo launched 3G which introduced data access from anywhere in the world. This gave way to international roaming data services. 2001 is right after the internet/dot com boom so 3G enabled the ability to surf the internet and stream music on your cell phone. Some other modifications were faster download speeds and the emergence of the first smartphones with 3G. 


The first iPhone, which was launched in 2007, included a 3G cell network. TeliaSonera, a Swedish company, was next in the cell network line. They launched the 4G network in 2010. 4G included high-quality video streaming, faster download speeds, HD resolutions, online gaming, and many other cell services which we have today. The 4G network promised download speeds up to 12.5 Mbps but it did not provide that speed initially so the tech manufacturers created Long-term evolution or LTE which lived up to the initial promises. The popular phones for the 4G era were the iPhone 6 and the Samsung Galaxy S4. Once 4G was beginning to saturate as new technologies required faster networks, 5G emerged. It first emerged in South Korea, March 2019 by telecom companies like KT, LG Uplus, SK Telecom, etc. 


5G has promised many exponential improvements from 4G such as 20 times faster speeds (approximately 169 Mbps), greater bandwidth size (from 30GHz to 300GHz), much lower latency (from 50 milliseconds to 10), etc, but consumers have yet to see such differences as the new 5G products display specs similar to those of 4G LTE. Experts connect this backlash to 4G in its initial stages when it did not live up to its expectations but over time through modifications like LTE, it showed the desired results.


The transformation to 5G has been a lot to process, so to speak. From 1G which gave limited abilities to call and had to be used on a 2-pound brick phone to much more sleek technology like 4G LTE and 5G which provides a multitude of services that allows us to have volumes of information and data at our fingertips within seconds. Who knows what’s in store for the cellular network future?

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