3G mobile communication didn’t happen overnight, but came about as a result of enhancing previous technologies, then combining their best bits for improved efficiency. Below is the historical path from where 3G networks evolved:
It all began with the “pre-cellular” age of mobile radio telephones. Think walkie-talkies, briefcase radios and old car phones, transmitting radio signals on specific frequencies through the airwaves.
Remember the old brick phones from the 80s? They were the first generation of mobile telecommunications. 1G improved on the old radio phones by increasing transmission range (so you could talk to someone far away), working with standard mobile telephone lines (so you could call landlines), and making it possible to account for calls (so mobile communication could be a commercially viable option).
As with 0G, calls were still subject to noise and signal interference (ie. getting someone else’s phone call in the middle of your conversation). Though it doesn’t sound so great by today’s standards, 1G laid the foundations for modern mobile capabilities.
Along came 2G in the early 90’s and with it, digital encryption of the old 1G signal – that is, packaging up your voice into organised pieces before transmitting them. Right away, this meant better sound quality, less noise and no more eavesdropping. This digital system also used less radio power, requiring less hardware and in turn, smaller phones.
Before 2G, there had been over ten different types of mobile standards, ultimately limiting the public’s choice of carrier, choice of handset, and both phone & plan pricing. 2G launched in Australia over the two most efficient standards (GSM and CDMA). Now that carriers and manufacturers had fewer variations to cater for, mobile technology quickly became more accessible and portable.
2G also introduced the ability to send text messages, check emails and surf the web, though in the early days this depended greatly on carriers and handset manufacturers taking the next step in offering this new feature. 2G worked by packaging up an ordinary voice signal into organised pieces before transmitting them, using simple authentication and encryption mechanisms to prevent fraud and eavesdropping.
2.5G and 2.75G
The next step in mobile evolution was 2.5G, upgrading with new technologies GPRS and 1xRTT – faster, cheaper and more efficient ways of emailing and web surfing in a mobile environment.
GPRS was later enhanced to further improve data transmission rates. At this point, it was called EDGE, and marked the 2.75G era. Networks could now support mobile VOIP and video calling, but these features were never adopted by the mainstream.
The 2G era made mobile internet a possibility throughout the world, and the growing demand for multimedia on the move meant that mobile carriers needed a way to deliver bigger chunks of information at higher speeds. Say hello to 3G.
3G didn’t happen overnight, but came about as a result of enhancing 2G technologies, then combining their best bits for improved efficiency. GSM, GPRS, CDMA, 1xEV-DO, UMTS… There are heaps of acronyms in the mix but in short, 3G is the up-to-date collection of mobile standards, all playing nicely together.
In the future is the much-prospected 4G, touted to bring a dramatic change to the way we communicate. It’s said to provide mobile voice, data and streaming capabilities using IP technology.
This means that today’s traditional high-speed Internet will not only be at home and work, but can extend to the palm of your hand. That comes with all the trimmings too – VOIP, streaming video, online chat, mobile gaming and even running a web server on your mobile phone. Internet everywhere – literally.