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Did You Know - Managed Network Services

The “G” in 3G, 4G and 5G stands for generation

By June 5, 2020January 28th, 2021No Comments
The number stands for the generation of cellular network the application is using. But what do 3G-4G-5G really mean and why do they keep changing?
  • In the early 1980s the first generation (now considered 1G) of cellular networks was created. This provided speeds up to 2.4 Kbps (kilobits per second).
  • 2G, or the second generation of cellular networks, came around in the early 1990s. This was a large upgrade allowing encryption for calls and text, and also permitted picture messaging. These technology advancements became possible since 2G maximum speeds were about 50 Kbps.
  • 3G rollouts started around 1998, launching the mobile Internet we think of today on our cell phones. Now, 2 Mbps (megabits per second) speeds were available to stationary users. This speed allowed for browsing the Internet, reading emails and the very beginning of video.
  • 4G is where we are today for the masses. It became publicly available in the early 2000s and gives the user faster speeds while being stationary and on the move (walking or in a vehicle).  While on the move, a user can expect speeds into 10s of Mbps and when stationary, 100s of Mbps. Users could now stream high definition TV and video conferencing with this fourth generation of cellular networks.
  • 5G is here but on a very limited scale. Most users are unable to receive 5G signals since the network is still being deployed. The biggest difference between 4G and 5G is available bandwidth and less latency. Increased bandwidth on the cellular network allows for more users to be on the same network, using more data, all at the same time and at faster speeds. Latency is the time it takes data to travel from the transmitting device and the receiving device. The faster this happens (lower latency) the faster the connection will be overall. 5G speeds are in the Gbps (gigabits per second) range and will allow for more connected devices to be online at once, opening the door for streaming 4K videos, connected vehicles and wireless broadband as a primary communication path. We will see much more of what 5G can bring in the upcoming years.
What’s next?
So that is what 3G-4G-5G mean, but why do they keep changing? In short, to keep up with the Internet of Things (IoT) demand. More and more devices are online and “talking” to each other, so the demand for faster speeds will likely never slow down. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2024, 24 billion devices will be on mobile networks, and we will need the speed and bandwidth to support them. While 3G will be sunsetting in the near future, 4G and 5G will continue to improve but generally remain consistent for the foreseeable future.