I recently relocated to Ibadan, the headquarter of western part of Nigeria and the home base of Bytelabs Technologies Limited to be specific. I’m really happy to be in town again, but I’m super excited about the fact that I can now use 4G internet ( at a constant 400 Kbps average) almost everywhere. ( If you’re reading this from Europe, please do not snicker, 3G was like the best we got around here).
So, what’s my excitement all about. Of course we all know 4G is faster than 3G, and 3G is faster than 2G, and 2G is faster than 1G (Yes, there is 1G technology, introduced in the 1980’s). Let’s take a lesson.
The G in 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G stands for Generation, and they refer to the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th generation of wireless technology respectively. These generations are essentially a set of standards, protocols and technological specification for wireless data transmission. Each generation is faster, more secure and more reliable than the previous. Lets take a look at them.
1G – 1G was offered in analog technology (If you’re not too young, you could probably remember phones that look like this).
The analog 1G offered simple telephony service without data. Cell phones began with 1G in the 1980s. The phones generally had poor battery life and voice quality was large without much security. Dropped calls were also very frequent. The max speed of 1G is 2.4 Kbps.
2G – 2G signals are transmitted in digital format in GSM (Global System for mobile communication) and CDMA(Code-division multiple access) technologies. It delivered digital signal and offered up to 250Kbps speed. Supports voice, text and data services. This generation pioneered secure and reliable communication channels. Note that 2G internet services only came after the establishment of 3G.
3G – At least 200Kbps up to 3Mbps speed. It provided better bandwidth and better connectivity even during motion(like in a car). An interim step was taken from 3G to 4G by developing 3.5G or HSPA (High Speed Packet Access , usually characterized by the H or H+ signal indicator) for better data communication and to maintain 4G compatibility.
4G – 4G delivers up to 100Mbps for mobile access, and up to 1Gbps for wireless access. The best aspect of 4G is the use of data/internet services for everything. Even voice call is done over internet as there is no separate voice channel.
4G LTE – LTE (Long Term Evolution) is one of the two standards offered within 4G, and WiMax being the second one. The specification calls for downlink speed of up to 300Mbps and uplink speed of up to 75Mbps.
Some countries are actually rolling out 4.5G services already as a precursor to 5G technology expected to be deployed in 2020. To the end-user, all that really matters is just speed, speed and more speed. So, 4G actually looks really good. Just remember, you need a 4G enable mobile phone, and a 4G enabled sim card.
Interestingly, I’ve never managed to get more than 1.1Mbps out of my new 4G sim card. Users of some other wireless providers also hardly get up to 3Mbps 4G speed. That is because most wireless carriers claiming that they offer 4G network are actually offering HSPA (High Speed Packet Access) optimized to 6Mbps speed (and you know you can hardly ever get full speed).
Now you know what the G’s mean.
Note: Kbps – Kilobyte per second
Mbps – Megabyte per second.