Everyone's talking about 5G, the latest generation of mobile network technology. Promising faster download speeds than ever before, and a more reliable connection with record-breaking latency times, it's set to transform smartphone data as we know it.

But how did smartphone data get to this point? Discover the technology that paved the way for ultra-fast 5G below.

1G - The First Mobile Network

1G is the first generation of mobile network and the first ever form of wireless technology. It was first created in the USA in 1979, but not available internationally until the early 1980s.

1g

1G is a form of analog technology, which means it only has the capacity to support voice calls and there’s no internet connection available. The frequency operates on narrow bands and the maximum speed of 1G technology is 2.4Kbps - meaning the phones are slow, with poor battery life and voice quality, and calls are prone to be drop too.

It may seem basic now, but in the 1980s, 1G was revolutionary technology.

2G - From Analogue to Digital

Mobile technology got a major upgrade with the introduction of 2G in 1993. 2G added a host of benefits and upgrades from 1G, the major one being that it took phones from analog to digital communication.

This switch to digital communication means battery lives lasted longer, and multimedia systems such as SMS text messages, MMS multimedia messages and picture messages were available for the first time. Call and text encryption that added privacy to data and voice calls were also a new feature of 2G, paving the way for better mobile security.

2g

The maximum speed 2G operates on is 14.4Kbps, a significant improvement upon the 2.4Kbps maximum of 1G. The bandwidth also switches from analog to 25Mhz, making browsing the web and downloading data possible for the first time.

3G - Web Browsing Arrives

3G was established in 2001, with a wide range of enhancements and benefits. The term “mobile broadband” was first introduced with 3G technology, as it completely revolutionised the mobile data offering.

Web browsing, enhanced audio and visual streaming and global roaming were all first available with 3G. Plus, the technology made video conferencing, IPTV (watching TV through an internet connection) and GPS possible for the first time, proving how far mobile technology has come since 1G and 2G.

3g

The maximum speed for 3G technology is 3.1Mbps – that’s a great deal faster than 2G. These improvements mean users can browse the web and download and upload data at higher speeds, with a connection that is far more reliable in comparison to its predecessors.

4G - Enabling Streaming and Downloading

Improving speeds, security and connection even further, 4G was first introduced in 2009 and is still widely used today.

4G supports web browsing, video conferencing, apps, mobile TVs and streaming media as 3G does, but it’s also capable of handling applications that need better speeds and connection, such as gaming, streaming media in high resolution and wearable tech including fitness trackers.

Vodafone-4G-862x522

With a maximum speed of 300Mbps, you can download and upload media faster with 4G, and latency is considerably reduced too - with a 50 second latency time for faster responses and less buffering time when streaming media. What’s more, frequencies are emitted on ultra-wide bands, as opposed to the narrower bands used with 2G and 3G, meaning 4G has more capacity for data than its predecessors.

5G - The Super-Fast Next Generation

The fifth generation of mobile technology, 5G was introduced in 2019 and again comes with a whole host of improvements and upgrades from earlier mobile technologies.

Increased speed is perhaps the biggest change we see with 5G. As discussed earlier, 4G networks offer maximum download speeds of 300Mbps, but with 5G these reach up to 10Gbps – meaning you can stream media, download and upload data and play games on the go faster than ever before.

the-o2-5g

Higher frequencies between 30 and 300GHz and larger bandwidths mean an even greater capacity for data, while connection is improved and buffering and lagging are reduced.

It’s not only mobile phones that are improved with 5G. Using a 5G network means greater potential for the IoT (Internet of Things). IoT refers to all devices that are connected to one network and will be used across many different businesses and industries, including cars, healthcare, logistics and retail. Whereas earlier networks can’t support this much tech at once, 5G, along with the better connectivity, higher capacity and improved speeds, can. 5G is also playing a critical role to the development and introduction of self-driving cars, smart home appliances and remote healthcare and surgeries.

Want to know more about 5G? We'll take you through the basics in our Introduction to 5G and How Fast is 5G guides. If you’d like to get your hands on a 5G-ready phone, take a look at our contact, upgrade and SIM-free deals, at Mobiles.co.uk today.