The History of the Wireless G

When buying a new phone, you have likely heard of terms like “3G” or “4G LTE.” But chances are, you may not be too familiar with them. So, what are they anyway?

What is a “G”?

The letter “G” stands for “generation” – as in the generation of mobile network. Each succeeding generation (such as from 1G to 2G, from 2G to 3G, and so on) simply means it is the next generation of technology that is bringing more powerful, faster and efficient data transmission from your phone to the Internet.

There are also other typical benefits of each improvement of the “G,” such as better security and reliability. Without further ado, let’s explore at how the wireless network began and evolved in every generation.

0G – Do you know that there was even a predecessor to the 1G network? The system was actually called the “mobile radio telephone”.  This came in the era long before the advent of cellular phones. That’s why this system is referred in retroactive terms such as “zero generation,” “0G” or “pre-cellular.”

Here are a few facts about 0G:

  • Pioneers of this technology such as Motorola and Bell System introduced it for commercial telecommunications services during the mid-1940s, and other countries followed suit.
  • Telephones at the time could be mobile. But unlike the succeeding cellular phones, most mobile phones at the time were mounted inside vehicles or specially installed in briefcases.

1G – 1G refers to the first generation in cellular mobile phone technology. It employed analog radio signals and remained the telecommunications standard until the advent of 2G.

Here are some interesting facts about the 1G network:

  • In 1979, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone (NTT) in Japan launched the world’s first automated cellular network for commercial use.
  • In 1981the Nordic Mobile Telephony (NMT) introduced international roaming in a cellular network – the first of its kind.
  • The USA introduced its first 1G network for the Motorola DynaTAC cellular phone.
  • The term “1G” was never used until the 2G became available.

2G – 2G refers to the second generation in cellular mobile phone technology. It was first commercially launched during the early ‘90s. Here are some essential 2G facts that you should know:

  • 2G was the first network to use digital data in phone conversations. Thus, the quality of phone calls was remarkably improved, over analog data.
  • 2G dramatically reduced the intricacies of data transmission. But the data transfer rates were much slower compared to those of the succeeding generation.
  • 2G was the first to offer short messaging service (SMS) text messaging.

Because of the newer technologies that have come after 2G, it has been eliminated in some countries like Australia and Singapore. A few other countries plan to shut down their 2G services, but many other countries still use them.

2.5G – There was a short phase between 2G and 3G, where technologies like 2.5G and 2.75G were launched.

  • 2.5G means “second and a half generation” – a term used purely for marketing rather than based on the technology itself.
  • Although data networks such as GPRS and CDMA200 1x-RTT are considered 3G technologies, these were actually classified as 2.5G technologies due to their slower data transmission rates.
  • GPRS, for one, offered network speeds that ranged from 56 to 114 kilobytes per second (Kbps). Most 3G services, on the other hand, boast network speeds of 144 Kbps or higher.
  • Variations of this standard also supported other services such as MMS, SMS-based mobile games and WAP.

2.75G – 2.75G marked the evolution of GPRS to the EDGE network, which promised faster and more improved data transmission rates compared to its predecessor. Still, it was slower compared to most 3G services.

Although EDGE came in the pre-3G era, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) officially defined it as a 3G technology.

3G–3G refers to the third generation in cellular mobile phone technology. It set the standards for most of the wireless networks that we have grown familiar with. It was first commercially launched in 2001, and was also the first mobile broadband-capable wireless network.

  • With data transmission rates of at least 200 Kbps (2 Mbps), 3G allows for a high-speed data transfer and more data capacity, at a low cost.
  • 3G enables a wide variety of applications such as web browsing, e-mail, voice and video call, online TV and video streaming (even in high definition), online games, sharing and downloading multimedia, teleconferencing and a lot more. Another advantage of the 3G is that any of these services can be accessed at the same time.
  • 3G offers more and improved security features such as application security, network access security, network domain security and user domain security.
  • 3G-enabled devices (like smartphones) can also serve as internet access hotspots for desktop computers and laptops.
  • 3G is most suitable for Internet access over smartphones and tablets.
  • 3G is the most ideal technology for people who need to stay online all the time.

3.5G – 3.5G’s definition is interchangeable with “High Speed Packet Access” (HSPA) – a combination of two protocols, the High Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA). It is said to be five times faster than the 3G.

3.5G is designed as an improvement in performance over 3G, which uses the Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) protocol.

Basically, it’s faster than 3G.

3.75G – 3.75G is Evolved High Speed Packet Access, also known as HSPA+. It is another cellular technology which is a further evolution of the HSPA standard.

  • It promises (but often comes up short of) data transmission rates of up to 168 Mbps for download and 22 Mbps for upload, depending on the conditions – they’re pretty comparable to 4G LTE speeds.
  • These kinds of speeds are achieved by using MIMO (multiple input and multiple output) – a technology wherein multiple antennas are used at both the transmitter and the receiver.

4G – 4G refers to the fourth generation of cellular mobile phone technology. It has the same array of services like 3G but its key value is that it provided the first true Internet broadband data transmission rates.

  • It was first commercially deployed in Norway and Sweden in 2009.
  • 4G is a further extension of the 3G.
  • It promises improved transmission rates which are 10 times to the speed of the 3G technologies.
  • Coverage of 4G has greatly expanded over the past few years to become more available in major metropolitan areas and developed countries.

With 4G, it opens up your mobile device to an array of current and potential applications that include:

  • Mobile Internet access
  • Voice over IP
  • Teleconferencing
  • Gaming
  • High-definition TV
  • Cloud computing, and so much more.

4G LTE – LTE means “Long Term Evolution, a mobile communications standard for high-speed wireless Internet connection for mobile devices and data terminals. 4G LTE is the latest evolution of 4G.

  • While 4G LTE is definitely faster than 3G, not all people can benefit from this service, especially to those who do not live in metropolitan areas.
  • While providers do offer 4G or 4G LTE networks, you have to have the right phone and to have access to the right network to be able to take advantage of the speed improvments.
  • It is the precursor of 5G.

5G – it is the proposed next generation of the cellular mobile phone technology, aiming to set higher speeds than the speeds in 4G. As it is still in development, it’s not yet available for general use.

  • There are rumors that many companies have begun testing 5G products. Some companies have come up with hardware and routers, while others have begun to introduce 5G platforms for network.
  • 5G will likely have data transmission rates of up to 1 to10 gigabits per second (Gbps) which is a significant increase from 4G.
  • It is expected to launch in 2020 but it could come sooner than that because of the fast pace of technology.


Wireless telecommunications networks have come a long way since the early days of 0G and 1G. This evolution in wireless networks has definitely impacted the evolution of the shape, structure and features of mobile phones and lead to today’s smart phones.

The history of the wireless “G” doesn’t stop there. The recent and future developments promise another much-anticipated evolution of the wireless mobile technology.