Telecommunication - Mobile generations, Smartphone, Important concepts

Mobile Generations

Mobile generations refer to change in the nature of mobile wireless communication network speed, technology, data capacity, frequency, latency etc. Each new generation of mobile technology has some new techniques, new features, and higher capacities from the previous generation. The evolution of mobile communication has been commonly designated as 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G

0G Wireless Technology

The term 0G is used to describe the pre-cell phone mobile technology based on mobile radio telephones. These were also referred to as pre-cellular systems and were usually mounted on cars and trucks. Since mobile radio telephone systems were the procedures of first generation cell phone mobile technology, these systems came to be known as zero generation systems.

First Generation (1G)- Analog cellular networks

  • 1G refers to the first generation mobile telecommunication i.e. wireless telephone technology. These were based on analog telecommunication standards and the first generation mobile devices were capable of sending only analog voice information through amplitude modulation (AM) and frequency modulation (FM).
  • In 1979, the first commercial automated cellular network was launched in Japan by NTT.
  • The major difference between the first generation mobile phones and previous generation mobile radio telephone system was the use of multiple cell sites and the ability to transfer calls from one site to the next when the user moved between the cells during a phone call conversation.
  • The main difference between the first generation (1G) and second generation (2G) mobiles telephone system is that first generation networks are analog while second generation networks a digital.
  • Some of the important 1G systems are Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT), Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) and Total Access Telephone System (TACS). Important 1G devices include Private Mobile Radio, Cordless Phone, Paging Systems etc.

Second Generation (2G) - Digital networks

  • Second generation 2G mobile technology based on GSM and CDMA standard which emerged in 1990. 2G mobile technology used digital transmission instead of analog transmission used in the previous generation.
  • It had three primary advantages over 1G mobile technology viz. phone calls became digitally encrypted; 2G spectrum has better mobile phone signal levels and is more efficient than 1G, and 2nd generation mobile technology introduced data services from mobile devices.
  • It introduced Short Message Service (SMS), picture messages and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS).
  • It is a cellular network in which the mobile phone connect to it by searching network cells in the immediate vicinity. Mostly, GSM networks operate either in 900 MHz or 1800 MHz bandwidth.
  • This era saw a rapid rise in the advent of prepaid mobile phones. GSM networks become more popular and spread in more than 200 territories.  As GSM networks have a worldwide presence, users can use GSM-based mobile phones throughout the world.
  • However, the data speed provided by 2nd generation mobile technology was slow and was unable to handle complex data such as multimedia videos etc.

2.5G - General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)

  • It is a wireless mobile technology which developed between the 2G and its successor 3G.
  • It increased the data speed of GSM-based mobile technology and added packet switched abilities to the existing technology. It had the capability to provide data services having a speed between 64 Kbps to 144 Kbps.
  • It used mobile technology such as GPRS, CDMA, and EDGE to provide data services.
  • Data services could be used to access Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and internet access on the World Wide Web.

3rd Generation (3G)- High speed IP data networks

  • As mobile phones became widespread and the demand for Data Services increased, there was a need for greater data speeds through wireless networks. This led to the development of the third generation mobile technology 3G which used packet switching instead of circuit switching for data transmission.
  • 3G networks use High Speed Downlink Packet Access, and Wideband Code Division Multiple Access (WCDMA) etc., for providing data services. It has the capability to transfer data from 1 Mbps to 14 Mbps.
  • Third generation mobile technology can be used for wireless voice telephony, fixed wireless internet access, mobile internet access, video calls, and mobile television technologies.
  • 3G operates in the range of 2100 MHz with a bandwidth of 15 to 20 MHz.
  • It led to the evolution of expensive 3G based smartphones with large broadband capabilities and features.

3.5 Technology

  • It refers to a group of mobile technology and data technologies which has better performance than third generation mobile technology. The 3.5G Technology includes High Speed Downlink Packet Access, Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), and the 3GPP long term evolution, which is the precursor of LTE advanced.
  • 3.5G was an entering step towards the deployment of full 4th generation mobile technology capability.

4th Generation (4G) - Mobile broadband

  • 4th generation mobile technology provides wireless mobile broadband internet access in addition to voice and other services of 3G. 4G mobile technology can provide internet access to laptops, smartphones and other mobile devices through a wireless modem.
  • The applications of 4th generation technology include improved web access, IP telephony, video conferencing, cloud computing, gaming services high-definition mobile TV etc.
  • The data speed provided by 4G technology is up to tenfold of existing 3G mobile networks. The commercially used 4G technologies include WiMAX standard and LTE standard.
  • Technologically 4th generation technologies eliminated circuit switching which was used in 3G networks and instead used an all IP Network.
  • 4th generation mobile technology treats voice calls similar to other types of streaming media and utilizes packet switching over the internet via VoIP.  4G technology can offer downloading speeds up to 100mbps and even higher.

4.5G Technology

  • 4.5G is an improvement over existing 4th generation networks and provides better performance than 4G systems. It is a step towards full deployment of 5th generation mobile technology.
  • 4.5G Technology includes LTE Advanced Pro and MIMO etc. LTE advanced Pro is the next generation Cellular standard after the LTE advanced and can support data transfer rate at 3 Gbit/s using 32 carrier aggregation.

5th Generation mobile technology

  • 5th generation mobile technology denotes next phase of mobile telecommunication beyond the fourth generation standards which is currently under development.
  • The expected features of 5G include higher data speeds, better coverage, lower battery consumption, lower traffic fees etc. The broadcasting data speed of 5G networks would be in Gbps.
  • 5G Technology is expected to significantly reduce the latency compared to LTE. 5th generation mobile technology is expected to provide several number of simultaneous connections.
  • It is expected to be rolled out in 2020 as per the current development.
  • 5G technology is expected to help meet the needs of new evolutions of technology such as the Internet of things etc.
  • Other concepts associated with 5G are World Wide Wireless Web (WWWW) and the Cognitive Radio Technology.


Smartphone is a mobile phone with multiple functions similar to that of a regular computer. The features provided on smartphones such as web browsing, operating system, the ability to install and run application softwares etc., were not originally associated with telephones. Important features of smartphones include web browsing capability, high resolution touch screen display, Wi-Fi connectivity, ability to run sophisticated applications etc.

The operating system used by smartphones include Android, Blackberry OS, Windows mobile, Symbian, and iOS. Smartphones have various sensors  and communication protocols such as the magnetometer, barometer, accelerometer, proximity sensor, gyroscope, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, satellite navigation etc., which are used by their softwares for providing seamless connectivity and better services.

Difference between Feature phones and Smartphones

  • Smartphones have stronger hardware abilities, extensive mobile operating systems  multimedia functionality and other multipurpose mobile computing features.
  • A feature phone or cell phone is a telephone which does not require a Landline connection for making and receiving phone calls. Smartphones have much advanced features and capabilities such as video conferencing, biometrics support, digital assistant etc., Which are absent in feature phones.

Evolution of Smartphones

  • Modern day smartphones evolved from the Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) when these devices began including wireless connectivity. Manufacturers like Nokia, Hewlett Packard etc., manufactured devices which were combinations of PDAs and cell phones with operating systems and web browsers.
  • In mid 2000s BlackBerry released its first smartphone device. In 2007, Apple released its iPhone and LG released the Prada smartphones with touch screen features. In 2008, the first Android based smartphone Dream was released by HTC.
  • Modern day smartphones have high screen resolutions, better network connectivity options such as 4G connectivity, Wi-Fi connectivity Bluetooth etc.
  • Future development and smartphone technology include foldable OLED smartphone display etc.

Features of smartphones

  • Smartphone have Central processing units similar to that of PCs that are capable of operating at lower power.
  • Usually, smartphones have touch screen feature which can cover most of the space on device’s front surface. Smartphones use Liquid Crystal Display (LCD), LED, IPS, OLED and AMOLED display.
  • Modern day smartphones are now using 4th generation mobile technology and better sound quality features such as High Definition voice and Voice Over LTE (VOLTE). Smartphones have speakers for listening to audio music files and for watching videos with audio component etc.
  • Today's smartphones have sufficient battery life that can handle significant power requirements of the smartphones’ computer systems and colour screens.
  • Smartphones use various accessories which include screen protectors, power charging cables, USB on-the-go adaptors, headphones with microphone feature, Bluetooth enabled speakers etc.
  • Smartphone uses mobile operating systems that combine the features of personal computer operating system with other features used in mobiles such as touch screen, cellular, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi protected access, Global positioning system (GPS), cameras, voice recorder, music player etc.
  • Presently around 85% of mobile phones are based on the android operating system and most other smartphones are based on iOS Operating system.
  • Smartphones support mobile apps and software applications to be installed for multiple purposes such as gaming, online shopping etc.
  • Smartphones have application stores for downloading software applications. Apple has apple's App Store for iPhone, Android has Google Play Store, and Blackberry has Blackberry App world.
  • Smartphone have large memory for storing music, videos, images and photographs and other information. These are capable of multitasking and can run multiple applications simultaneously.
  • Smartphones are most costly than the simple cellular phones and feature phones.

Uses of Smartphones

  • Smartphones are widely used for accessing social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram, Instagram etc. Online streaming of music and videos through applications like YouTube have become common with the advent of fast data services provided by 3G and 4G in smartphones.
  • Mobile banking services, online payment have become common with the advent of Smartphones. It has contributed to cashless mobile payments for the sale and purchase of various products and services.
  • Online shopping have become common through shopping apps made for smartphones.
  • Smartphones provide mapping services through mapping apps like Google Maps etc. These apps use GPS for providing correct location services.
  • Smartphones are now being widely used for tracking health and Wellness. Health apps can be used for tracking nutrition, body measurement, mental health exercises, sleep behaviour etc.
  • Smartphones have also found their uses in organisations for various various purposes such as for sending and receiving emails, cloud computing etc.
  • Smartphones have found their use even for educational purposes. Various educational apps available on app stores are now being used for getting access to quality content.

Important concepts

  • SIM Card: subscriber identification module (SIM) is a compact identity card which stores the users subscription information, phonebook and phone number. It is used for activating the mobile phone for accessing data services and voice calls. SIM cards are mainly used in GSM based mobile phones. CDMA based mobile phones generally do not have removable SIM sim card.
  • GSM: Global system for mobile communication (GSM) is a mobile telephone standard developed in Europe and is used in Europe and other parts of the world. GSM Technology uses time division multiple access (TDMA) and the Frequency division multiple access (FDMA). GSM provides higher digital voice quality and short messaging service. GSM uses 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency bandwidth.

  • CDMA: code division multiple access (CDMA) uses spread-spectrum techniques for providing mobile telephone services. CDMA uses multiple access in which several transmitters can send information simultaneously over a single communication channel. It allows several users to share a bandwidth. CDMA uses spread spectrum technology and special coding scheme to remove the chances of undue interference between the users. That provides better capacity for voice and Data Services and can allow connections to more subscribers at any given time.
  • Voice over internet protocol (VOIP): It is an internet protocol enabled technology which provides voice calling over the internet. Broadband connectivity is used for making calls with IP based smart phones and computers etc. The Digital information is packetized and transmitted as IP packets over a packet switched network. Skype, Yahoo Messenger, MSN Messenger etc., provide VOIP services.
  • Bluetooth:  Bluetooth technology is proprietary open wireless technology used for transmission of data with the help of short wavelength radio transmission in the band 2400 GHz to 2480 GHz over short distances. It is used for connecting phones, computers and other network devices over short distances. 
  • Wi-Fi: refers to popular wireless network technology that provides wireless high speed Data Services and network connections through radio waves. Wi-Fi technology is based on IEEE 802.11 standards for connecting devices. Wi-Fi can connect devices such as personal computer, smartphone digital headphones, video game console etc., to the internet via a wireless network access point. It allows cheaper deployment of local area networks.
  • Li-fi: Light Fidelity (Li-fi) is a wireless communication technology based on visual light waves where visible light spectrum is used for transmission of data. LED emitting visible range light are used for transmission of data in a cost efficient at effective manner. It is more secure as light cannot be intercepted unlike electromagnetic waves.
  • WiMAX Technology: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access (WiMAX) is a wireless technology for providing Point to multipoint (PMP) wireless broadband internet access. It can provide wireless broadband access up to 30 miles for fixed stations and 10 miles for the mobile stations. It can provide data services at speeds upto 72 Mbps.
  • Long term evolution (LTE): it is a standard for wireless broadband technology which offers increased data speed, reduced latency, scalable bandwidth capacity with existing GSM and UMTS Technology.
  • General packet radio services (GPRS): it is a packet based mobile communication technology which is capable of providing data services from 56 Kbps to 114 Kbps. Packet based data services are less costly than the circuit switched data services as the communication channels are used on shared and need basis rather than being dedicated to a single user at a particular time.
  • Wireless Application Protocol (WAP): it is a technical standard for accessing information using the data services provided by the mobile wireless network. It is a web browser for mobile phones and other mobile devices that uses this wireless application protocol. It is called as micro-browser as it is a mobile browser cable of handling small file sizes used in low memory devices and low bandwidth networks. It supports HTML  XML language along with the WML language (Wireless Markup Language) which is specifically designed for small screen mobile devices.
  • Android: it is an operating system and software platform for smartphones which is based on Linux and created by Google. Google Play Store gives the platform for downloading different application softwares for the users. It is the most popular smartphone operating system with a market share of around 85%.


  • microSD: it is a type of removable flash memory card used in smartphones, music players, digital cameras etc., for storing information, videos, images etc. The abbreviation SD stands for Secure Digital.


  • Micro USB: USB is an abbreviation for Universal Serial Bus. Micro USB is a type of USB connector used for connecting devices to the computer using the USB cable for exchanging data and files. Micro USB interface was developed to replace the older mini USB interface.
  • World Wide Wireless Web (WWWW): it refers to the use of the World Wide Web through wireless devices such as smartphones, personal digital assistants, tablets etc. It is capable of providing email, banking, messaging and other services anytime anywhere. It consist of complete wireless based web applications with full multimedia capability and it is generally categorised under the fifth generation mobile technology development.
  • Cognitive Radio Technology: it is also known as “Intelligent Radio” or “Smart Radio” which is capable of sensing, learning and adapting to the surrounding environment as per its inner and outer stimuli. It can adapt to the transmission parameters as per the dynamic wireless environment. It is based on the principles of Software Defined Radio (SDR). It can detect whether any path of the radio spectrum is being used or not, and can temporarily latch into it without disturbing the data transmission of other users. It has been designed for efficiently utilising the electromagnetic spectrum.
  • Global Positioning System (GPS): it is a satellite based radio navigation system used for determining the ground position of any place or object. It is a global navigation satellite system  which gives geo location and time information anywhere on earth which is not obstructed by the line of sight of GPS satellites. It is owned by the United States of America government. GPS are now being used in automobiles, smartphones, GIS devices etc.
  • Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED): it is a light emitting technology manufactured by placing a series of thin organic films between two conductors. It uses an emissive electroluminescent layer of film made up of organic molecules which emits light on the application of electric current. OLED do not require a backlight and hence are thinner and more efficient than the LCD displays. OLED screens have been used in several smartphones, and tablets etc.

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