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5G Phone

The Generations
of Voice Call

SMS · 24/08/2015 · 6 min read

by Sinch

Writer’s note: In this article, I’m covering the brief history and future of 1G to 5G, as well as clarifying the difference between the generations. If you think it’s worth a share on your social, feel free to post!


G refers to Generation. The telecommunications technology has reached its fourth one, and traveled from analog to VoLTE in less than 40 years. Forecasts of the next 4 years shows a bright future for the technology, with an expected increase of around 40-50%.

Mobile Usage Graph

But as you know, each generation has their ma’s, pa’s, and grannies to thank. Many people wonder about the different network generations –

What is 2G, 3G, 4G?

– so I thought I should go through the family tree once and for all. They say we get wiser with age, but when it comes to technology, the younger a generation, the smarter it is. Therefor, I’m starting with the leaves.


In telecommunications, wisdom translates to speed. The next-gen of wireless networks is not yet born, but with an expected increase of smart devices and connectivity in things, the future demand of mobile networks is relying on the children of tomorrow. The Next Generations Mobile Network Alliances suggests 5G to be rolled out in 2020 to meet the market demands.

'5G' is something of a misnomer: the standard doesn't exist yet. It will be months, likely years, before it's finally defined. In the meantime, organizations, governments, and academics are working on the technologies that will form the standard, but today, 5G is purely a concept, and one that needs to go from vaporware to real-world rollout in the next six years.” Jo Best in TechRepublic

With $1.5B respectively in funding, the EU and South Korea are currently developing 5G, and the U.S. are contributing with researchers from NYU, gathering data through prototype base stations in New York.

Among the already established criteria for a generational shift in mobile networks are 1) capability of delivering multi-gigabits, 2) latency under 1ms, and 3) energy efficiency that precedes our current networks. But the standards are still under debate, and spectrum is a major challenge for the birth of the fifth gen. Will it be a boy or a girl? That’s just predictions.


4G is the cocky teen of today, replacing its predecessor 3G. The fourth gen mobile network is a general term for the improvement of wireless broadband speeds, highly demanded from the fast growing mobile market. Mainly targeted for tech devs, the ITU-R 4G standards were announced in 2008, but in terms of commercial full-featured VoLTE, Singapore’s Singtel was first with a market introduction in may 2014.

In 2015, almost everyone should have a 4G phone.

For every transfer of large amounts of data, such as streaming video, “4G can be heaven”. The quality of calling goes up, as well as the ability to use data and voice simultaneously. 4G is where carriers are investing most of their money, which makes another good incentive for getting a 4G phone, if not already owning one.

2014Pie chart displaying stats regarding global connections by technologies

Pie chart displaying stats regarding global connections by technologies


With 4G being the latest technology, HSPA+ 21/42, WiMAX, and LTE are all paths followed to achieve 4G speed. LTE is an acronym for Long Term Evolution, and the most advanced type in terms of speed.

But teens always knows how to pick a fight: LTE doesn’t always reach the required minimum of 100Mbps for mobile (e.g. smartphones), and 1Gbps for stationary (e.g. hotspots), while still being marketed as 4G. And this clearly gets on people’s nerves.

Kids today, huh…

However, despite that the so called “4G LTE” isn’t always genuine, the connectivity is “substantially improved” from its forerunners (for instance, 100x faster peak upload rate), which is the main condition for marketing the service as 4G.


The third generation of telecommunications came to the U.S. in 2003, with mobile broadband and consistent Internet speed of at least 144Kbps. Due to mobile tech, 3G grew up fast to a speed ranging between 400Kbps and 2Mbps.

3G networks still has some parental perks compared to 4Gs – they don’t require as much money and energy. High-speed networks will decrease your battery life, so for the (fewer and fewer) people who only or mostly use voice, 4G is excessive. I.e., parents are good to have around when the kids act immaturely.


2.5G, “the second and a half generation” wasn’t really a generation as much as a phase between the dinosaurs and the sleeker mobile phones. Besides impacting the mobile phones we use today, 2.5G evolved GPRS and reduced the quantity of radio waves transmitted. We also have this phase, the transition between the 2nd and 3rd generation, to thank for services such as SMS. Yet, it was only a phase.


Dramatically improving the quality and removing the complexity of voice calls from first gen telecommunications, 2G networks was the first ones to transmit signals digitally. Based on narrow band digital networks, 2G meant worldwide connectivity due to its Semi Global Roaming System. Voice traveled across the globe, converted to digital code, and then back to analog signals, which made voice calls free from static and background noise. 2G was also the first generation with encryption, which enhanced the security and privacy level of the calls.


From data transmissions to the analogue generation, 1G is the olden goldie from the 80’s, with a transfer speed of 9.6Kbps, lack of encryption, limited reach plus limitation to voice only. Originating from the mobile radio telephone, the first generation of wireless telephone technology was launched in Tokyo, Japan, 1979.

Today, 1G is slow and stale, but do remember to honor the dead, as they are the ones who pass wisdom onto future generations…