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Evolving Cellular Networks to Connect The World

Mobile phones have become essential for many people throughout the world and have become a ubiquitous part of modern life. The growth rate of mobile users worldwide is tremendous and proceeds to rise at an incredible pace, as mobile devices have evolved from being tools for personal communication toward being high performing, multi-media platforms. A most important factor which is facilitating the growth of mobile users is the advancements in the Mobile Wireless Communications Networks in short Cellular Networks. In 2020, mobile and wireless traffic volume is expected to increase thousand-fold over 2016 figure.

Marconi’s innovative perception of the electromagnetic waves and the air interface in 1897 was the first milestone on the famous road to shared use of the radio spectrum. But only after almost a century later, mobile wireless communication started to take off. Despite a series of disappointing starts, the communication system started becoming more mobile for a much broader section of communication users than ever before in the late 1980s.

A cellular network is made up of individual cells emitting radio frequencies through a particular area. If you are within this field and utilize that carrier, you will be able to access that cell signal. The carriers service providers license their service of cell towers with different strengths, whether they’re 3G or any other cellular network.

Mobile networks have a lifespan of about ten years and are defined by their “generation”. Let’s take a glance on the previous generations of mobile networks:

Zero Generation (0G): Pre-Cellular Technology

0G, also called as pre-cell phone mobile telephony technology, such as radio telephones that some people had in their cars before the advent of cell phones. Mobile radio telephone systems preceded modern cellular mobile telephony technology. Techniques utilized in 0G systems involved AMTS (Advanced Mobile Telephone System), MTS (Mobile Telephone System), PTT (Push to Talk), IMTS (Improved Mobile Telephone Service).

First Generation (1G): Analog Cellular Networks

The First Generation (1G) wireless mobile communication network was the analog system which was used for public voice service with the speed up to 2.4kbps. Through 1G, a voice call gets modulated to a higher frequency of about 150 MHz as it is forwarded between the radio towers. This was accomplished by using Frequency-Division Multiple Access (FDMA). But this technique was limited by small capacity, unreliable handoff, weak voice links, and was unsecured because voice calls were accessible at radio towers, making these calls susceptible to unwanted eavesdropping by third parties.

Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) became the first analog cellular system widely deployed in North America. AMPS was a pioneering technology that assisted the usage of mobile technology, but it had several serious issues. It was unencrypted and vulnerable to eavesdropping via a scanner and was also susceptible to cell phone cloning.

Second Generation (2G): Digital Cellular Network

In the 1990s, the Second Generation mobile phone systems emerged. The Europeans developed GSM standard and the U.S. developed CDMA standard. These networks differed from the previous generations by using digital data instead of analog transmission, and also fast out-of-band phone-to-network signaling. 2G drawback is slow data transfer, such as email or software, other than the digital voice call itself, and other essential ancillary data such as time and date.

Some advantages of 2G were, digital signals consume less battery power which boosts mobile batteries to last long. Digital coding enhances the voice clarity and reduces noise on the line. Digital signals are considered environment-friendly. Digital encryption provided secrecy and safety to the data and voice calls.

Second generation cellular network successors consisted of 2.5G General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and 2.75G Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE). EDGE was the successor of GPRS and both supported services such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) access, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), and for Internet communication services such as email and World Wide Web access.

Third Generation (3G): Mobile Broadband System

3G is the third generation of mobile phone standards and technology, superseding 2G, and preceding 4G. It is based on the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) group of standards under the International Mobile Telecommunications program, IMT-2000. The initial commercial launch of 3G was made by NTT DoCoMo in Japan on 1 October 2001.

The central feature of the 3G technology is that it supports greater voice and data capacity and high data delivery at low-cost. 3G mobiles can work on 2G and 3G technologies. Regarding security, 3G offers more superior security features than 2G like Network Access Security, Network Domain Security, User Domain Security, and Application Security. This technology renders localized services for accessing traffic and weather updates. Video calls and video conference is another major feature of 3G mobile technology. In mid-2000, 3G evolved as a group of cellular networks namely High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) as 3.5G and High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) as 3.75G.

Fourth Generation (4G): High-Speed IP Networks

In 2009, the ITU-R organization particularized the IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced) requirements for 4G standards, setting peak speed specifications for 4G service at 100 Mbit/sec. It is the extension of the 3G technology with more bandwidth and services offers in the 3G. The expectation for the 4G technology is the high-quality audio/video streaming over end to end Internet Protocol.

Currently marketed technologies such as LTE (Long Term Evolution) and WiMAX have been around for a few years and are being marketed as 4G while not meeting the requirements set by the ITU. These are considered as “Pre-4G” or “3.9G” as they technically do not offer the required data rates of (stationary) 1Gbps.

4G networks provide Ultra high-speed internet access, Data-intensive, user interactive services, Multiple User Video conferencing, High Definition Video on demand, etc.

Cellular network systems under the umbrella of 4G are 3GPP LTE, 3GPP LTE Advanced, and IEEE WiMAX and WiMAN-Advanced.

Fifth Generation (5G): Future Generation Network

The next generation of mobile technology, 5G, has already started to take shape. 5G represents a paradigm shift in the scheme of mobile networks that transforms this technology to support flow, latency and scalability requirements essential to meet such extreme use cases as augmented reality or connecting trillions of devices. 5G is a name used in some research papers currently and projects to denote the subsequent major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the 4G/IMT-Advanced standards effective since 2011. The 5G wireless mobile internet networks are the real wireless world which shall be supported by LAS-CDMA, OFDM, MC-CDMA, UWB, Network-LMDS and IPv6. 5G Networks will lead us to the world in which distances cease to exist, and in which our sense of being and perceiving will blend with those of our fellow citizens and the objects around us.

One of the primary advantages of 5G technology over 4G will obviously be the speed of delivery which will be between 10Gbps and 100Gbps, but also the reduced latency. At present, 4G is capable of between 40ms and 60ms, which is low-latency but not enough to provide real-time response. By the year 2020, it is prognosticated by analysts that each person in the UK will own and use approximately 27 internet coherent devices. There will be 50 billion connected devices worldwide. These can vary from existing technology, such as smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches, to fridges, cars, augmented reality specs and even smart clothes. Some of these will demand significant data to be shifted back and forth while others might just require tiny packets of information sent and received. The 5G system itself will understand and recognize this and allocate bandwidth respectively, thereby not putting unnecessary strain on individual connection points.

Many of these advancements pose significant technology hurdles, but none of these should be showstoppers. New research directions will lead to fundamental changes in the design of future 5G cellular networks.

The mobile networks will unquestionably be at the very gist of the society of the future. While excitement intensifies embracing the development of 5G, shorter term progressions in mobile technology will appreciate roll-outs of high-definition voice calling and high-speed internet with these networks, and the richer user experience the following generation voice technology will bring with it.