What is 2G, 3G & 4G?

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What is 2G, 3G & 4G?

PostPosted by stuart » Sun Jul 27, 2014 3:27 pm

What is 2G, 3G, and 4G?

What is meant by 2G, 3G and 4G?

2G stand for 2nd Generation Network, 3G is 3rd and you guessed it 4G is 4th Generation.



Other acronyms that you may have heard them being called are

2G = GSM (Global System for Mobile)

3G = UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System)

4G = LTE (Long Term Evolution)



2G was introduced in the 90s in the UK and allowed us to use Text Messages (SMS), Picture messages (MMS) and Internet (WAP) all though it being rather slow.

Now if you look at your mobile phone / Smartphone. You may noticed either a letter E, G or possible the circle on the iPhone.



For example G stood for GPRS (Dial up modem speeds. Real Slow Internet)

O2 – UK o (Apple IOS 6.x and below), (Apple IOS 7.x and above now displays gprs)

O2 – UK G



E Stood for Enhanced, So you got a little faster Internet in theory !

O2 – UK E



However the 2G network was not fast enough for the consumer so 3G came about.

3G was introduced in around 2003 and brought us Video Calling and Faster Internet. Broadband speeds at the time, but again we wanted more.

So 3G started its upgrade path and was upgraded to the HSPA Family

HSPA = High-Speed Packet Access

There has been a few upgraded to the HSPA family and yes they are calls different names, but all they are is enhancements and faster speeds for us to use.

The latest upgrade going on is DC-HSPDA which is speeds of up to 42 Mbits (Mega bits per second) (Upload Speed this is)



So you may see on your phone

O2 – 3G (On a iPhone's)

O2 – 3G or H or H+ (Other phone's)

So if you see any of the above symbols, you know you're on a 3G Network (or 3rd Generation)

So then what is 4G.

4G is 4th Generation Network which will enable us to go even faster on our mobiles and mobile dongles. Possible speeds achievable are 300Mbs download and 75Mbs Upload, but the Networks have to enable the faster speeds and the Mobile phones again have to have a network chip inside that is capable of these speeds.

So why can some phones work on 4G, 3G and 2G,

Well its all to do with the frequency they are run on and your Receiver Microchip in your phone.

Is way to explain is like a radio in the house or in the car.



There is FM, MW(AM), LW, SW (and others)

Some Radios can only pick up FM, MW(AM)

Some Radios pick up them all.



Mobile phones are no different, but they are called frequencies or Airwaves.


2G GSM have 4 bands in the world (For Mobile phones)

900 MHz used by O2 and Vodafone

1800 MHz used by Orange, T-mobile (Now EE), O2 and Vodafone

850 MHz, 1900 MHz bands are used in USA, Canada and some South American Countries only. (Also CDMA (Code division multiple access) which is another frequency completely different to GSM)



3G UMTS has 5 Bands I know that I used for Mobile phones

900 MHz is currently been used by O2 and Vodafone

2100 MHz is used by all the UK carriers

850 MHz, 1700 MHz and 1900 MHz are again bands that are used in USA, Canada and some South American Countries only. (And again enhanced CDMA (CDMA 2000) another difference to UMTS)



So why will 4G (LTE) be problems for manufactures

First problem is that 4G can be known as 4G or LTE (Long-Term Evolution)

Well 2G and 3G had a set amount of frequencies that were utilised and that the mobile manufactures were told they could only use.



4G however hasn't had that sort of guidance and its become a free for all in the Mobile industry.

This is where the problem lies.

2G has 4 different bands, 3G has 5, 4G has 35+ frequencies and is still counting.

And this is causing issues.



UK is allowed to use 800 MHz, 2600 GHz and some 1800 MHz that is spare and not being used on 2G


800 MHz and 2600 GHz was sold by Ofcom in 2014 and bought by all the UK Mobile operators

EE was allowed to re use there spare 1800 MHz which Ofcom approved as the UK was falling well behind most countries in not having a 4G network.

EE started 4G in October 2012

O2 and Vodafone Started 4G on August 2013

Three Started officially March 2014



O2 purchased 800 MHz and is obliged to provide 98% UK population indoor coverage by 2017

Vodafone purchased 800 MHz and 2600 GHz

EE used spare 1800 MHz from 2G and purchased 800 MHZ and 2600 GHz

Three took 1800 MHz requested by Ofcom of EE and purchased 800 MHz as well



Now before you start to say, well some networks have more than others, It doesn't work like this. Each network purchased Chunks of the Frequency and some purchase more than others.



Most of EU and Asia, are using 800 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2600 GHz, however you also have 850 MHz, 2300 MHz, 900 MHz for some parts of the world and again

Americas use a completely different frequency (700 Mhz 2 different bands, 2100 MHz, 1700 MHz) and also use can use another different technologies completely (Again another different structure of frequency called Mobile WiMAX)


List of Networks on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_LTE_networks

Beleive me when I say its a Eye opener or confusion.



The iPhone 5 for the UK will use 2G and 3G on O2 and Vodafone only.

On EE and Three the iPhone 5 will be able to use 4G and is as we speak on both Networks as the iPhone 5 supports 1800 MHz.

O2 and Vodafone I don't believe have enough spare frequency of 1800 MHz to convert and this is why 4G may never come on this networks on the iPhone 5

iPhone 5 in the EU utilises the 850 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz frequency only.

iPhone 5 in USA utilises different frequencies as US networks are on different ones to us.

(To also make matters worse, US and some countries again chooses a different technology to LTE. They choose Mobile WiMAX)

iPhone 5S / 5C is able to utilise all the 4G frequencies in the UK/EU I believe so this is 800, 1800, 2600mhz


Now you may have recently taking you phone to the USA and you don't have a LTE phone (4G), but noticed the phone may have said 4G? (More on the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s)

Well you weren't really on 4G. Some American Networks says that there old 3G network is just as fast or nearly as fast as there 4G LTE network and therefore it should be called that. As there is no harmonised regarding 4G, this was agreed and so in the USA Some have named there old 3G to 4G (Due to the speeds and nothing else) So you can see its really confusing for customers.



Last thing on 4G LTE I promise. To make Matters worse for example. 2600mhz is band 7 and 38. Even tho you phone may support 4g 2600mhz, it also has to support its band number as well.



4G is going to fun lol


Why can't mobile phones use them all. Technology, price and size of the Chip.

One day as new Micro Chips come out, we may be able to use more 4G networks, but until the time comes, we have to make do with what we have.



I really hope the above is helpful and has been somewhat useful. I have tried to make it understandable as I know that the world of mobile phones is somewhat confusing.

Original source/copyright Darrengf
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