Wireless Data Networks (2G to 4G)
The introduction of wireless data to mobile phones began in the early 1990s with the second generation of cellular networks (2G). These networks used digital technology and the popular standard GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) which allowed for the first time to send and receive text messages using SMS (Short Messaging Service).
2G packet data networks began in the late 1990s with the launch of AT&T’s PocketNet and popularized by NTT Docomo’s i-mode. PocketNet was based on the CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data) standard, which allowed data to be sent over the existing 2G cellular networks using packet switching. Phones in the early stages used mobile versions of HTML to compress for low-speed wireless networks – markup languages such as HDML and WML. 2G networks were the first generation of cellular networks to offer digital data services, but their data speeds were relatively slow, typically around 9.6 kbps.
3G networks, which were introduced in the early 2000s, provided faster data speeds, typically around 2Mbps. This allowed users to access the internet and use multimedia services such as video and music streaming on their mobile phones.
4G networks, which were introduced in the 2010s, provided even faster data speeds, typically around 100Mbps. This allowed users to access the internet and use multimedia services at high quality, as well as support new use cases such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile streaming.
Image used courtesy of Fizza et al
Developing Wireless Standards
The generations of wireless are governed by the 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project), which is an organization that develops standards for mobile networks, including 3G, 4G and 5G networks. It is a collaboration between several telecommunications associations and its main goal is to provide a globally applicable mobile phone system specification within the scope of the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project of the ITU. 3GPP standards define the protocols and procedures for wireless communication, which allows different devices and networks to communicate with each other.
Another important organization for mobile is the GSMA (originally Groupe Speciale Mobile Association) – an organization that represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. It set the standards for mobile communications such as GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), which began in the 2G era.