What are 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G Technologies and What Are Their Differences?

What are 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G Technologies and What Are Their Differences?

What are 1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G Technologies and What Are Their Differences?

The advancement recorded in the telecommunication industry is a testament to how far we’ve evolved and the level of success we’ve achieved. Less than 40 years ago, our network was characterized by cumbersome wires and gross inefficiency. Now, we have infrastructures in place underpinning swift, wireless transmission of data.

The most amazing fact about this journey is the level of progress and the time it took. Going back in time, we uncover the development and the distinct phases of progress.

But first, let’s define some basic terms you might be seeing in the course of this article.

The ‘G’ here refers to ‘Generation’ and each generation is described by certain network standards. These standards basically comprise the details of the technology underpinning the mobile system. This includes the speed, energy consumption, etc. For instance, 2.4 kbps was the norm with 1G and then 2G provided 64 kbps. 4G, which we currently enjoy, provides between 100Mbps and 1Gbps.

Now, let’s see the distinct features of each technology.

The First Generation- 1G

This was the very first technology behind the cell phone when it emerged in the late 70s. This technology was characterized by enormous energy consumption which translated to poor battery life. It also offered voice calls with mediocre quality and no guarantee of security. The speed at the time was about 2.4 kbps and analog telecommunication standards were in use during this time.

The Second Generation- 2G

This was perceived as a major upgrade from 1G as it was a shift from analog systems to digital ones. The main reason behind this switch was to ensure that the communication channel was more secure and reliable. 2G also birthed CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) and GSM (Global System for Mobiles), giving us features like the MMS and SMS. They became prevalent in 1991 in places like Finland and then spread to other countries subsequently.

It was also during this period that we got access to some of the fundamental services that are still widely used today. For instance, the SMS, conference calls, roaming, billing services, etc. the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) provided a maximum speed of 50 kbps and we had EDGE; (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) providing 1 Mbps.

Before we also leaped to 3G, we had 2.5G and 2.75G in the interim.

The Third Generation- 3G

This phase brought about many of the features that are now common in our world today. Surfing the internet, email, sharing data, instant messaging, etc. all became global as a result of the 3G technology. data transmission at a lower cost was also facilitated, and the voice and data capacity were greatly improved.

This new technology, known as the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), was required to offer stationary speed of 2Mbps and mobile speed of 384 kbps. In theory, they can provide a maximum speed of 21.6 Mbps. This technology also saw an increase in streaming services and this is as a result of increased efficiency of the frequency spectrum and improved compression of the audio signals.

The Fourth Generation – 4G

The way 2G was a radical move from 1G, 4G heralded a fundamentally different technology. This technology brought about high speed, high capacity, and enhanced security without compromise. The applications are diverse; cloud computing, 3D entertainment, telephony, and a host of others applications.

MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) are two key technologies underpinning the 4G and they can potentially provide a speed of 1 Gbps. The standard in place is the LTE (Long Term Evolution) while WiMAX was originally used. The 4G technology is also what is in use at the moment now.

The Fifth Generation- 5G

Considered as one of the most exciting breakthroughs of the century, this technology offers a lot of promise. It is currently under development at the moment and it promises to improve on the 4G. the aim is to facilitate machine-to-machine communication, reduce the energy consumption, the available wireless coverage, and ultimately the speed (It can potentially provide a speed of 35 Gbps).

Some service providers promise to make this technology available by 2019, while a lot of devices are expected to be equipped with the capacity to use the 5G technology in 2020.


This is a brief review of the technologies we have had over the years and they have grown according to the demands of the industry. With the smart city initiative becoming more and more appealing, the 5G technology is expected to be a major driver of this achievement.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.