Technology Training

The history and differences of 1G, 2G, 3G and 4G cellular networks

The 1980s brought the first generation—or 1G—of networks with voice-only, analog service. The top speed of data transmission on a 1G network reached around 2.4kbps.

2G Networks


The 2G network began in Finland in 1991, allowing cell phones to move into the digital world. 2G allowed for call and text encryption as well as SMS, picture messaging and MMS. The maximum speed for 2G was about 50kbps.

3G Networks


The advent of a 3G network with more data, video calling and mobile internet began in 1998. What we may now consider a “slow” network in many large municipalities was the height of technology until 4G came along. 3G networks reach 2mbps on stationary or non-moving devices and 384kbps on devices in moving vehicles.

4G Networks

4G, or the current standard of cellular networks, was released in the late 2000s and is 500 times faster than 3G. It has been able to support high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing and much more. When a device is moving, as when you are walking with your phone or are in a car, the top speed can be 10s of mbps, and when the device is stationary, it can be 100s of mbps. The 20MHz bandwidth sector has peak capacity of 400Mbps. However, since users are sharing available sector capacity among others, observable speed experiences by users are typically in 10s -100s of mbps.


As more people get access to mobile devices and the Internet of Things expands, as many as 24 billion devices are expected to need cellular network support by 2024. That’s where 5G comes in.

Key differences between 4G and 5G

One of the biggest differences between 4G and 5G will be peak capacity and latency. For example, peak capacity of 5G UWB sector is in gbps compared to 4G in mbps. Also, the latency, or the time that passes from the moment information is sent from a device until it is used by a receiver, will be greatly reduced on 5G networks, allowing for faster upload and download speeds. Another big difference between 4G and 5G is bandwidth size. 5G should be able to support many more devices of the future, in addition to the network demands of connected vehicles and other devices in the Internet of Things.


What does all of this mean for you as a user and consumer? Greater amounts of information can transfer between devices faster than ever before, so high-density areas like airports and urban areas should experience fast speeds. Thanks to reduced latency and wider bandwidth, you should be able to stream a 4K video in seconds. 5G should be the network that will provide the speed and efficiency that everyone needs.

What’s the big deal about 5G? The Internet of Things

When understanding why 5G is a big deal, it’s important to know about the Internet of Things (IoT) and why 5G is expected to have an impact on it. IoT is the rapidly expanding collection of “things” that rely on the internet to collect, share, and transmit data. As technology has progressed, more and more “things” have joined the IoT universe. Ordinary objects like cars, watches, and thermostats have turned smart over the years and rely on the internet to gather and transmit data. Smartwatches, for instance, can use the internet to make phone calls and track fitness patterns. The innovation of making watches smart has since increased the number of things in the IoT, and the number will continue to grow as more advancements in technology are made.

With each generation of wireless communication, the IoT is set to expand. So what does this have to do with 5G? The number of IoT devices is projected to grow to 41 billion by 2027, and much of that increase is expected to be enabled by the expanded connectivity that 5G networks will eventually provide. 5G is also expected to be a big deal in powering the Industrial Internet of Things, or the IIoT, which is one of the largest subsets of the IoT. As IoT systems become enabled by 5G, industrial processes should improve and more opportunities for innovation should arise.

Through the growth of the IoT, new ideas for innovations in other industries are expected to be recognized and should continue to grow as 5G’s potential is further explored. As the IoT grows, technology should advance and help industries work more efficiently than ever. The growth of the IoT depends on 5G, which is why 5G is a big deal.