Telecom evolution: 2G, 3G and 4G network differences

Telecom evolution: 2G, 3G and 4G network differences

Over the last decades, telecom technologies have evolved in such a quick way that it becomes really hard for common people to understand the meanings behind current nomenclatures like 2G, 3G and 4G.

What do all these terminologies stand for? What are the main differences between telecom generations?

Differences between 2G, 3G and 4G networks

  • 2G network and its evolution (2,5G and 2,75G)

Commercially launched in 1991, 2G network refers to the 2nd generation of telecom networks based on the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard. It is the first network to use digital signals (compared to the analog signals used by 1G) allowing voice calls and a transfer speed up to only some kbps.

In the early 2000s, 2G evolved into 2,5G (called so because it is halfway between 2G and 3G) and is also known as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). With a data transmission rate up to 54kbps, the 2,5G network is faster than the former 2G and enables more data services such as text messages (SMS), picture messages and MMS (Multi Media Message).

As the last evolution of the 2G technology, the 2,75G network is also referred to as EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) and was first deployed in 2003 in the United States by AT&T. EDGE network improved data transfer speed with a theoretical speed up to 384 kbps.

  • 3G network and its evolution (3G+ and H+)

The 3rd generation of telecom standards, known as UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System), naturally led to the 3G network denomination. With this new technology, data transmission speed increased to reach almost 1.9mbps, nearly 5 times faster than the former generation.

3G technology brought on a revolution in the cellular phone sector with the creation of “smartphones”. It went even further inspiring the name of one of the most famous cellular phones by that time: iPhone 3G from Apple. In a way, this smartphone also contributed to the success of the 3G network.

Called HSDPA, the 3G+ network is the first evolution of 3G with a transfer rate increasing to 14,4mbps which is 7 times faster than the initial 3G and becomes very competitive even compared to the classical wired connections like DSL.

The second evolution of 3G is the H+ network also referred to by a lot of people as Dual Carrier or HSPA+. Again, the speed of transfer increased reaching 42 mbps which is close to 4G transfer rates.

  • 4G network

This 4th generation of telecom networks allows a transfer rate that ranges from 100mbps to 1gbps, thus clearly offering an ultra broadband.

Also known as LTE (Long Term Evolution), the 4G network is the most up to date technology being currently used in the telecom sector and its development will be a big challenge over the next 10 years for telecom carriers, until the probable emergence of the 5G planned as of 2020.