Telecom operators are set to roll out 5G services in India, possibly as early as October. Now, 5G promises high-speed experience and low latency mobile internet services on the go.
As we progress towards this next generation of mobile network, let us look at the experiences that each generation brought with it and what the future – 6G – might hold.
1G: Voice calls
It was a time when phones were thick, heavy, and bulky. They had no screens, and came with big antennas and massive batteries. The network reception was sketchy and the on-battery time was abysmal. Nevertheless, this is where the mobile network story started.
The first generation enabled communication between two supported devices using a wireless network. Based on the analog system, 1G supported only voice calls, and those too of poor quality because of interference. Besides, 1G worked in a fixed geographical area because of lack of roaming support by the network.
2G: Telephony services
The second generation fixed the issues that marred the first-generation mobile network, and introduced new capabilities. The analog system of the first generation was now replaced by a much advanced digital technology for wireless transmission called the Global System for Mobile communication (GSM). With digital underpinning, the 2G supported better quality voice calls and data services such as short message service (SMS) and multimedia messaging service (MMS).
Besides, this mobile network enabled roaming facility, allowing users to attend calls, send and receive texts and multimedia content on the go. The 2G network enabled true telephony services. It later received internet support in the form of GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and EDGE (Enhanced Data GSM Evolution), but that alone wasn’t enough for a generational shift. Therefore, there was also 2.5G before the world moved to 3G.
3G: Age of apps
The third-generation mobile network introduced high-speed internet services, which set the stage for smartphones and app ecosystems. While 3G enabled the concept of mobile television, online radio services and emails on phones, it is video calling and mobile phone apps that really define the 3G era.
This was the time when iPhones and Android smartphones started making inroads. The early iteration of 3G supported internet speed in kilobytes-per-second (Kbps).
Like 2G, there was no direct shift from 3G to 4G. There was a 3.5G, which was earmarked for better internet speeds in megabyte-per-second (Mbps) with the introduction of technologies such as HSDPA (High Speed Downlink Packet Access) and HSUPA (High Speed Uplink Packet Access).
4G: Internet calling
3G set the base for 4G, which is the generation of mobile network we are currently on. The concepts introduced by 3G such as high-definition voice calls, video calls and other internet services become a reality in 4G – thanks to a higher data rate and advanced multimedia services that the mobile network supports. It perfected the LTE (Long Term Evolution) system, which significantly improves data rate and allows simultaneous transmission of voice and data. Internet calling, or VoLTE (Voice over LTE), is one of the many advantages of the 4G mobile network. The network also enables voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), which allows voice calls in areas with low or no network reception.
5G: IoT and enterprises
From 1G to 4G, each successive generation of communication technology brought about significant changes in the network, perfecting the use-cases of the previous generation and introducing new ones. 5G, however, is expected to be a little different, in the sense that it will not just be another mobile network geared towards smartphone users but also enterprises.
This is because the next generation of network would not just bring improvement in data speeds but also latency and throughput. The low latency and high throughput make the network ideal for enterprise use, especially with regard to automation and connected ecosystem.
On the consumer side, the network would deliver high internet speeds and would likely play a crucial role in enabling technologies such as the metaverse.
6G: Connected ecosystem
6G is touted to drive the adoption of 5G use cases at scale through optimisations and cost-reduction, especially at the enterprise level.
Take the concept of the metaverse, for example. It is one of the 5G use cases, which promises to disrupt both traditional and digital spaces. With 6G, the metaverse would not just evolve into a final model but is also likely to unify with the physical world with the help of artificial intelligence and machine learning.
This is because the most notable aspect of 6G would be its ability to sense the environment, people and objects, according to telecom gear maker Nokia Bell Labs.
India is looking at 2023-end or early 2024 to launch 6G services using indigenously developed infrastructure.