The abbreviation (5G, 4G, 3G or 2G) you see at the top corner of your mobile device whenever you connect to the internet is what determines the network speed of your internet connection. The ‘G’ in the abbreviation stands for ‘Generation’ (I.e. 5th Generation, 4th Generation, 3rd Generation, etc)
The most recent network type is the 5G network – Fifth Generation. This network speed has rendered better performances to internet connection and is very much faster than the former network generations. It is already being used in some areas of the world but is still not quite available in some.
Discussing the different network speed types with their features
2G Network – Second Generation Network
2G is the second generation of cellular networks. It was released in the year 1993. 2G introduced the use of digital radio signals unlike the 1G – First Generation network that used analog radio signals. This allowed the transmission of multimedia files. It offered the use of data with a speed of up to 64Kbps and a better-encrypted voice call quality. MMS and SMS texts were also enabled. 2G used a bandwidth of about 30 to 200KHZ.
3G Network – Third Generation Network
3G is the third generation of wireless mobile networks. 3G utilizes some features from the 2G technology but is more evolved. Its core network architecture is the Universal Mobile Telecommunications Systems (UMTS). It was introduced in 2002 and came with a network speed up to 30 times faster than the former, 2G. The data speed is an average of 3Mbps. 3G uses packet-switched data enabling it to attain greater internet speeds of up to 14Mbps.
The features introduced include roaming, web browsing, increased bandwidth of 15-20mHz, increased email messaging capabilities, multimedia streaming, video calls, improved SMS, improved call quality and connectivity speed. 3G runs at a range of 2100mHz and uses a Wideband Wireless Network.
4G Network – Fourth Generation Network
4G is the fourth generation of wireless mobile networks. 4G was first introduced in 2009 but only attained full coverage in 2014. It has a network speed of up to 5 times that of 3G making their data rate the major difference between the generations. It has a network speed of 14Mbps with a theoretical speed of up to 100Mbps and an average upload speed of 8Mbps.
The main technologies of 4G are OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) and MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output). 4G uses radio cell towers to provide wireless internet and phone services to mobile devices at up to 6GHz enabling them to connect to mobile networks.
The features enabled include video game streaming, high network speed, High-definition online streaming, improved multimedia, voice and video call, interactive apps, social media complex gaming, improved mobile browsing, and lower costs per bit.
5G Network – Fifth Generation Network
5G is the fifth generation of wireless mobile networks. It is the most current generation of wireless mobile networks. It was introduced in 2019. 5G has a network speed that is up to 20 times faster than the 4G with an estimated theoretical speed of up to 20 Gigabytes per second (Gbps). It transmits highly directional signals only in the direction of an individual device or target which makes its antennae use less strength, unlike 4G which transmits multi-directional signals.
5G can support up to 1000 more devices per meter than 4G i.e. up to a million devices per square kilometer. It has a low wireless transmission latency of fewer than 10 milliseconds which is up to 120 times faster than 4G’s latency and has lesser network congestion.
It uses an Orthogonal Frequency-Division Multiplexing (OFDM) framework, Beam Division Multiple Access (BDMA) and massive Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO). Some 5G applications include high-resolution video streaming, automated sensors, medical procedures, remote control of vehicles, AI-based networking, robots, etc.
Some challenges of the 5G network
- 5G currently has restricted availability as it is not yet functional in most parts of the world
- High-frequency spectrums are usually affected by physical obstacles and environmental elements e.g. rain, trees, winds, etc and these high-frequency signals have lesser tendencies to pass through these obstacles thereby losing most of their signals before reaching the target. This means more antennae would need to be put in place to be closer to the devices.