If you have a smartphone chances are you’ve seen that little symbol at the top saying 3G, 4G or maybe even 5G depending on where you live. These are the networks that your phone connects to and they enable use of the internet when no wi-fi connection is available. The G stands for ‘Generation’ and the bigger the number the better.
3G was released in the early 2000’s as a replacement for 2G which was the generation that enabled the use of text messaging. People were beginning to use their mobile phones for a lot more than texts and phone calls and 2G simply wasn’t powerful enough to deal with millions of mobile phones sending and receiving data simultaneously.
3G was a huge leap forward for mobile tech, being capable of carrying much larger amounts of data it gave more coverage and reliable internet access to the masses, spawning the term ‘mobile broadband’. It made browsing the web fast and responsive, allowed for video calls as well as downloading music and videos.
Although it’s now two generations old 3G is still widely used across the globe, over a quarter of users have never connected to 4G and still rely on 3G. This is not just the case in developing countries, 3G is still relevant in many parts of the world however in the UK it’s expected that 3G will be turned off by most network providers within the next few years.
Although 3G is still used by some in the UK it is no longer the most popular network, in 2012 4G was rolled out by EE and is now offered by all of the big network providers. Modern smartphones will all support 4G however if you have a very old phone you might be stuck with 3G. Which is a shame because 4G is estimated to be around five to ten times as fast as 3G.
3G to 4G may not have been as big of a technological jump as 2G to 3G was, 4G mostly just builds upon what 3G offers but 4G does it all much quicker and smoother. There are four main improvements 4G provides;
- Faster download speed (this is when your phone receives data)
- Faster upload speed (this is when your phone sends data)
- Reduced latency (this is the delay between you telling your phone to do something and it happening)
- Clearer voice calls
So that’s a bit about 3G and 4G, but what about 5G? What does the future of mobile technology have in store for us? Well as the demands of users increases 4G networks are becoming more congested which is leading to slower speeds in busy areas. 5G is the solution and in 2019 network providers began rolling it out to certain cities and towns.
Our world is getting smarter and more connected each day. Massive amounts of data are being sent back and forth constantly and as technology gets more and more advanced the infrastructure required to handle it all needs to keep up. Like the jump from 3G to 4G, 4G to 5G will see vastly increased speeds.
You might be wondering what the point of it all is, why do these companies bother investing so much money into building infrastructure to make our phones quicker when opening a web page, watching a video or sending an email is already lightning fast on 4G. Well the truly exciting thing about 5G isn’t that it will make the things we already do a bit faster.
The exciting part is all of the new technologies that haven’t even been created yet, the things that we can’t foresee right now. In the past people might have thought what’s the point of a car when my horse can get me from point A to point B just fine. A more powerful and robust network will allow for new technologies and services to be created that simply wouldn’t have been possible before.
Unless you bought a new mobile phone in the last year or so that is 5G ready you will need to purchase a new phone in order to access the 5G network. But don’t worry you don’t need to go rushing out to the shops just yet, the 4G network will still be the most widely used for a while yet and even when 5G overtakes 4G in popularity you don’t have to switch over if you don’t feel the need to.
The north east has some 5G coverage, especially in the city centre but the surrounding areas are lacking and most people are still just using 4G the majority of the time. Over the next few years it will continue to be rolled out to more and more cities and towns so unless you live in the middle of nowhere you can expect 5G to reach you soon!