1G, 2G, 3G, 4G, and everything between

Just what is “4G,” anyway? It’s one higher than 3G, sure, but does that necessarily mean it’s better? 2G, 3G, 4G, and everything in between: an Engadget wireless primer tries to answer those and some other questions on mobile communications technologies.

Here is my “short” summary of the different generations:

1G: Analogue cellphone technologies introduces in early 1980s: AMPS in the US, TACS and NMT in Europe
2G: The early nineties saw the rise of the first digital cellular networks: GSM in Europe, D-AMPS “TDMA” and IS-95 CDMA in the US
2.5G: You know you’re in trouble when you need a decimal place! GPRS packet data introduced to GSM system in 1997.
2.75G: EDGE was conceived as an easy way for operators of GSM networks to squeeze some extra juice out of their 2.5G networks
2.9G: Same EDGE that some call with name 2.75G. Now you know how in trouble you are with a decimal place!
3G: ITU IMT-2000 standard, CDMA2000 offered CDMA networks an “always-on” data in US (1xEV-DO protocol provided 3G speeds), UMTS (WCDMA) rose to the top as the 3G choice for GSM operators
3.5G: High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) extends and improves the performance of existing WCDMA protocols, designed provide mobile broadband access of several Mbit/s to laptop computers and smartphones.
3.75G: HSPA+ provides theoretical HSPA data rates up to 84 Megabits per second (Mbit/s) on the downlink and 22 Mbit/s on the uplink through the use of a multiple-antenna technique known as MIMO
4G: WiMAX and LTE almost meet the original ITU 4G criteria and are often marketed as “4G”, former tops out at around 40Mbps and the latter around 100Mbps theoretical
5G: 5G (5th generation mobile networks or 5th generation wireless systems) is a name used in some research papers and projects to denote the next major phase of mobile telecommunications standards beyond the 4G standards (expected to start being used around 2020), expected to offer peak download and upload speeds of more than the 1 Gbps

For years you’ve probably seen people argue that WiMax or LTE technically is not true fourth generation (“4G”) wireless because it didn’t meet certain criteria. Although LTE is often marketed as 4G, first-release LTE does not fully comply with the IMT Advanced 4G requirements. Since the International Telecommunications Union had never set a standard for what 4G was, it was a little hard to make any qualification. LTE, WiMax Now Officially Not Technically ’4G’ article tells that ITU has officially come out with a statement declaring that only WiMax 2 (802.16m, or WirelessMAN-Advance 2) and LTE-Advanced can technically be declared “4G”: “Harmonization among these proposals has resulted in two technologies, “LTE-Advanced1″ and “WirelessMAN-Advanced2″ being accorded the official designation of IMT-Advanced, qualifying them as true 4G technologies.”

Everything LTE is a brand new microsite from Test & Measurement World dedicated to the long-term-evolution (LTE) wireless technology market. It features insightful blogs industry news, videos, whitepapers, case studies, etc. Interesting looking site.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    On October 1, 1981, Telia and Ericsson launched Europe’s first 1G РNMT (Nordic Mobile Telephone) mobile network. More: https://www.teliacompany.com/sv/nyhetsrum/pressmeddelanden/2


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