A Timeline on the Evolution of Mobile Communications


Mobile devices have become a part and parcel of our daily life. We are so adept and accomplished in using technology that it’s hard to believe the present mobile revolution initiated a mere 20 years ago. Radio communication has been the bedrock for all kinds of mobile communication and radio waves with their “magical” properties diversified the usage. Though radio communication technologies have been in existence for about a century, it has evolved from generic private usage to advanced commercial usage.

Mobile device usage is so common nowadays that we take it for granted and debate over the topic of how safe it is or how socially acceptable it is. People really don’t understand that there were times when people used complex and unreliable communication methods just to imitate something. The whole mobile communication space is in a state of transition and it has been evolving from wired to the present wireless.


The history of mobile communication dates back to 18th century upon which time there were a handful of scientists who experimented with communication methods. After conducting numerous experiments and tests, they finally reached the stage of wireless communication, which was deemed to be both effective and efficient. From invention to its present evolution, there have been numerous scientists who have contributed to the development of mobile communication. From the mid-1860s by James Clerk Maxwell and with further improvements by Guglielmo Marconi in 1899, and through the start of the 19th century, many scientists chipped in by adding new features and additions to Marconi’s concept and model. In terms of usage during this period, mobile and radio communications began its phase of prominence evident in the popularity of radio telegraphy, analog voice transmission, commercial radiotelephony and radio telephone service. By the late 1930s radio communication became popular as public radio stations were being rapidly setup.

  • 1G – First Generation Mobile Communication (1950-1985):

By 1950 telephony was commercial in most countries and networks were being setup. In 1958, A1 Net was established inGermany, which was first company to set up an analog network. In the early 1980s, the first generation mobile systems were developed. The development was aided by the commercial usage of short range radio telephones analog systems called walkie-talkies. In these analog telephone systems, the voice signals were transmitted by sending radio signals over a specific area. The first generation phones increased the efficiency of the radio communication technologies. The major add-on to the first generation phone was the increase in the transmission range.

First generation mobile phones typically used a single network standard referred to as Advanced Mobile Phone Systems or AMPS. This network standard asks for the separation of frequencies for each conversation and also required larger bandwidths in order to accommodate more number of subscribers. AMPS facilitate re-usage of previously used frequencies in various regions without interference, which consequently allowed a large number of phones to be supported in one area. By 1985, the first generation phone had features like circuit switched technology, basic voice calls, and facilitated limited local and regional coverage.

  • 2G – Second Generation Mobile Communication (1985-2000):

As there were numerous problems arising due to the usage of first generation mobile systems, there was a growing need to setup a revamped communication standard. As a result, in 1987 Groupe Special Mobile (GSM) standards were formulated and these standards began to detail the protocols for a second generation mobile system. The GSM standard supplanted the standards for first generation analog networks and described digital circuit-switched networks optimized for full duplex voice telephony. The setting up of GSM standards facilitated the digitization of networks and digital encryption of voice calls.

The first second generation mobile telecommunication network was established in the year 1991 inFinland. Second generation mobile systems came with additional features and benefits when compared to first generation mobile systems. Second generation mobile systems were efficient facilitating greater mobile devices penetration and provided access to data services in mobile devices. One of the striking features of a second generation mobile phone was the Short Messaging Service (SMS) that lets users send and receive messages. There are two main 2G standards: GSM-based TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access).

2G mobile phones consume less power, while emitting less radiation. With analog systems, the same phone number can be used in many other phones and this issue was dealt with in 2G. In terms of privacy, 2G phones provided additional privacy when compared to a 1G phone. The interesting feature is that users were able to access the Internet through a 2G phone with the help of a service called General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). GPRS was used to access WAP and World Wide Web access, while also used for sending and receiving MMS and emails.

  • 3G – Third Generation Mobile Communication (2000-2010):

After nearly 15 years of research and development, the set of standards for third generation mobile communication was released in 2001. The first commercial 3G service was launched by Japan-based NTT Docomo in October 2001. In theUnited States, Verizon Wireless started offering nation-wide 3G services in July 2002. 3G enabled mobile devices supported features like voice telephony, video calls, mobile Internet access, and mobile TV, among others. 3G standards require a host of advanced infrastructure networks, base stations, switches, and handsets to provide high-speed Internet access and other data services. 3G enabled handsets provide additional features like video conferencing, paging, navigational maps, and more.

A slightly tweaked version of 3G was launched which was referred to as 3.5G. This tweaked version supported a new mobile technology called HSDPA, which is a packet data service that offers data transmission of up to 8 to 10 megabytes per second over a 5 megahertz bandwidth. The only difference between 3G and 3.5 G mobile devices is that the packet scheduling on 3.5G mobile devices was faster. 3.5G also came with adaptive modulation and coding, while offering improved data rates and less latency.

  • 4G- Fourth Generation Mobile Communication (2008 Onwards):

Fourth generation or 4G is the ultra-modern and one of the most advanced mobile communication standards. Launched in March 2008, this set of standards determine and lay the groundwork for the future of mobile communication. Though 3G was highly successful in catering to the demands of people, there was need for higher data rates and wider bandwidths. With the rapid adoption of mobile devices and growing need for more bandwidth, 4G meets the growing demands and obligations. 4G technology caters to high data rate requirements and also facilitates scalability of networks.

The minimum data transfer rate in a 4G enabled mobile device is close to 100 megabytes per second with link efficiency of 15 bits per second. 4G enabled devices support high end multi-media purposes like real time audio, HDTV streaming, high speed data access, and mobile TV, among others. It is also reported that 4G enabled devices will provided Internet access through IPv6 protocol in order to cater to more users. Though the adoption 4G is still in its infancy, one can lots more additions to fourth generation standards in future.

In closing, mobile communication has serviced mankind’s communication needs for more than a century and has evolved to become an indispensable part of our lives. Mobile devices have glorified our lives in terms of communication, and certainly will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.

This is a guest post by Christy Haywood of offers.telcoservicesgroup.net, a site that offers savings and current information on Uverse as well as AT&T services.

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