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2G, 3G, 4G and 5G explained in simple terms

Well, you must have heard of the different generations of mobile networks 2G, 3G, 4G. Some people even get confused with the terms. 2G, the second generation of mobile networks is mostly available, but 3G, 4G coverage is still not available in all the areas. Data using customers now prefer 3G, 4G, which has faster data speed compared to 2G. Currently, 5G also starts to appear in some countries but not ubiquitously. This post explains 2G, 3G, 4G, and 5G mobile networks in simple terms. We begin from 1G and then end in 5G for the basic introduction.

1G

The mobile technology started from 1G, the first generation analog mobile having voice call only. There was no data service in 1G.

2G

After some technological advancement, in the early 1990s, the world got to see 2G, the first digital mobile standard. 2G has voice, SMS, and slow data service, whereas GPRS and EDGE’s addition enhanced the speed to some extent. Remember G and sign on the top, which means GPRS and EDGE. GPRS and EDGE also add Multimedia messaging service, aka MMS.

 3G

3G came in early 2000, which can provide voice, video call, and fast data. With several additions of technology, 3G can even offer up to 42 Mbps speed. But a customer gets around 4 to 7 Mbps on average. You can see either 3G or H or H+ sign for 3G.

4G

Lastly, the fastest available speed from a commercial network is 4G in 2009. Which can provide data speed up to 100 Mbps, but it depends on several other factors. Customers using 4G can get data rates from 10 to 15 Mbps on average. You also cannot get the regular voice calls in 4G, so the calls happen from 2G, 3G, or need to add VoLTE (Voice over LTE). You can see 4G or LTE sign in the top for 4G. We also have a post regarding expectations for 4G in people.

5G

5G has started to roll out in the world. But it has now reached the developed world in 2019 but will become widely available in 2020 to more areas. 5G provides ultra-high-speed internet and massive internet of things (IoT) solution. The technology is yet to mature with new standards (Standalone one). Now, it seems the COVID-19 pandemic will have a severe effect on the 5G coverage expansion. Also read: What is 5G and its services, applications?

Comparison of 1G to 5G mobile technologies

Here is a table for the comparison of all generation mobile technologies.

S.N  Mobile Technologies  Launch Year Services Speed
 1  1G  1980s  Voice only  NA
 2  2G  1990s  Voice, SMS, MMS and slow data  100 kbps to 300 kbps
 3  3G  2000s  Voice, Video call, MMS, faster data  2 Mbps to 21 Mbps
 4  4G  2010s  All fast data and more multimedia services  100 Mbps to 1 Gbps
 5  5G  2020s  Fastest data, low latency services  10 Gbps

Which technology to select from 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G mobile network?

If you use voice calls only from you’re mobile, then 2G is enough for you. Find more situations when do you need to put your phone in 2G mode. But in case you prefer data on mobile, then you can either use 3G or 4G technology. As we see the higher speed and more services above, you can always see 4G be better than 3G.

Generally, if your phone supports a new technology or you can afford to buy a new phone, and the coverage is available in your place, you need to use the latest technology.

For example: if you are in Capital city, Kathmandu, and your phone support 4G, it is better to put your phone in the 4G preferred mode. But if you have an old SIM card, you also need to change your SIM card and subscribe to 4G accordingly.

Also read: How to activate 4G and use in Ntc, Ncell.

Technologies for 2G, 3G, 4G mobile

The name of technologies for 2G, 3G, and 4G are:

  • 2G: GSM or CDMA
  • 3G: WCDMA or EVDO
  • 4G: LTE
  • 5G: NR (New Radio)

To select a phone in a different mode, For Android, you can go to the

  • Settings-> Wireless or mobile networks ->Preferred network type -> put LTE / WCDMA / GSM mode (Automatic mode) or LTE preferred mode or select one of the technology.

Similarly, in iOS, you need to go to

  • Settings-> Mobile data ->Mobile data option-> Voice and Data -> Select 4G, 3G or 2G on it.

Both operating systems (OS) warns people of more battery consumption with higher speed in 3G or 4G. iOS says, “Using higher mobile speeds loads data faster but may decrease battery life.” Similarly, Android puts Saves battery in 2G only mode.

We still find people using bar phones or feature phones, which only make calls with 2G networks. Those people will always remain in 2G, but people with faster data preference need to opt 3G or 4G if available.

We suggest you read: Why do three mobile technologies co-exist?

If you have any questions about 2G, 3G, 4G, 5G, and other mobile technologies, please feel free to put in the comment section below.

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