What is 4G?
Have you ever wondered what the “G” means in 2G, 3G, 4G and in the widely anticipated 5G ? Drum roll… It’s “generation”. 4G refers to our current generation, the “fourth generation” of cellular communications. Since the early days of mobile phones in the 1980s, several generations of cellular technologies have come and gone, with the market requiring more powerful technology roughly every 10 years. The rapid rise in the use of mobile phones brought about second generation systems (2G) in the 90s, such as “GSM” or “IS-95”. Then came “Mobile broadband” data in the 2000s with the arrival of smartphones and 3G systems, such as “UMTS” or “CDMA 2000” then became the norm. Since 2010, operators have moved on to deploying 4G radio-mobile networks, mainly based on LTE technology.
What changes with each generation ?
Each new generation aims to improve network performance, both from the point of view of the operator and subscribers. 4G is estimated to be 10 times faster than it’s predecessor for example.
From 4G to 5G, what’s new ?
5G promises to further improve the quality of service even further, by guaranteeing some users a constant quality of service throughout the coverage area for example and helping networks to cope with connected objects. With the IoT revolution – the Internet of Things, the number of connected objects in the next few years will grow rapidly, as with them the number of sensors. Each object will not necessarily require high flows, but will need high levels of energy autonomy: a sensor must be able to operate for several years on batteries.
Furthermore, 5G will be critical in technology requiring rapid exchanges of information. It is an important technological brick for the development of on-board safety systems, for example to make the autonomous car a reality.
Why study 4G ?
Studying 4G remains just as relevant now as it was a few years ago.
Firstly, the technology behind each mobile generation is based on those of previous generations. The access network eUTRAN and the evolved Packet core for example, both introduced with the 4G architecture, will remain substantially the same in a 5G network system. As a result, mastering the technology behind 4G is highly advised in order to understand 5G.
Furthermore, an operator deploying a new-generation system relies on part of its existing network and gradually upgrades its equipment. 4G will therefore still be around for a while until 5G is 100% generalized.
Why study cellular communications in the first place ?
The apps and devices we use every day all need to be compatible with the latest cellular communications technology. Network engineers, sales engineers, application developers, and many other telecoms pros, all need to master the fundamentals of the current cellular generation to be able to develop new connected technology. How is the network architecture designed ? Which protocols are used ? How is a user’s security of data guaranteed ? How does a network handle millions of terminals that are on the move all the time?
Be prepared with our MOOC
The new mobile generation will rely heavily on the concepts that have been introduced in previous generations. By mastering the key concepts of 4G, you can be ready for the next chapter in mobile networking—and the jobs of the future.
If you are interested in understanding mobile networks and delving into the world of protocols and architectures, we invite you to enroll in 4G Networks Essentials.