201: Part 2
1G – The beginning:
Before mobile technology, talking on the phone meant tethering yourself to a wall in your house with one of these (animation of a standard phone), or venturing out onto the street for one of these. (animation of a payphone.)
First Generation mobile technology, 1G, invented mobile – the ability to deliver phone service without wires, while on-the-go.
Suddenly anyone with the means could get a subscription and a mobile phone to make a call anywhere. Or at least, anywhere they could get a signal.
Now, at the time, mobile phones were huge, heavy, cost a lot, and service was extremely limited – but still, it WAS mobile. – and it was amazing.
And as you’ve already learned, it worked by providing Coverage.
Coverage came with Operators setting up cell towers that would transmit calls via radio waves to mobile phone users, across large distances, through obstructions, and despite interference from other waves…and then networking all these towers together and tightly coordinating all activities on this network.
But, like all first generation technologies, it had its limitations and its challenges.
And the problem they faced was Capacity.
In order to connect a phone to a tower to place a call, each customer or phone call required a dedicated radio channel, similar to the way FM radio works – one channel for each station.
Plus, to be able to support multiple connections or calls, there had to be large spaces in frequency between those radio channels.
That left MOST of the frequencies, or spectrum, un-used – basically acting as buffers between callers. Without those buffers, calls would interfere with each other like two radio stations trying to broadcast on nearby frequencies.
And as we learned, spectrum is limited, so there were major constraints on the number of mobile users that 1G could support.
Think of it like this:
Imagine the available Spectrum of frequencies as land, and the radio channels are like homes built on this land. Now imagine that making phone calls is like delivering shipments of voice to these homes.
1G would be like building small homes on the land, with large distances between each one. These gaps between homes were necessary to avoid deliveries from going to the wrong house, but resulted in a lot of wasted land.
To make matters worse, the delivery service was inefficient, and could only support one person per house.
Small houses, big spaces, and one person per house.
It was effective, just not efficient, and limited the number of people that could enjoy these new mobile phone services. A cell tower quickly reached its max number of users, and anyone else was out of luck.
How could you solve the problem? That is what 2G was all about…enabling more people, in more places, to enjoy mobile voice.