Mobile 201 – Part 3: Mobile 2G

201: Part 3

So Mobile 1G revolutionized the telephone industry making our phones MOBILE for the first time, but with a lot of limitations – too expensive, too heavy, and worst of all, only supporting a limited number of users due to inefficient use of spectrum.

1G was mostly for those early adopters. 2G changed all that and brought mobile phones to the masses. How?

The answer was a bunch of ones and zeroes.

With advanced digital technologies, Mobile 2G overcame the limitations of 1G to deliver phones to more people in more places. In fact, at its peak, there were around 5 Billion Mobile 2G connections worldwide. Amazing!

First, digital technologies enabled more efficient use of the spectrum. And as an added bonus, digital components are lighter and less expensive, which led to more user-friendly phones.

In the analogy, 1G had small homes with large distances between them, and an inefficient delivery service, delivering voice “shipments” to only one person per home.

With 2G, we compressed that voice and put it into packages, providing delivery to more than 1 person per home. This was great, but we still had all this wasted land.

Next came a revolutionary digital technology called CDMA. (animation can be a CDMA bulldozer knocking down the houses, but then I would go back to animation that is more “reality” like a tower coding a transmission for next blurb)

CDMA was the breakthrough that allowed carriers to use all of the available frequency. Basically, each call or transmission could now be coded in a unique way so that one call wouldn’t disrupt another.

It was like replacing all those homes and empty spaces with a large apartment building – And giving every person in the building a unique delivery address.

Many more could live in the same building, and still get the right package. Or in our world, many more mobile phones could use the same frequency and still make a call without interference.

In fact, 2G CDMA technologies delivered over 10 times the capacity of 1G. So with the same spectrum, or land, you could support over 10 times the users. Incredible progress.

But it wasn’t perfect. Yes, 2G could deliver more voice packages to more people, but the delivery was optimized for relatively small voice packages. So even when demand for data started to grow, 2G could only really deliver it in very small doses…like text messages.

But the internet, and mobile phones, continued to improve. People everywhere developed an insatiable appetite for data, yet didn’t have the mobile technology to deliver what they wanted.

3G changed all of that. And that’s what we’re going to talk about next.

But before we do:

1G – big breakthrough – but also big phones and a very inefficient use of spectrum limiting the growth of mobile.

2G – far more efficient use of spectrum, digital information, plus smaller and cheaper devices bring mobile calls to the masses. Welcome to the digital age.

3G – next up!

You may not hear a lot about 1G and 2G technologies anymore, since they were invented over 20 years ago. But these innovations set the foundation for Mobile 3G and 4G technologies, and understanding them will make you far more capable at understanding the WHY and HOW of Mobile 3G and 4G.

Publish Date: May 14, 2018

Length: 3:37

©2021 Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its affiliated companies.

References to "Qualcomm" may mean Qualcomm Incorporated, or subsidiaries or business units within the Qualcomm corporate structure, as applicable.

Qualcomm Incorporated includes Qualcomm's licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of its patent portfolio. Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qualcomm Incorporated, operates, along with its subsidiaries, substantially all of Qualcomm's engineering, research and development functions, and substantially all of its products and services businesses. Qualcomm products referenced on this page are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Materials that are as of a specific date, including but not limited to press releases, presentations, blog posts and webcasts, may have been superseded by subsequent events or disclosures.

Nothing in these materials is an offer to sell any of the components or devices referenced herein.