Genealogy and Future of Cellular Systems

Genealogy and Future of Cellular Systems

I think it is a good time to take a look at where we came from in the sense of our cellular systems to understand where we will be headed in the coming future. I believe that this approach will give us the in sight of how our cellular systems and mobile devices have evolved in time.  I think that our decade will be the blooming age of hand held devices in the sense of increase in their communication capacity. We are seeing that companies are in a big race to win the market share in smart phones as well as the new trend tablet devices.

Now lets go back in time and take a look into how this evolution started. Demand for mobile devices and mobile communication systems came from a basic human need: to stay communicate with each other. This basic need was filled by the wide usage of public switched telephone network (PSTN). As the the landlines expand it became available to large part of the human society. However, this landline solution was not sufficient enough to fulfill the urge of communication for humans.

When we reach the 1980s first generation systems (1G) introduced by companies. This system was based on a digital network however, system mostly relied on analog air interface. First generation systems introduced the mobility for the phones so that people still could be connected on the go. In one sense, this was the first steps on the mobile revolution in telecommunications.

The demand on the market for mobile devices that have the capacity to communicate pushed the developers to improve the system network. When we came to the date 1990s, second generation (2G) systems introduced to networks and their improved capabilities such as roaming feature, security and value added services such as SMS. Regulations for 2G networks emerged in Europe as GSM standards and in the North America as cdmaOne which is also known as IS-95. SMS took advantage of our “twitting” need and enable for users to send each other short messages which created the so called “Thumb Generation” referring to the high trend in teenage community to communicate with each other  using text messages. I think the most interesting of this newly introduced services was Wireless Application Protocol which also known as WAP. This was a key feature which was developed in parallel with the increasing demand for internet services. WAP showed the companies that mobile devices can be more beneficial and profitable with the advantage of data transmission over the mobile networks.

The boom in usage of internet forced the network providers to and their vendors to increase their research intensity on data transmission. We saw a transition phase from 2G systems to  3G systems. This phase is coined as  2.5G. In this transition we saw the rise of the General Packet Radio Service which offered high data rates compared to 2G. GPRS is also followed by its modified version called Enchanted Data rates for Global Evolution, most commonly known as EDGE. Network providers offered to their customers data rates up to 384kbit/s. This new technologies provided a steady and continuous internet connection which enabled people to use internet based services such as e-mails and websites while they are mobile.

With the beginning of the new millennium 3G was commercially available. This evolutionary step was aimed to establish the true mobility around the globe with the services of voice calling, messaging, location based services and multimedia services.  The specifications and standards for 3G is based upon UMTS worldwide and mainly in Europe and CDMA2000 in the North America. Upgrades to 3G also made available such as named HSPA+ providing data transfer rates around 42Mb/s. This high rates of data transmission also brought in new devices other than hand held units. There are many different network providers offering USB sticks for mobile internet connection and we see that the main focus in mobile networks are shifting from telephony and short messages to interactive usage of the internet services. 3G networks also made video calls possible through mobile devices with high data transfer capabilities. However, video calls still form a small percentage in network usage due to ergonomical problems as it is not really comfortable to talk while looking at the small screen of your mobile device.

3GPP_LTE_ProgressionRecently we also see the first deployments of so called 4G networks. This new examples of Long Term Evolution (LTE) standards. This new born services are still in their growing era and they are not completely fulfilling the requirements of 4G.  LTE is offering data rates around 364Mb/sec where as the fully utilized LTE Advanced technology networks are expected to reach data transmission speeds around 1GB/sec on paper. As it can be seen, the evolution in cellular networks are now based on data transmission rates more than ever.

From all these information above, what I see is that, soon we will see devices that are specifically engineered to work with high data transfer rates and messaging, and even telephony practices will be based on applications that uses internet instead of the fundamental speech function that has been developed back in 1G. I think it would be logical to expect network providers to focus more on their data plans rather than texting and telephony bundles for their customers. The fast revolution in hand held devices are now taking place and more and more customers are switching from regular mobile phones to smartphones and also we are observing a new trend in tablet devices. This high data transfer rates also triggers a new solution aspect, cloud computing. Search engine giant Google has been offering a office suit for couple of years now which users can edit documents and spreadsheets and create presentation on Google’s cloud servers. Recently, Microsoft also announced that they are going to start offering cloud version of their Microsoft Office software which is also expected that Oracle with its OpenOffice suit will be taking its place in this cloud service boom. This evolution in mobile networks and demand from the customers will surely increase the importance of internet based applications to be available through mobile devices in the coming future.

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