People have been mostly unaware of the implications of the E or the LTE sign on their mobile phones. Most of us know that a 4G device is better than a 3G device. But what do these mean? OK, you have the latest smartphone. But will it work across international borders?
1G technology was analog and, by today’s standards, primitive as it only allowed low quality voice calls. 2G emerged in 1991 and encrypted the calls, although weakly, in addition to digitalizing the signal. 2G data speeds reached maximum of only 40 kbps with the GPRS scheme, and 500 kbps with the EDGE scheme. Data transfer in the faster EDGE scheme appeared as E on our handsets. But with 3G, launched in 2001, the speeds reached 7 mbps thanks to the advanced HSPA scheme.
For approximately 20 years, from 1990 to 2010, people saw data speeds gradually improve on their mobile devices. But 4G was a leap ahead. Introduced in 2009 under the LTE standard, 4G downloads reached peak speeds of 100 mbps. Most of us today are using 4G smartphones, and internet experience is remarkably better than the previous generation.
The carrier and the device together determine the speed and bandwidth of communication. A device can work in multiple geographical locations as long as it matches the carrier frequency. For example, a mobile phone that operates only on LTE band 3 at 1800 MHz will be incompatible with Verizon 4G in the USA but will be compatible with EE 4G in the UK. This is simply because Verizon 4G does not support LTE 1800 MHz while EE 4G does.
Development of 5G technology has remained shrouded in mystery and rumors. According to a source, 5G will make use of millimeter waves with operating frequencies in the GHz range. This will allow a large amount of data to be transferred over a short period of time. There are talks of using the large bandwidth of 5G for making internet “always on”, eliminating the need to connect. Although we have to wait until 2020 to see the outcome, 5G smartphones are ready to hit the markets as early as next year.