What is Mobile Network Technology? How Does It Work?

Nowadays 5G is one of the most popular subjects because it brings so many new important features for different sectors. So how was mobile network technology evolved in this case, and how does it work? If you wonder about these questions you should read this article in which you find simple and clear definitions. Let’s start with what is it exactly.

What is Mobile Network Technology?

In other words, cellular network technology includes a lot of different technologies that make it possible to transfer voice and data supporting a wireless network with radio waves. The cell is the keyword here because 1G began with the use of cellular networks that gives also its name to this technology. We will mention it in more detail when explaining how does it work.

But of course, the quality of the network was so insufficient, so experts always improve a new technology for increasing data transfer rate and capacity, reducing latency time, and supporting more users and more expanded range. These developments also cause the emergence of national standards development organizations in time, so finally, they gather under different names for projects. 3GPP is one of them known with the most common standard like UMTS, in other words, 3rd Generation.

Basic Working Principle

Before explaining mobile network technology, it will be probably effective to have in mind the communication scheme for better understanding the general context. If we remind, it includes a source, a message, a channel, and a receiver. Here, sources and receivers are the devices such as phones, tablets, and computers, while messages are voice calls and other datas (texts, images, and videos). Finally, mobile network systems are the channel that makes it possible to transfer data between devices.

As you know, with the developments in communication technologies, the standards of the mobile networks are changed and each one starts a “generation” or shortly “G”.  But when we consider the basis of the mobile network technology, we can cite 3 fundamental components as followings.

After push-to-talk systems, cellular technology was invented and started 1st generation. A cellular network consists of lots of cells included the mobile base stations that support sending and receiving data with radio waves between the devices and core network. The core network is the center of the network and contains two domains; CS (Circuit Switching) and PS (Packet Switching). CS is a dedicated physical connection that means when a transition is ending, the path is closed. In PS domain, messages are divided into packages which are assigned source and destination addresses. Thus it can use alternative paths when the current is not available. As for the access network, it is responsible for connecting another two components; devices and core networks. Now, we will consider each most popular mobile network technology and its evolutions.

Analog to Digital

In the 1970s some private companies from different countries developed their own systems: Analog Mobile Phone System (AMPS) in America; Total Access Communication System (TACS) and Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) in Europe; Japanese Total Access Communication System (JTACS) in Japan and Hong Kong. Then, in the early 1980s, 1st Generation started with introducing the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS) by Bell Labs. This mobile network technology was using the cellular system to provide only voice transfer by analog signals. Here, the core network was CS (Circuit Switching) domain. In 1G, there was no roaming which means when you are outside of your service provider’s range, you can not use another mobile network service. It provides poor voice quality and less security. The data rate was just 2.4 kbps and it is limited in a certain area.

In 1988 the European Telecommunications Standards Institute was founded for solving these problems and improving the system. Thus this attempt led up to the 2nd Generation. In 1991 GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standards were announced in Finland. It uses TDMA (Time Division Multiple Access) technology that enables a single channel for multiple users. Moreover, one of the most important differences compared to the previous generation is using digital signals, not analog. Also, it provides a greater range and a data rate up to 64 kbps.

Before the next mobile network technology, there are another two versions of 2G. In 1995, we see 2.5G with GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), “G”. With GPRS, along with voice calls, MMS and SMS which we are still using today enters our lives in this period too. So we started to transfer texts and images. In 1998, 2.75G came with EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates For GSM Evolution) “E” technology. As we understand from the name, this aims to increase the data transfer rate by up to 500 kbps. In the same years, telephones started to support web browsing. 2nd Generation’s access network is GERAN (GSM EDGE Radio Access Network) that provides a combined network.

More Speed, More Data

In 1999, 3GPP introduced the UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) known as 3rd Generation. It is based on wideband W-CDMA (Wide Code Division Multiple Access). Actually, CDMA was introduced by Qualcomm for 2G and it defines the codes as messages, so multiple users can share the large wideband. Besides using the same code system, WCDMA involves GSM while CDMA is its rival. UTRAN (UMTS Terrestrial Radio Access Network) is the access network of 3G. Also, video calling and mobile tv added to massage types with this mobile network technology. There are also different versions of this generation; 3.5G HSDPA (High-Speed Downlink Packet Access), HSUPA (High-Speed Uplink Packet Access), and 3.75 HSPA+ mean High-Speed Packet Access.

LTE (Long Term Evolution) system refers to 4th Generation. LTE is completely IP-based, unlike 2G and 3G. Also, LTE is 10 times faster than previous. Today most of us use it. While EPC (Evolved Packet Core) is the core network of the LTE, the access network is E-UTRAN (Evolved-UTRAN) that contains evolved node B (eNodeB).

Latest Revolution in Mobile Network Technology

Finally, in 2020, 5th Generation emerged as the latest generation mobile network technology. It uses Massive Mimo (multiple-input, multiple-output) technology that means a station can contain about a hundred ports. Thanks to this it offers more bandwidth and high-speed and more data traffic.

5G has two modes; non-standalone (NSA) and standalone (SA). With NSA, 5G can be deployed on existing 4G infrastructures, and so this starts to spread so fast. As for SA, there is a need for new infrastructures. Besides all these advantages, because it requires a lot of antennas, radiation increase makes some people afraid. If you want to read more about 5G you can take a look at the article “What Is 5G Technology Discover With All The Details In 10 Steps”.