The History of Mobile Internet

These days, we all tend to use our mobile phones and smartphones to access the Internet for a number of reasons without really thinking about how mobile technology has evolved enough to get to such a stage.

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And why would we need to? After all, when you drive a car, you don’t need to know about how an internal combustion engine works, or when you are at home, how the pictures and sound on your TV screen are transmitted.

But for those of you that have a slightly geeky side, or just want to increase your knowledge of the world around you (including technology), then here is a brief history of mobile Internet!

1991 – Mobile data first available over 2G networks

When digital 2G services launched over a GSM network in Finland back in 1991, it was the start of both a voice and data revolution in the mobile telecommunications world. Before 2G, people used its predecessor, the older 1G, for analogue communications.

The problem with 1G was that nothing was encrypted (which it is with 2G), so using some special equipment it was possible to ‘hack’ mobile phone conversations, which was unnerving, to say the least!

Anyway on the data side of things, 2G brought a whole new world of options for people which we might consider rather primitive by today’s standards, but back in the early 1990s it was about as revolutionary as getting fibre broadband down a standard copper phone line is today!

2G mobile telecommunications offer data communication facilities such as SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). For the purposes of mobile Internet, 2G offered something called GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) which provided data transmission rates of between 56 and 114 Kbit/sec.

2003 – 3G and EDGE are introduced

Most mobile handsets in use around the world today benefit from 3G technology. Although we all still use 2G technology for the purposes of making and receiving calls and messages, 3G refers specifically to the improvements in 2G infrastructure, and focusing on enhanced mobile broadband speeds.

GPRS was pretty slow and would be painfully slow today if you were trying to access a normal website in a mobile browser using it. So with 3G, a new standard called EDGE was introduced. EDGE stands for Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution, and can typically provide up to 4 times as much bandwidth as GPRS.

2010 – HSPA

What many of us known as mobile broadband – gadgets such as USB dongles and MiFi devices – use something called HSPA, which is short for High Speed Packet Access.

It is an amalgamation of two 3G data standards, and is currently the fastest 3G data standard available. You can expect download speeds of up to 14.4 Mbit/sec.

2013 – 4G

4G is the fourth generation of mobile broadband Internet technology. It offers superior data transmission rates over 3G. For example, HSPA+ (which is an enhanced version of 3G’s HSPA) offers download speeds of up to 84 Mbit/sec.

This is relatively new to the UK, with 4G services only commercially available a few months ago, initially from network operator EE (Everything Everywhere).

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