Types of Cell Phone Networks

by Amanda Holden

It often seems that every cell phone company boasts about possessing a superior network over its competitors. A customer may hear terms like "3G" or "4G" tossed around. However, sometimes it's not clear what these words actually mean. Several types of cell phone networks have existed over the years, with more technologies under development all the time.

1G Networks

1G, short for first generation, networks utilized narrow-band analog technology, which cell phone companies no longer use because of legislation restricting the use of analog signals. 1G was first used in the early 1980s. It usually only allowed users to make phone calls and didn't include the added features seen in cell phones today, such as text messaging or Internet browsing. 1G networks were prone to security breaches, as they offered no protection against eavesdropping.

2G Networks

Cell phone companies launched 2G digital networks in the 1990s. Some providers still use 2G for customers who do not use the Internet or special features on their phones. 2G introduced email and text messaging capabilities for phones and offered enhanced privacy. 2G networks also allowed phones to use less battery power, which led to the development of smaller batteries and, eventually, smaller phones.

3G Networks

A faster and even more secure network, 3G offers high-speed data transfer. This allows for a variety of cell phone features, such as high-speed Internet, audio and video streaming, and even video conferencing. 3G networks employ various wireless technologies, such as WiMAX, CDMA 2000 and EDGE. These networks allow for location-based services, such as local weather alerts or the ability to search for local businesses directly from a phone.

4G Networks

An up-and-coming cell phone network, 4G boasts lightning-fast speeds of 100 megabytes per second or more, allowing a user to watch TV with clarity or to use programs that require high-speed Internet connections. 4G networks utilize WiMAX and LTE technologies and are still under development, as of September 2010. Some companies, like Sprint, already have begun to release 4G products.

About the Author

Amanda Holden has over 17 years of experience in writing, both professionally and for fun. She is trained in computer programming and currently studies geophysical engineering at a major university. Holden writes for various websites on subjects such as computer science, technical specifications, education, science and math.

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  • photo_camera cell phone image by Alexey Klementiev from Fotolia.com