I would like to begin my presentation by challenging the audience to look around their immediate area. Feel in their pocket, open their purse, or notice what’s in their hand. I would bet a vast majority of you have found a cell phone in one of those areas.

The ability to contact anyone in the world at the push of a button, to look up any piece of information known to mankind within a few seconds, to have a multi pixel camera on ones person at seemingly all times and be able to transfer that picture to anyone worldwide in under a minute, and video chat with friends and family on a whim are all capabilities that were unimaginable in the 1940’s when the first mode of mobile communication was developed. However, over the remainder of the century and early years of the 2000’s all of this would become a reality with new capabilities being developed faster than most of the users can keep track of.

In this presentation I will examine and illustrate the evolution of cellular networks beginning with the first iteration of mobile communications, followed by the progression from the first generation, the current generation and the future generation as well as the HumanImpacts and implications this solution has had on mankind, both positive and negative.

Pre Cellular

I feel it would be premature to discuss cellular evolution if we did not discuss the origin of voice communication technology

In the year 1876, Alexander Bell created the first telephone and within a year, opened up a telecommunications company called Bell System. As a result of government intervention, Bell Systems was broken up in 1982 and the top four telecommunications companies in the US emerged, Verizon, Sprint, AT&T and T-Mobile.

The first iteration of mobile communications was the use of radio phones by the US military during WWII. These radio phones ran on the amplitude modulation (AM) radio frequencies and functioned as modern walkie talkies. Shortly after the introduction of radio phones, Bell Systems released their car phone which was continually improved and popularized into the 1960’s. Car phones made use of Improved Mobile Telephone Service which was still connected on the landline network.

First Generation

The first commercial (1G) mobile network in the world was launched by Nippon Telephone Company in Tokyo, Japan on December,1st 1979. The first mobile phones were still car phones, but the network was a cellular network with 88 cell base stations, or radio towers covering all districts of Tokyo. Handover of the call between different cell sites was supported with automated switching without the need for human switchboard operation.

On October 13th, 1983, the US had its first commercial cellular network launched by Ameritech in Chicago, based on the AMPS standards. The first hand held mobile phone which was invented by Martin Cooper (later deemed “The father of the cell phone”) was manufactured by Motorola and introduced at the same time. This phone was named DynaTac. Most of the phones in the 1G era were heavy, for corporate and executive use only, and expensive. The Motorola DynaTac priced at $3,995, hence a status symbol.

The limitations of 1G mobile technology were poor sound quality, limited coverage, full analog mode of communication, incompatibility with one another due to different frequency ranges, no roaming was supported between different service providers, weak security and no support for encryption.

The first generation of cellular network was utilized for voice calls alone. There was no SMS or other capabilities.

Second Generation

The development and implementation of the second generation of cellular networks was planned and coordinated across the globe. The goals were to be interoperable and to have low cost phones and service subscriptions in the hopes to get the mass population to begin utilizing this technology.

Global Standard for Mobile Communications, also known as (GSM) was developed in 1982 as an industry standard across Europe. The GSM working group was formed to harmonize the technical and operational characteristics of a public mobile communications system in the 900 MHz or 1800 MHz bands. 13 different countries agreed upon the GSM in 1987 and the first GSM network was launched in Finland in 1991 by the Finnish telecommunications company Radiolinja.

GSM became the predominant 2G technology that swept through most parts of the world and went on to serve 80% of the mobile market in the decades to come. The US equivalent is Digital-AMPS also known as (D-AMPS).

In 1992, for the first time in history, data service was introduced to the mobile network in addition to Short Message Service (SMS), which supports a data rate of 9.6kbps and voice mail. Both of which are still very much in use today. The first SMS was sent by engineer Neil Papworth on December 3rd, 1992 where he typed "Merry Christmas" from a computer to then Vodafone director, Richard Jarvis on an Orbitel 901 handset.

The advantages of 2G over 1G were phone conversations became digitally encrypted, voice signals became digitized and compressed, and longer battery life for the handsets.

In 1992, the first smart phone made its debut to the consumer market. The Simon Personal Communicator, created by IBM launched with a price of $899.99 which translates to $1,435 in todays currency. The Simon boasted features including an LCD touchscreen measuring 4.5”x1.4” (which required a stylus to be manipulated). One could send and receive emails, faxes and pages using the Simon and to allow users to perform these functions with ease, the Simon also featured such as a notebook one could write in, an address book, and a calendar with the ability to schedule appointments.

Though the Simon was the first smartphone, the Nokia 3210 was introduced to the market in 1999 and went on to become one of the best-selling mobile handsets in history, having sold around 150 million units. With its streamlined and user-friendly design, the phone became some sort of a 2G icon.

The 2G network was the framework which the following 3G and 4G networks were based from, though the later generations of the network were much faster and had greater efficiency.

Third Generation

The third generation of wireless communications technology was the generation focused on high speed data transmissions as well as high speed internet, advanced access to multi media,d and international roaming.

Just as with 2G, the development of 3G required a coordinated effort globally from multiple different telecommunications companies in order to ensure interoperability and reverse compatibility. In order to do this, the International Telecommunications Union, also known as (ITU) created the International Mobile Telecommunications 2000. This is the standard that all companies had to meet in order to be compliant with 3G. The main goal of this standard was to facilitate seamless international roaming.

In the US, Verizon Wireless launched the first commercially available 3G network on January 28, 2002 servicing the areas of Norfolk, Virginia to Portland, Maine; the Salt Lake City region, and the San Francisco/Silicon Valley area.

Additions from 2G were Higher speeds of up to 2 mbps up and 28 mbps down, allowing faster upload and download of files (even in bulk), enhanced privacy and security, high definition gaming, mobile TV, video streaming, and high speed web browsing.

One other capability 3G brought to the market was the ability to have a ring back tone. This would replace the standard ring that callers would experience when they would call a wireless phone with a short clip of real music.

3G indisputably revolutionized communication and Internet usage. It has been widely credited to the creation of smartphones as well as features such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other mobile applications. On June 29, 2007 Apple released their first Iphone retailing for $499.99. The key features of this smartphone were a 3.5 inch screen, 2 megapixel camera, the ability to browse the web with a much more user friendly GUI, and a touch screen.

The 3G network is still widely used in fact, many telecom companies around the world are still offering 3G services and data plans.


Being there was such a gap in performance between the third generation and fourth generation standards and companies wanted their customers to know that they were, in fact, receiving higher quality service than 3G, the marketers introduced the term “long term evolution” or (LTE). Initially the term was designed to indicate that the users were receiving service that was in progress of reaching 4G. LTE offered 100Mbps down and 50Mbps up.

4G is truly 3G with Long Term Evolution (LTE). However, the phrase “LTE” is truly just a marketing term as LTE is actually weaker than true 4G, but better than 3G.

Fourth Generation

In the early stages of development of 4g, the ITU came to an agreement that 4G should be more of an addition to 3G instead of a new approach as the previous generations had been. Because of that, 4G is actually based on 3G and in many ways is considered an extension and improvement upon the network instead of a new network entirely.

The development of 4G began in 2004, however it wasn’t released commercially until 2009 by a Swedish company named Telia Sonera. Upon release, the two device manufacturers who were supporting 4G were Ericsson and Huawei. The initial advertised speeds of Telia’s 4G service had speeds 100 megabits per second which would be about ten times faster than 3G.

The US didn’t have a 4G service commercially available until June of 2010 when Sprint released its first phone capable of 4G compatibility, the HTC Evo. Shortly thereafter, the rest of the service providers had phones in their lineup that were 4G capable though many phones and service providers would utilize the 3G network when available which is still in practice today.

4G and LTE are more similar than they are different. The main reason that LTE is considered part of the 4G service is because it only sped up the network and therefore isn’t considered a separate network generation.

Needless to say, 4G is a significant improvement from 3G, and its benefits are guaranteed to deliver a much improved end user experience. Said benefits of 4G are;

Flexibility –One does not have to stick to a single network for 4G data. Nearly every mobile cellular carriers offer 4G services.

Coverage – Initially, 3G used to have wider coverage than 4G. But today, it is a different story as 4G services have improved over time, it is now viable for mass consumption in most parts of the world.

Reduced latency – The amount of time that information would take to travel from its source to its destination, and then come back again to its source is called latency. The lower the latency, the less delay for the data to be transmitted and sent back. The latency in 3G is 120 milliseconds, which is now reduced to only 60 milliseconds in 4G. This means that 4G enables devices to get quicker and more real-time responses, as opposed to 3G.

Fifth Generation

With the current state of cellular communications, it’s understandable for one to wonder “how could things get any better”? The promise is that 5G will bring speeds of around 10 gigabits per second to your phone. That's more than 600 times faster than the typical 4G speeds on today’s mobile phones. It’s fast enough to download a 4K high-definition movie in 25 seconds.

In the US, carriers have promised their users that 5G will be available nationwide by 2020, however they will not be reaching full speed. In fact, there are no projection dates that I am able to find that have a deadline on delivering a full 5G network. I also assume that the delivery date has been further pushed due to the COIVD-19 pandemic. For the time being, companies will be constructing their 5G networks utilizing preexisting network infrastructure but are faster than current capabilities. 4G networks as of now are the dominant network in America, with most voice, text, and calls being handled over 4G. This isn't projected to change any time soon, with 5G mostly looking to handle data. Thus, 5G phones will continue to use 4G networks for the foreseeable future (2030 to 2035 is estimated, but 4G could last even longer).

The idea most commonly associated with 5G is millimeter wave technology, which takes advantage of the very high end of the wireless spectrum. It's this technology that could enable those 10-Gbps speeds, but it comes with a huge trade off. Millimeter wave signals are less reliable over long distances and are easily disrupted by obstacles like trees, people, as well as rain. To make it practical for mobile use, carriers will need to deploy huge numbers of small access points in cities, instead of relying on a few big cell towers as they do today.

Millimeter wave access points could wind up being as small as smoke detectors, but they'll need to be essentially everywhere. Carriers may need 15 or 20 millimeter wave access points to cover an urban area currently covered by only two or three modern cell phone towers, according to a McKinsey report. And just like your wireless router at home, those access points will need to be connected to wired networks. Deploying all these extra access points and connecting them to the internet will be expensive and time consuming.

To offset those costs, the wireless industry is looking into technical fixes. For example, the Telecom Infrastructure Project, which is a collaboration of a number of other telecommunications firms, is working on an antenna called Terragraph, which would let wireless access points connect with each other instead of relying exclusively on wired connections for backhaul.

One independent study of Verizon’s pilot 5G network in Houston found that millimeter waves proved more resilient than expected, but nationwide millimeter wave networks will probably take years to build.

Human HumanImpacts

Though there are many HumanImpacts that cellular technology has had on mankind, there are some that are much more prominent than others in the broad view.

Without cellular technology, we could not have coordinated as well as we did when the Corona Virus outbreak began. Especially within UWS as everyone would have had to meet in person or over email which would require all of us to constantly be sitting at our PC’s. We are now able to share ideas in a second with others who can be miles or continents away. We can connect with friends and family during quarantine without risking anyone’s health. We can call for first responders at a moments notice from almost anywhere in the world should the need arise.

With all of that in mind, it’s difficult to comprehend that such a powerful technology that has benefitted humankind in so many different ways could have unintended consequences. Though there aren’t many that can be directly associated with cellular network, there are down sides to the technology as a whole.

People have a more difficult time communicating with people in face to face settings.

In 2011, the international Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation as possibly carcinogenic.

Scientists have reported adverse health effects of using mobile phones including changes in brain activity, reaction times, and sleep patterns. More studies are underway to try to confirm these findings.

When mobile phones are used very close to some medical devices (including pacemakers, implantable defibrillators, and certain hearing aids) there is the possibility of causing interference with their operation.

There is also the potential of interference between mobile phones signals and aircraft electronics. Some countries have licensed mobile phone use on aircraft during flight using systems that control the phone output power.