Analog cellular networks – 1G
The first analog cellular system widely deployed in North America was the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS). It was commercially introduced in the Americas in 1978, Israel in 1986, and Australia in 1987.
Digital cellular networks – 2G
In the 1990s, the ‘second generation’ mobile phone systems emerged. It differed from the previous generation by using digital instead of analog transmission. The rise in mobile phone usage as a result of 2G was explosive and this era also saw the advenet of prepaid mobile phones.
In 1993, IBM Simon was introduced. This was possibly the world’s first smartphone. It was a mobile phone, pager, fax machine, and PDA all rolled into one. It included a calendar, address book, clock, calculator, notepad, email, and a touchscreen with a QWERTY keyboard. Surprisingly, it also had apps.
The second generation introduced a new variant of communication called SMS or text messaging that was eventually on all digital networks. The beginning of prepaid services in the late 1990s soon made SMS the communication method of choice amongst the young, a trend which spread across all ages. 2G also introduced the ability to access media content on mobile phones.
Mobile broadband data – 3G
As the use of 2G phones became more widespread and people began to utilize mobile phones in their daily lives, it became clear that demand for data services (such as access to the internet) was growing. Furthermore, experience from fixed broadband services showed there would also be an ever increasing demand for greater data speeds. The 2G technology was nowhere near up to the job, so the industry began to work on the next generation of technology known as 3G.
The high connection speeds of 3G technology enabled a transformation in the industry: for the first time, media streaming of radio (and even television) content to 3G handsets became possible.
Although mobile phones had long had the ability to access data networks such as the Internet, it was not until the widespread availability of good quality 3G coverage in the mid-2000s that specialized devices appeared to access the mobile internet.