2G, 3G And 4G: What’s The Difference?

by djshoaib on February 24, 2013 · 0 comments

iphone 5Image by Robert S. Donovan

We live in a world in which mobile technology is constantly evolving. Mobile phones are becoming increasingly capable sophisticated, as advances in mobile technology now allow us to play games, surf the internet and read our emails on the move. Only a few years ago, the only things you could ever hope to do on a mobile phone was making calls or sending the odd text message. The idea of mobile communication was revolutionary, although some phones could barely be classed as mobile.

In 21st century Britain, mobile networks are switching on their new 4g networks, promising more features, faster connection speeds and near seamless multimedia usage. But what the heck is 4g, and why should you need 4 of them? Apologies in advance, this could get rather technical.

The first thing to clear up is that ‘G’ stands for generation. So when someone refers to 4g, they are referring to a network running on fourth generation technology.

In order to get to the bottom of what that means, we need to define exactly how this is different from the mobile technology that came before it.


Ever seen images from the late 80’s in which people are walking the streets with comically huge phones? This is the technology those phones were using.

These phones worked on the now obsolete analogue ‘Advanced Mobile Phone System’ (AMPS).

Although it is no longer used in the UK, AMPS was the first ever mobile technology in use commercially. However the only thing people could do on these phones was making and receiving calls. Because these phone signals were analogue, the quality of the call was not always what we today would consider to be good.


The introduction of the second generation of network technology, gave birth to phones able to make much higher quality phone-calls, instantly rendering 1g technology obsolete. This is because 2g was the first network technology to use a purely digital signal. However, where 2g improved phonecalls, 2.5g allowed users to send text and picture messages, albeit at a very slow rate. It gets better, because in came 2.75g, which was a much faster variant of 2.5g, allowing users to connect to the internet, albeit very sluggishly. Not quite on par with the more modern 3g technology, but it certainly bridged the gap.


Now we are entering the modern era! The step from 2.75g to 3g gave users the ability to have quick access to the internet on the go, the ability to connect to a local wi-fi network and reliable GPS positioning and location services. Mobile TV and the ability to download music and video and high speed were made possible by the rise of 3.5 and 3.75g respectively, effectively turning your basic phone into a full multimedia device.


This ultra-modern, brand-new mobile system, completely trumps anything that came before it in terms of speeds and reliability. With 4g, users can literally stream high definition videos straight from the internet while on the move. 4G gives users almost broadband levels of networking speed while on the move. Users can now play interactive 3D games such as those you’d expect to see on games consoles if they wanted to. Video conferencing is easier than ever and cloud computing is now possible while on the move. However, you may have to shell out for computer support services if something goes wrong!

I hope this has proven useful to someone and now that this is finally explained, I think I’ll go back to my black and white television and my trusty wireless radio. Technophobia may keep me in the dark ages, but at least I know what I’m doing!

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Adam Gedge is an aspiring novelist and enthusiastic gamer with a passion for real ale and politics. He currently writes for Arc IT Solutions.

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