Seasons of life of mobile phone


The mobile phone has been around since the 70s. In those days, the system was analogue and allowed users to make voice calls within a country only. The voice quality was mediocre, the phones were as big as a brick and battery life was pitiable.

The network had limited capacity; only the rich could afford it and call drops were rampant. This is what could be described as first generation (1G) and was first launched in the USA.

In the early 1990s, another system was developed; the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) and was first introduced in Europe. GSM is a beauty; it allows limited data to catch a lift on the voice telephony system. This ushered us into second generation (2G)


Through clever engineering, GSM allowed multiple callers to use the same telecommunication trunk. GSM used both SIM card handsets and CDMA phones like those MTL uses without a SIM card.

2G had its own issues, great among which was inability to support complex data such as video. Cell towers had limited coverage area and the nuisance of abrupt dropped calls. 2G data service, if truth has to be said, is only good enough for SMS and emails.

At this point, the world was ready for a new and better system, 3G. This standard delivers true broadband capacity. Instead of SMS, 3G offers instant messaging. SMS is not a one to one system. It is like a postal service, where the letter is handled by a lot of people before being delivered.


3G system routes voice and data simultaneously as though they were sugar in water. 3G networks made the mobile phone smart. All of a sudden, the handset turned into a small yet powerful internet machine.

As good as that may sound, 3G has its own issues. It has high spectrum licensing fees and huge capital outlay. That is economics; in Queen’s language, 3G is not cheap.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) went to town to create standards for a system that would stand the test of time. They wanted a magical system that would make phone calls independent of mobile companies but purely internet based.

ITU desired a system that could transmit voice, data and television at terrific speeds; if you care to know; in Gigabits per second. Soon, telecommunication companies started grouching; no matter how much money they threw into the Eiffel tower, they were not getting anywhere closer. It is at this point that ITU made it simpler; all efforts towards 4G would be recognised as Long Term Evolution (LTE).

ITU allowed LTE system to be marketed as 4G LTE. This is where we are now. And it is eureka moment; WhatsApp and Imo video calls that are purely internet based. This is only the tip of the iceberg; trust me, LTE is like John who preceded the coming of the Christ, 4G will do greater things than this at a fraction of the cost.

And I can’t wait.

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