As usage of the Internet on mobile phones increases, there are terminologies that are thrown around by manufacturers and mobile phone operators at the junta. The ‘G’ in 2G, 3G, 4G even stands for Generation. The previous iteration of mobile technology used analog radio signals. Since 2G, digital radio signals were used instead. After the introduction of 2G, the previous generation was referred to as ‘1G’ or 1st Generation of wireless telephone technology.
After 2G, came two stepping stone iterations that most of us will associate with. With 2.5G (aka GPRS) brought internet speeds up the range of 100 kbps. Next in line was 2.75G or EDGE, which increased the maximum theoretical speed by more than double to 236.8 kbps.
Next came the big leap – 3G. OK, the leap may sound big in terms of the push from 2 to 3 (G), but actually the speed did really increase greatly, since the first iteration of 3G took it up to 384 kbps. But it was the beginning of a new revolution in mobile internet – Phones started coming out with front-facing video cameras the speed had crossed an acceptable standard (back then, that is) to conduct video calls.
3.5G brought a quantum leap, taking speeds from kbps to Mbps – 3.1 Mbps to be precise. Tech enthusiasts will remember this iteration as HSDPA or High Speed Downlink Packet Access. This is the minimum speed that we can expect to get with our 3G networks in India today. The speeds more than doubled to 7.2 Mbps after.
3.75G was the final step before the evolution to 4G. Known as HSPA (and HSPA +), speeds began at 14 Mbps and reached 21.1 Mbps as was implemented and advertised by some telcos in India (like Reliance). The final leg seen before 4G was DC-HSPDA, with a theoretical speed of 42 Mbps.
4G (aka LTE or Long Term Evolution) is currently the fastest generation of mobile internet technology with a theoretical cap of a blazingly fast 100 Mbps. Open Wireless technology (OWA) is one of the prime technology for 4G and beyond.
Also, remember that all these terminologies are pertaining to GSM networks. CDMA networks had for many years been bottle-necked to 3.1 Mbps with EV-DO (in layman’s terms CDMA’s 3G network). But since 4G, CDMA operators have adopted LTE technology which eliminates the competitive disadvantage they’ve had against GSM all this while.