Mobile Phones: The New Revolution

They’re everywhere. In the myriad flavors they come in, they suit anyone’s and everyone’s needs. Today a mobile phone can actually replace your laptop. These amazingly portable yet powerful information processing devices mark a new era in technology. This article will try to explore the beginning, the journey and the destination of today’s mobile phone technology. Back in the 1980’s, when the first mobile phones hit the markets, only a small class of people could afford the luxury. These phones were bulky (many were about the size of a briefcase), had poor performance and severe restrictions while their functionality was limited to place calls. Very few companies that provided service on these phones existed and hence mobile telephony was immensely expensive. The networks relied on analog communication channels and were prone to eavesdropping. These first generation phones and networks are referred to as 1G, since they represent the most primitive of mobile phone technology. The standards that 1G relied on were mostly based on a technology called FDM – brief for Frequency Division Multiplexing. In this technology, the nodes(mobile phones) in a network use individual frequencies to communicate with the base tower. This approach has serious drawbacks – it falls short of frequency spectrum as the number of users grow. However 1G has evolved through a long way and underwent significant metamorphosis until it was last prevalent in some regions till the end of the 20th century. But the limitations of 1G have urged researchers to develop completely new systems of mobile communication which paved way to more sophisticated technologies to empower human life. Thus the next generation of mobile technology was born. Referred to as 2G, it relies on digital transmission to facilitate communication between the mobile phone and the base tower. The advantages of 2G are mainly because it is digital. This allows encryption of all data relayed between the equipment and enhances privacy thus expanding the scope of use of mobile phones to military applications. Data capability of 2G networks allows for a broad range of consumer applications. Coverage is greatly improved due to the efficient use of spectrum. 2G also enhances the efficiency of equipment thus leading to better battery life and also durability. Integrated Circuit technology has facilitated mobile phone equipment to shrink both in size and cost every year. It has also helped manufacturers pack more and more into their devices. The data capabilities of 2G networks and the advancement of IC Technology have driven the development of a new trend of mobile phones – mobile phones that include digital cameras and multimedia features like video recording/playback, high resolution displays. This line of devices has ruled the mobile phone market for nearly half a decade around the world. In the meanwhile, operators everywhere have upgraded their networks to facilitate higher bandwidth, to provide value added services like the Multimedia Messaging Service, Internet through GPRS and EDGE or EVDO. The devices themselves were already equipped to support these technologies much before operators started providing them and also before consumers started realizing them. Today a majority of operators in the world still employ 2G networks despite the development of 3G Technology which is already being used in a few regions. This is because of the costs involved in migrating from 2G to 3G and other socio-economic factors that compel the operators to stick to 2G, which is still flexible enough to serve the consumer world appropriately. Enter 3G, the latest and best mobile phone communication standard available on the planet. 3G was primarily conceived to provide the mobile phone user with advanced services using high bandwidth that is inherent on 3G networks. These services include Video calls, Broadband Internet, and other high-speed data services like mobile television, Video-on-demand. Phones that are equipped to work on 3G are also equipped with many other advanced features including but not limited to advanced Personal Information Management, huge amounts of data storage, multi-mega-pixel digital cameras, and QWERTY keypads to allow fast user input. Almost all these devices are built around developed and well-tested operating systems that are sophisticated and optimized for mobile devices. They consist of fast processors, a large amount of memory, and other complex hardware that was previously used exclusively in computers(like hardware graphics acceleration). Thus these devices are capable of running applications that are fairly complex and comparable to that of desktop applications. The development of applications for these platforms consists of a significant market value. 3G networks can further be upgraded to provide even higher bandwidth. One such technology is HSDPA/HSUPA which allows a bandwidth of up to 14.4 Mbps on compatible networks and devices. 3G is in its infancy, but it is a fast growing technology. Gradually but constantly, operators around the world are planning to upgrade to 3G. In most developing countries it will be a slow process, but is a most welcoming change. The demands of the mobile phone user have changed. Today an average user expects everything from his mobile phone. The next generation of technology that is expected to replace 3G is already being speculated upon. Of course, it’s called 4G and promises IP-based services at a bandwidth of 100Mbps – 1Gbps in a mobile environment. This can make high definition Video transmission, video chat, and other next generation multimedia applications a reality. While its true that it takes a long time for 4G to become practical, it doesn’t seem a distant dream. The goal of this unbiased revolution is clear, to encompass all your priorities into a shiny little device that fits neatly in your palm.