July 16, 2015

4.5G (Already?): A Contextual Primer

The first generation of mobility was defined by analog voice technology as commercialized in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, liberating voice communications, initially for the use of primarily business, government and high net-worth individuals.

The second generation of mobility, leveraging new digital radio technologies, enhanced the quality of the wireless voice experience, and introduced rudimentary messaging (SMS) capabilities.  “2G” paved the way for the democratization of mobility in the mid-1990’s.

Transitional 2.5G technologies, such as GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) and the wireless application protocol (WAP) platform, were introduced at the turn of the Millennium, complementing digital voice with early mobile data, laying the groundwork for the blossoming mobile Internet experience.

Third generation mobility, so-called 3G, un-tethered the Internet in the mid-2000’s, introducing richer and faster wireless multimedia functions and services - corporate and social - heralding the evolution of the mobile phone into a mobile companion: truly handheld multimedia computers.

Evolutionary technologies like HSPA (high speed packet access) expanded on 3G.  Faster networks and more through-put were naturally complemented by richer devices: faster processing, more memory, “real” cameras, location-based services, etc., enabling new business and lifestyle opportunities.

The advent of Long Term Evolution (LTE), or 4G, networks around the turn of the decade marked the realization of truly mobile Internet experiences, as envisioned at the outset of 3G, delivering what was once a fully-featured desktop-defined online experience to everyday pockets and palms.

The now emerging Internet of Things (IoT) – tens of billions of connections - will demand far more from networks, fixed and mobile alike, and with 5G technologies on a development path for realization in the early 2020’s, 4.5G technologies are being developed to meet those rapidly-developing needs.

HD video, virtual reality (gaming, shopping), distance-solutions (health, education), connected cars, wearables, and real-time-application automation, remote control and machine-to-machine interaction will be a boon to consumers and businesses alike, enabling enhanced lifestyles and productivity.

4.5G technologies under development and to-be-deployed as early as 2016 are designed for managing massive numbers of connections, all-new peak capacity, deeper and more ubiquitous coverage, all-important service continuity and lower latency, the latter essential to automation and remote control.

By 2025, it is anticipated that there will be as many as 100 billion connections reliant on wireless networks – just imagine the demands of a single smart city in enhancing quality and performance of urban services, reducing costs and resource consumption, engaging effectively and actively with citizens.

5G technologies are under development to meet such yet further network demands, as early as the turn of the next decade.  In the interim, emerging 4.5G solutions will serve to bridge between current 4G networks and future 5G systems, ensuring an innovative and smooth evolutionary process.