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Mobile Generations – A brief history of the Mobile Cellular Phone


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With the introduction of the 5th generation of mobile technology, each generation of technology has addressed 3 individual aspects of capacity, production cost and service.

Date and Time

08 February 2018 - 18:30-19:00


Stevenage, United Kingdom - icon_popup  (See map)


Organised by the UK - East:Beds & Herts local network. Contact Robin Donoghue (Robin.Donoghue@ofcom.org.uk) for more information.

About this event

Mobile operators face two main challenges in their business. On the one hand Over The Top (OTT) players are developing ever more advanced services which not only drive traffic but are specifically designed to engage users more and more. On the other hand regulators around the world have been extraordinarily successful at creating an environment of competition between operators to drive down costs. Operators have typically been poor at service innovation and have concentrated on the kind of services which OTT players have difficulty competing.

The result is that product development has migrated Eastwards in the case of hardware and Westwards in the case of software and services. Operators find themselves in a position as bit pipes constantly looking to reduce costs in particular in Europe where mobile telephone is characterised by poor coverage and service.

Dissecting the above introduction we can see that what mobile operators and their supply chain focus on boils down to 3 simply elements.
1. Quality. This includes capacity by which I mean capacity at a given geographic location and therefore includes coverage as well as eg throughput and latency.
2. Production cost per bit. Key to operators business case is the careful management of the cost of service provision
3. Service. Whether it is voice, internet or IoT it is the service which customers actually buy from operators and hence it is this that differentiates operators from one another and from the OTT players.

This lecture will present and compare each of the different mobile phone generations from these three perspectives.
1. The first generation of mobile phones systems which includes NMT 450 and TACS. There were car phone systems available before this time however these were not cellular in architecture and their expense limited their suitability to mass market communications. NMT and TACS were FM based systems which whilst they supported voice and to some extent fax were not secure and had poor interference tolerance which meant that they had very poor frequency reuse.
2. 2nd generation systems include both GSM which was implemented in Europe and CDMA based systems which found widespread use in America and Asia. GSM was based on GSMK modulation and employed forward error correction coding in order to improve quality. GSM enabled low cost digital implementations. These digital networks introduce the service component to mobile systems with the introduction of SMS.
3. Based on the benefits of code division multiple access the 3rd generation of mobile telephony introduced WCDMA which really brought mobile broadband to the mass market.
4. LTE was introduced in around 2011 and made significant advances in terms of throughput and frequency economy.

And finally there is the 5th generation of systems in which the concept of “cellular” is starting to become clouded as these systems will employ a mixture of small cells, beamforming antennas and a variety of frequency bands in order to provide the coverage required.


1830  Networking & Refreshments
1900  Lecture starts
2000  Lecture finishes, followed by Q&A
2100  Event finishes

Reasons to attend

Attendees will learn how mobile phone systems have developed from the analogue systems of the 1980s through to the high data rate systems of today. This presentation will look at each generation and describe how they have addressed the three issues of capacity, production cost, and service.

Continuing Professional Development

CPD logo declaring this event can contribute 2 hours towards your Continuing Professional Development

This event can contribute towards your Continuing Professional Development (CPD) as part of the IET's CPD monitoring scheme.

CPD Certificates (if required) are available after the event upon request from our Secretary, Mr Ian Brooker (ibrooker@theiet.org).


Free of Charge

Additional information

Speaker: Dr. Derek Long, Head of Telecoms & Mobile, Wireless & Digital Services, Cambridge Consultants
Derek Long specialises in the field of consumer and specialist telecommunications, leveraging Cambridge Consultants unique strengths in the field of radio communications technologies. He has been working in mobile broadband for over 20 years and with all three generations of mobile data from the introduction of GPRS and 3G up until the introduction of LTE Advanced and 5G.

Registration information

Please register for this event if you intend to come.
This event is organised by the IET Beds & Herts Local Network as part of our 2017-18 program.


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