Evolution of the Technology
Cellular networks were first implemented in Japan in 1979 and later in the United States in 1983. This first generation of cellular networks involved analog systems in the sub-1 GHz region providing voice only.
In 1991, the first global system for mobile communications (GSM) was deployed in Finland. This second generation of cellular networks provided a means for roaming between different carriers, improved coverage and introduced text messaging.
In 2001, Japan deployed the third generation of cellular networks, which standardized the network protocol to allow for international roaming. Other improvements via increases in speed and bandwidth further enhanced videoconferencing, streaming and voice over IP (VoIP) features. It was during this era that new devices, such as BlackBerry and iPhone, were introduced to fully connect individuals to the internet through the cellular network. It was also during this time that small cells were devised.
3GPP is the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, which unites several standard document organizations under one cellular network specification. In 2008, small cells were added to 3GPP Release 9 and used mainly as an offload technique.
In 2009, Sweden and Norway deployed long-term evolution (LTE). This fourth-generation cellular network greatly improved past-generation technologies to give us the high-quality video, streaming, coverage and global communications we enjoy today. Small cells are no longer just for offload, but also play a role in heterogeneous networks (HetNets). HetNets provide a seamless transition between different layers and different radio interfaces of the cellular network, thereby providing a consistent user experience on mobile devices.
Today, cellular networks are evolving to support 5G. Unlike previous “one-size-fits-all” upgrades, 5G offers a plethora of options, depending on the service required. 5G provides optimized support for a variety of services, traffic loads and end-user communities. It combines the latest in LTE technologies with 5G New Radio technologies to enable the objectives to support enhanced mobile broadband, massive machine type communications or ultra-reliable low latency communications. Depending on the application need, different levels of the set of objectives will be customized into customer networks. 5G is an EVOLUTION, not a REVOLUTION.
To provide the full advantages of 5G, new spectrum is being made available. The Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the 3.5 GHz band will increase wireless coverage – especially indoors. The abundant spectrum available in the 38 GHz mmwave bands will be capable of delivering extreme data speeds at close range to the antenna. Small cells will continue to be used for offload, HetNet and coverage to further promote the use of 5G technologies.