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2G (or 2-G) is short for second-generation wireless telephone technology. Second-generation 2G cellular telecom networks were commercially launched on the GSM standard in Finland by Radiolinja (now part of Elisa Oyj) in 1991. Three primary benefits of 2G networks over their predecessors were that phone conversations were digitally encrypted; 2G systems were significantly more efficient on the spectrum allowing for far greater mobile phone penetration levels; and 2G introduced data services for mobile, starting with SMS text messages. 2G technologies enabled the various mobile phone networks to provide the services such as text messages, picture messages, and MMS (multimedia messages). All text messages sent over 2G are digitally encrypted, allowing for the transfer of data in such a way that only the intended receiver can receive and read it.
After 2G was launched, the previous mobile telephone systems were retroactively dubbed 1G. While radio signals on 1G networks are analog, radio signals on 2G networks are digital. Both systems use digital signaling to connect the radio towers (which listen to the handsets) to the rest of the telephone system.
2G technologies can be divided into time division multiple access (TDMA)-based and code division multiple access (CDMA)-based standards depending on the type of multiplexing used. The main 2G standards are:
- GSM (TDMA-based), originally from Europe but used in most of the world outside North America. Over 60 GSM operators were also using CDMA2000 in the 450 MHz frequency band (CDMA450) by 2010.
- IS-95 also known as cdmaOne (CDMA-based, commonly referred as simply CDMA in the US), used in the Americas and parts of Asia, accounted for about 17% of all subscribers globally. Over a dozen CDMA operators have migrated to GSM including operators in Mexico, India, and Australia.
- PDC also known as JDC (Japanese Digital Cellular) (TDMA-based), used exclusively in Japan
- iDEN (TDMA-based), proprietary network used by Nextel in the United States and Telus Mobility in Canada
- IS-136 a.k.a. Digital AMPS or D-AMPS (TDMA-based, commonly referred as simply 'TDMA' in the US), was once prevalent in the Americas, but most have migrated to GSM.
2G services are frequently referred as Personal Communications Service, or PCS, in the United States.
Capacities, advantages, and disadvantages
- Digital voice data can be compressed and multiplexed much more effectively than analog voice encodings through the use of various codecs, allowing more calls to be transmitted in same amount of radio bandwidth.
- The digital systems were designed to emit less radio power from the handsets. This meant that cells had to be smaller, so more cells had to be placed in the same amount of space. This was possible because cell towers and related equipment had become less expensive.
2G data transmission capacity:
- With General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), there is a theoretical maximum transfer speed of 50 kbit/s (40 kbit/s in practice).
- With EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), there is a theoretical maximum transfer speed of 1 Mbit/s (500 kbit/s in practice).
- Digital calls tend to be free of static and background noise.
- Its advantages is that the digital signals require very little battery power.
- In less populous areas, the weaker digital signal transmitted by a cellular phone may not be sufficient to reach a cell tower. This tends to be a particular problem on 2G systems deployed on higher frequencies, but is mostly not a problem on 2G systems deployed on lower frequencies. National regulations differ greatly among countries which dictate where 2G can be deployed.
- As distance increases, analog reception degrades gradually, but digital reception abruptly transitions from clear reception to no reception. This can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Under good conditions, digital will sound better. Under slightly worse conditions, analog will experience static, while digital has occasional dropouts. As conditions worsen, though, digital will start to completely fail, by dropping calls or being unintelligible, while analog slowly gets worse, generally holding a call longer and allowing at least some of the audio transmitted to be understood.
- If lossy compression is used, it reduces audio quality, meaning that a caller may hear less of the tonality of someone's voice.
2G networks were built mainly for voice services and slow data transmission (defined in IMT-2000 specification documents), but are considered by the general public to be 2.5G or 2.75G services because they are several times slower than present-day 3G service.
2.5G ("second and a half generation") is used to describe 2G-systems that have implemented a packet-switched domain in addition to the circuit-switched domain. It does not necessarily provide faster service because bundling of timeslots is used for circuit-switched data services (HSCSD) as well.
The first major step in the evolution of GSM networks to 3G occurred with the introduction of General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). CDMA2000 networks similarly evolved through the introduction of 2.5G. Its approach centred on the use of packet data. Up until this time all circuits had been dedicated to a given user in an approach known as circuit switched, i.e. where a complete circuit is switched for a given user. This was inefficient when a channel was only carrying data for a small percentage of the time. The new packet switched approach routed individual packets of data from the transmitter to the receiver allowing the same circuit to be used by different users. This enabled circuits to be used more efficiently and charges to be metered according to the data transferred.
GPRS networks evolved to EDGE networks with the introduction of 8PSK encoding, While the symbol rate remained the same at 270.833 samples per second, each symbol carried three bits instead of one. Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE), Enhanced GPRS (EGPRS), or IMT Single Carrier (IMT-SC) is a backward-compatible digital mobile phone technology that allows improved data transmission rates, as an extension on top of standard GSM. EDGE was deployed on GSM networks beginning in 2003—initially by AT&T in the United States.
EDGE is standardized by 3GPP as part of the GSM family and it is an upgrade that provides a potential three-fold increase in capacity of GSM/GPRS networks.The 2G digital service provided very useful features, such as caller ID, call forwarding, and short messaging.
Asian and Pacific
Telstra closed their GSM network on 1 December 2016, being the first mobile provider in Australia to switch off 2G. However, Telstra continues to operate their GSM network on Christmas Island, meaning customers who are travelling from Christmas Island to mainland Australia (including Tasmania) will need a device that is compatible with 3G 850MHz (at a minimum) to remain connected.
Optus shutdown 2G in Western Australia and Northern Territory on the 1 April and will complete the 2G shutdown in remaining Australia on the 1 August 2017. Optus customers will need a device that is compatible with 3G 900 MHz (at minimum) to remain connected after the switch-off.
Vodafone plans to decommission its legacy GSM network on 30 September 2017.
Chunghwa Telecom, FarEasTone and Taiwan Mobile have ceased 2G voice services effective on the 30 of June 2017. However, emergency calls, sending or receiving text messages and use of data services are still possible
Rogers Wireless is the only provider offering a 2G network, until 2018.
Various carriers have made announcements that 2G technology in the United States is in the process of being shut down so that carriers can reclaim those radio bands and re-purpose them for newer technologies (e.g. 4G LTE). AT&T's 2G GSM service was shut down in January 2017. This shutdown had a notable impact on the electronic security industry, where many 2G GSM radios were in use for alarm signal communication to central station dispatch centers. 2G GSM radios were required to be replaced by newer generation radios to avoid service outages. Verizon plans to shut down its 2G CDMA 1X network by 31 December 2019. Whereas, T-Mobile US has postponed shutdown of their 2G network until 2020.
Swisscom will cease 2G services due to its "public service requirements" only by 1 January 2021.
Sunrise Communications AG has announced plans to phase out its GSM network by the end of 2018. GSM, GPRS and EDGE will be ended by the end of 2018 in favour of expanded 4G and 4G+ coverage.
T-Mobile Netherlands will shutdown 2G services by 2020.
Digi.Mobil (RDS&RDS) is the only provider in Romania that's not offering 2G.
1st Generation (1G)
|Mobile Telephony Generations||Succeeded by
3rd Generation (3G)