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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 network allows for much greater penetration intensity. 2G technologies enabled the various mobile phone networks to provide the services such as text messages, picture messages and MMS (multi media 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 retrospectively 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 almost all countries on all six inhabited continents. Today accounts for over 80% of all subscribers around the world. Over 60 GSM operators are also using CDMA2000 in the 450 MHz frequency band (CDMA450).
- IS-95 aka cdmaOne (CDMA-based, commonly referred as simply CDMA in the US), used in the Americas and parts of Asia. Today accounts for about 17% of all subscribers globally. Over a dozen CDMA operators have migrated to GSM including operators in Mexico, India, Australia and South Korea.
- PDC (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. 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 GPRS (General Packet Radio Service), you have a theoretical transfer speed of max. 50 Kbps (40 Kbps in practice). With EDGE (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution), you have a theoretical transfer speed of max. 250 Kbps (150 Kbps in practice).
- 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.
- Analog has a smooth decay curve, but digital has a jagged steppy one. 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.
- While digital calls tend to be free of static and background noise, the lossy compression they use reduces their quality, meaning that the range of sound that they convey is reduced. Talking on a digital cell phone, a caller hears 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 services 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 1xRTT. The combination of these capabilities came to be known as 2.5G. GPRS could provide data rates from 56 kbit/s up to 115 kbit/s. It can be used for services such as Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) access, Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), and for Internet communication services such as email and World Wide Web access. GPRS data transfer is typically charged per megabyte of traffic transferred, while data communication via traditional circuit switching is billed per minute of connection time, independent of whether the user actually is utilizing the capacity or is in an idle state. 1xRTT supports bi-directional (up and downlink) peak data rates up to 153.6 kbit/s, delivering an average user data throughput of 80-100 kbit/s in commercial networks. It can also be used for WAP, SMS & MMS services, as well as Internet access.
GPRS1 networks evolved to EDGE networks with the introduction of 8PSK encoding. 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 Cingular (now 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.
- "Radiolinja's History". April 20, 2004. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
- "CDMA Worldwide". Archived from the original on 30 January 2010. Retrieved December 23, 2009.
- "CDMA2000 1X". CDG.org. CDMA Development Group. Archived from the original on 25 July 2011. Retrieved July 31, 2011.
1st Generation (1G)
|Mobile Telephony Generations||Succeeded by
3rd Generation (3G)