How Long Has That Cell Phone Been There?

Progress comes in many forms. What once took days, even weeks, now takes minutes. Sending a message once involved a horse and rider, but at least the horses got a break when the telegraph lines started to spread. They were quickly accompanied by telephone lines and people could communicate over long distances, usually with the help of an operator.

Well, the operator is now a machine, functioning with artificial intelligence (AI), and the telephone wires may still be attached to wooden poles, but they are more often resting places for birds than carriers for telephone calls. Wireless communications in the form of Fifth Generation New Radio (5G NR) networks now make it possible to call anyone and share ideas and information by way of worldwide Internet connections. And if 5G is not good enough, a long list of major global corporations and top-notch universities are starting to make plans for how they will prepare for the onset of Sixth Generation (6G) wireless cellular networks not far in the future.

It may seem like only yesterday that users have been making calls, sending text messages, and getting lost in the screens of their cell phones. But for those of us with wrinkled fingers holding those phones, some may remember that the first generation (1G) of cellular telephones, also known as the Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS), started 40 years ago, in 1983! It has been almost a decade between generations, with 2G beginning in 1991 in Finland, 3G in 2001 in Japan, 4G in 2009 in Scandinavia, and 5G in 2019. Rough estimates place 6G services starting about 2029.

Leger Communications has enjoyed working with its clients as they contribute through various technologies to the development of 5G networks. The growth and expansion of 5G infrastructure throughout the world, with terrestrial cells and wireless links with low earth orbit satellites (LEOS), has been highly visible in recent years, as 5G evolves into a communications solution that is helpful to both civilians and military personnel. 5G has made full use of its lower-frequency band assignments below 6 GHz and has yet to realize the possibilities of communications at frequencies higher than 24 GHz, well into the millimeter-wave range. But with all its global users, even the frequency bandwidth as high as 71 GHz assigned to 5G may be exhausted before 6G is ready to make connections, and 6G networks may be sending and receiving signals to 300 GHz and higher, possibly into the Terahertz range.

The rapid pace of the cellular generations, from 1983’s analog 1G AMPS equipment to current-day 5G networks illustrates that it’s never too soon to look ahead at the possibilities. Just as those cumbersome “flip” cellular phones seem like museum pieces next to modern, pocket-sized “smartphones,” it will not be long before cell phone users will be asking each other about “the days of 5G phones and how did we ever manage to get by with those things?”