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From 1G to 5G: A brief history of mobile networks

Rédacteur Web

Thanks to your phone, you can video chat with your teenager, remotely unlock the door for them, and send them spending money. Just a regular Tuesday. Yet all that was impossible not so long ago! Today, mobile communications are so seamless that we sometimes forget how far we’ve come. Let’s take a quick look back over 50 years to see how much mobile technology has evolved—and get a better idea of what lies ahead.






What does the letter “G” mean?

First, let’s clarify a key point: The letter “G” is short for “generation.” Every major evolution in mobile technology represents a new generation.


1G — Voice

The first-generation mobile network was launched in the mid-1970s and really took off in the early 1980s. On this analog network, you could only make and receive voice calls. The arrival of 1G kick-started the commercialization of the first mobile devices. The first cell phone, designed by Motorola, was more than 38 cm long (including the antenna) and cost the equivalent of $10,000 in today’s dollars!


2G — Texts

In the mid-1990s, the digital mobile network emerged. This was the birth of 2G. Devices were now equipped with a SIM card. The big revolution: You could now send text messages and images. This breakthrough led to the emergence of the first camera phones. With the introduction of data usage, you could now also check your emails and download music to your cell phone. For these reasons, the pager was gradually replaced by the more versatile cell phone. In 1999, the first BlackBerry hit the market. Cell phones then became the preferred choice of professionals. 


3G — Mobile data

Then came 3G in the early 2000s. Thanks to faster mobile data transmission speeds, you could surf the Web from your cell phone. It was also the start of streaming. However, transmitting all that data took a lot of energy and was a big battery drain.


The first iPhone, dubbed the iPhone 2G, was launched in 2007. Application stores, such as the App Store and the Google Play Store, grew rapidly, offering apps to meet a variety of needs.


Videotron entered the mobile telephony market in 2005. The company started out using the 3G network, then launched a 3G+ network in 2009.


4G — Streaming

In 2010, the arrival of 4G significantly increased data transmission speeds. And since this technology uses less energy than 3G, mobile device batteries last longer between charges. 4G made it easier to stream videos, play games, and surf the Internet on your cell phone. However, 4G performance can drop off at peak times, when many devices are connected simultaneously.


LTE and LTE Advanced technologies, an evolution of 4G networks, were launched between 2010 and 2015. These networks only transmit data, but can support calls and text through VoLTE (voice over LTE).


5G — Increased connectivity

The latest generation of mobile network to emerge was 5G, which has been gradually rolled out since 2020. It provides ultra-fast data transmission in real time (for example, with 5G you can theoretically download an entire movie in seconds).


Eventually, 5G networks will transmit data up to 20 times faster than LTE networks and will enable about 1 million devices to be connected per km2. For these reasons, 5G technology opens the door to a world of possibilities, from self-driving cars, telemedicine, and smart cities to the use of augmented reality in education.


Videotron began deploying its 5G network in 2020 in the greater Montréal area and now offers coverage in the Québec City, Sherbrooke, Granby, and Saguenay areas. Coverage will continue to expand progressively over time. Consult Videotron’s mobile network coverage map.


What does the future hold? 

Although the world is just beginning to harness the possibilities of 5G, technology enthusiasts are already speculating about the arrival of a sixth generation. In the short term, it’s more likely that the next innovation will be voice over 5G—the ability to make calls over this high-performance data network. One thing is certain: We’ll be keeping you up to date with all the latest news!