February 20, 2014
The Past, Present and Future of Mobile Communications
Many technologies have revolutionized life throughout the history of humanity, from the creation of hand tools, mechanical devices, powered machines and automated robotic processes and manufacturing. But among these myriad inventions and discoveries, mobile communications stands out as a giant in terms of the combined speed of adoption and the extent of the global transformation it has driven. In about four decades, the technology has reached more than 6 billion people, permanently altering lives in ways that no one imagined was possible in so short a period, and with such global extent. Mobile wireless technology evolution is characterized by generations with major shifts in technology between generations and incremental enhancements within each generation. In this paper, we begin with a high-level discussion of the key technology generations starting from analog cellular systems deployed in the 1980s to the 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) system being deployed today. We highlight the 11 major technical advances that have led to the most significant improvements in cellular technology and then present a view on the future wireless evolution to the beginning of the 5G era.