The history of mobile Internet: 1991 - today

Although the smooth evolution of mobile Internet has stretched for decades (and continues to this day), mobile access to data began to rapidly change our lives in the early and mid 2000s, when third-generation networks spread.
As phones became smaller and more productive, the Internet adapted to mobile platforms, data transfer speeds increased (4G networks improved throughput by about ten times compared to 3G), and mobile communications became ubiquitous.

Today we tell the story of the legendary technological breakthrough in telecom: the transition of technology from laboratory stands to mass distribution around the world.

2G: the beginning of mobile Internet networks

European Institute for Standardization in Telecommunications , established in 1988, designed GSM (Groupe Special Mobile) as a solution that will open up new possibilities for voice telephony. In fact, we were talking about a system for phone calls - no one thought that GSM might be needed for mass use of the Internet.

The fact that data transfer via new devices has become digital rather than analogue has allowed developing many of the basic functions of the smartphone, which are still used as the basis for mobile Internet. Features such as text messaging, content downloading, and extremely easy network access have given consumers the ability to send emails, browse sites, and download simple media content (ringtones and music files).

As early as December 3, 1992, 22-year-old Sema Group employee Neil Papworth tested the new technology. for mobile operator Vodafone by sending a short text message - SMS. It contained only two words: "Merry Christmas." At that moment, the network still did not allow sending SMS from phone to phone, so the first message was transmitted from a computer. Initially, SMS technology was available only in GSM networks, but eventually spread to all digital networks.

In 1997, the three leaders of the mobile market at that time - Ericsson, Motorola and Nokia - joined together to make friends the Internet and mobile communications using WAP ( Wireless Application Protocol ). WAP described a way in which a mobile device could access Internet resources without using other devices (such as a modem).

Within a few months, most of the major manufacturers of cellular infrastructure have become project participants. Already in May 1998, the first edition of WAP was published - v.1.0. In this protocol, data rates ranged from 9.6-56 Kbps.

In October 1999, along with the debut of Nokia 7110, the Dutch mobile operator Telfort BV launched the first WAP-site ( example ), which was adapted for viewing on mobile phones. In terms of speed, ease of use and appearance, the WAP site lagged far behind user expectations.

In addition, the first WAP phones were not adapted to the Internet. Remember how you had to use the network before the widespread dissemination of touch screens. Connection to WAP services was not included in the monthly tariff plans and was paid separately. In addition, the connection speed was very low.

The WAP protocol survived until 2013, after which its use ceased. Most Internet browsers now support HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. It was no longer necessary to use WAP markup to ensure backward compatibility of web pages. HTML began to support all Android devices, all Blackberry devices, all versions of the iPhone, all devices running Windows Phone and many Nokia phones. Smartphones have finally turned into a mini-PC with a permanent Internet connection.

However, WAP lost all prospects by the beginning of the 2000s. At that time, the rapid development of GPRS and EDGE began. In 2000 he appeared as the first commercial services, and the first phone to support the Packet Radio the Service of General ( the GPRS ). In 2001, GPRS, standardized by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, was launched worldwide as a service provided by GSM to provide access to mobile Internet. In 2G systems, GPRS provides data rates in the range 56-114 Kbps.

2.5G: EDGE

Later, an “add-in” Enhanced Data Rate for GSM Evolution ( EDGE ) for faster data transfer appeared on the basis of GPRS , so the access protocol has not changed. Data is collected in packets and transmitted through a virtual channel, which is provided to the subscriber during the GPRS session. The concepts providing packet data transmission in cellular radio networks were preserved and developed further from GPRS / EDGE to 3G and 4G.

EDGE in the GSM network was first introduced in 2003 in North America. Thanks to the implementation of sophisticated coding and data transmission methods, EDGE provides higher bit rates for each radio channel. EDGE can have a data bandwidth of up to 236 Kbps (with a total delay of less than 150 ms) with a theoretical maximum of 473.6 Kbps.

Download time of real files depending on technology.

In the late 2000s, attempts were made to improve 2.5G bandwidth using the Evolved EDGE standard , also known as EDGE Evolution. In this standard, delays are reduced, and the speed is increased to 1 Mbit / s.

Many telecom operators sought to modernize their existing infrastructure, rather than investing in a new one. Thanks to a software update and new devices that are compatible with Evolved EDGE, many service providers wanted to avoid investing in 3G. However, this standard has not been introduced into commercial use.

3G: First High Speed ​​Access

As 2G spread, and people of all ages began to use phones in everyday life, an increase in demand for data became apparent. Users are increasingly demanding an increase in data transfer speed. Since 2G could not cope with this task, a new technology was created.

3G introduced in Japan in May 2001. The main technological difference between 3G and 2G was the use of packet switching (3G) rather than channel switching (2G). At the same time, the 3G speed increased to an average of 2 Mbps. (from 200 Kbps at the beginning of technology implementation). A revolution has occurred that can only be compared with the transition from 56k modems to broadband access.

Thanks to a reliable, fast connection, streaming video services on the phone, including video calls, have begun to rapidly develop. Most sites have got versions for mobile devices. Overall, 3G has changed the web industry significantly since the mid-2000s, especially in terms of applications and web interactivity.


HSDPA compared to WCDMA , EDGE, GPRS, GSM.

With the advent and spread of 3G, the modern era of wireless mobile smartphones as handheld computers has begun, especially after 2005, when the technology of high-speed downlink packet access (HSDPA) was introduced in 3G . In HSDPA (also called 3.5G, 3G +, Turbo 3G), the maximum theoretical data transfer rate according to the standard was 14.4 Mbit / s. (from the base station to all local subscribers) and up to 5.76 Mbit / s. from the subscriber.

However, by 2009, it became clear that at some point 3G networks would be overloaded with traffic from applications that need access to the network. Soon, the industry focused on the introduction of 4G technology, intending to increase the speed by several times compared to existing 3G networks.


The first 4G technologies were introduced in the USA (WiMAX is based on the IEEE 802.16 standard, the bandwidth of one base station with six sectors and a bandwidth of 20 MHz is 180 Mbit / s) and Scandinavia (with LTE, the bandwidth reaches 326.4 Mbit / seconds towards the subscriber and 172.8 Mbit / s towards the base station).

In a short fight, WiMAX (Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access) technology lost out to LTE (Long-Term Evolution). Both standards conditionally relate to the fourth generation of communications (4G), first launched in Russia by the Yota operator, while the main advantage of LTE is the continuity with respect to 3G (UMTS / HSPA, HSPA +). WiMAX is a separate branch of evolution, which constrained by a limited number of subscriber devices, the virtual lack of roaming and the refusal of the largest vendors and mobile operators from investments.

4G technology has almost equalized the speed of mobile Internet and home broadband. The existing common standard defines 4G as a network in which 100 Mb / s. provided for subscribers on the move, and up to 1 Gbit / s. in ideal conditions (the subscriber unit does not move). In this case, the delay ranges from 20 to 50 ms.


Standard has not yet been implemented, but is being actively tested at speeds of 1-20 Gbit / s. The transition to it is expected in the next few years. 5G will provide not only a high data transfer rate, but also give impetus to the development of technological areas such as unmanned vehicles and smart cities as part of the development of the Internet of things ( support for the simultaneous connection of up to 100 million devices per square kilometer with a delay of no more than 1 millisecond).

In Russia, the first 5G network is already operating on the territory of the Skolkovo innovation center. Also expected that 5G will work in some stadiums that will host the World Cup this summer.