1G is the first generation of narrowband wireless analog phone or cellular network standards. “G” stands for “generation” and “1” stands for “first”. 1G technology first surfaced in the 1980s and used frequency modulation (FM) – a form of wireless technology that allowed making wireless calls and sending text messages. Back in the early 1980s, when the Internet was in its nascent stages and not anywhere even close to being popular as it’s in the 21st century, users were keen on mobility or the ability to make phone calls sans the landline. 1G was not supposed to facilitate data, or enable web browsing.

After 1G came 2G, 3G, and 4G, and the series is likely to continue with enhancements and innovations in cellular technology and mobile data. With every generation, one can expect improved security, faster data speeds, and a host of other new upgrades and technologies.

Background

Before 1G took shape, there was mobile radio telephone or 0G. Mobile communication technologies were limited back then and restricted to a niche audience – such as government agencies, military, specific industry professionals, etc. Primitive mobile communication technologies focused on creating a base station system, which could send signal or cover areas falling within a 50-mile radius (approximately). This coverage was good enough to encompass most metropolitan regions.

During the 1980s, 1G technology based on cellular and analog technologies became viable commercially in developed nations regions as Japan, U.S., and Western Europe. In other words, mobile phones became practical enough to be used by regular people. However, the minute rates on 1G networks were commanding premium prices, which made the mobile phones more of a luxury item.

1G Standards

1G comprised multiple standards:

  • Advance Mobile Phone Service (AMPS): It was the 1G standard used in America.
  • Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT): As the name suggests, this standard was used in Nordic nations – Finland, Denmark, Norway, Iceland and Sweden. Neighboring countries the Netherlands and Switzerland also used NMT.  
  • Total Access Communication System (TACS): TACS was in use in the United Kingdom.

NMT was the first multi-country cellular system developed in 1981 to cater to the Scandinavian region comprising Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. Being early adopters, Europe was at the forefront of the developing cellular standards, and focused on developing the next cellular standard generation that replaced analog with digital standards.

1G Limitations

1G had a maximum speed of 2.4 Kbps and was limited only to individual countries. This means mobile phone calls were not possible between countries. The voice quality was not on par with landline phones either. As aforementioned, there was no data support and the mobile handsets using 1G had poor battery backup – not to mention the beefy mobile devices that were difficult to carry around. 1G was also not secure since the voice calls were sent between radio towers, which means third parties could eavesdrop the calls quite easily. However, on the positive front, especially when compared to 2G that was dependent on digital signals, 1G calls didn’t drop abruptly. The worst case scenarios were call quality deteriorating with reduced signal strength.