The 1G (First Generation) Mobile Communications Technology Standards

The 1G (First Generation) Mobile Communications Technology Standards

Copyright: © 2013 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4074-0.ch005
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During the development of the first generation (1G) mobile communications technologies, many organizations had not thought about standardizing a mobile communications technology. Due to the fact that a mobile communications market was regional and a network was run by a government agency or a monopoly organization, the standardization of a mobile communications technology was not occur to them. However, an interesting movement came from Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden), which was standardizing a mobile communications technology. This chapter reveals the standardizations of the first generation (1G) mobile communications technologies including the Nordic Mobile Telephone (NMT) standard and the impact of the NMT standard on the history of the mobile communications technology standards.
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1. Background Of The 1G Technology Standards

The first generation (1G) mobile communications technologies had limited capacity, serving only niche markets for the military, certain government agencies and users in special industries (e.g. loggers, construction foremen, realtors and celebrities). In the 1960s and 1970s, this service was geographically limited and the mobile device was too large, so it was usually mounted in cars or trucks; the smallest was a briefcase model. This form of mobile communications were not ready for mass development, because of (1) the limited capacity to service the general population, (2) the limited technology capability to cover large areas, (3) the large size of the mobile device, and (4) the high prices of mobile devices and tariffs.

In the 1970s, countries were still focused on building nation-wide landline communications network rather than mobile networks for a few customers. At least in developed countries, mobile service providers that were government-owned PTT (Post, Telegraphy, and Telephony) bureaus or monopoly companies like AT&T developed or adopted any available technologies to provide mobile services during 1960s and 1970s without considering technology standardization for potential future markets. Therefore, the existing self-organized configuration of the industry before the 1G was fragmented and dominated by monopoly PTTs or companies that had close relationships with governments (See Figure 1).

Figure 1.

The configuration before the 1G technologies standardizations

One important thing that differentiated the 1G mobile communications technologies from previous technologies was the cellular technology. The mobile communications technologies before the 1G era focused on developing a powerful base station system that could send signals as far as possible to cover the large area. The coverage of single base station was about 50 miles or more, which was enough to encompass most metropolitan regions at the time. Given frequency bands in a metropolitan area, the very limited number of subscribers had to use the mobile communications channels at the same time. For example, in the entire metropolitan area of New York City in 1976, only twelve channels served 543 subscribers. Thus, most users spent significant time waiting to get a channel (Garrard, 1998).

The cellular concept was a radical idea when it was formulated in 1947, because as mentioned, most research focused on transmitting a signal as far as possible, while the cellular concept proposed to deliberately limit the range of a signal transmission (Garrard, 1998). Each limited area would have one base station, which was called a “cell.” In this way, the same frequencies used in one cell could be used in different cells, so the systems based on this concept would allow frequencies to be reused for more subscribers in a region (Garrard, 1998). This was how the name “cellular phone” came about.

It took many years to implement this idea, because the necessary technologies (e.g. electronic switches, integrated circuit for transistors, and handover technique when a user moves from one cell to another) were developed much later (Calhoun, 1988). The structure to support this concept became the basic mobile communications system architecture (Figure 1 in the Chapter 4) explained before. Thus, all systems mentioned in the architecture were needed.

As emerging problems were resolved, the 1G mobile communications based on analog and cellular technologies became commercially viable during the 1980s in developed countries (e.g. Western European nations, Japan and U.S.). For example, a 1G mobile communications service was introduced in 1981 for the Swedish and Dutch markets, in 1982 for the Norwegian and Finnish markets, and in 1983 for the U.S. market. Table 1 shows the countries and their commercialized 1G standards with the year that service was first introduced.

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