Cellular networks are increasingly used for more than voice calls. Improved handsets and the networks' increased data transfer speeds have resulted in the development of a range of sophisticated mobile phones or 'smartphones' and handheld PCs, tablets and other mobile devices.
Cellular network technologies
Technologies connected with cellular phone services include:
- 4G - fourth-generation data transmission services deliver high data rates equivalent to fast broadband networks
- 3G - third-generation data transmission services deliver fast data rates equivalent to standard broadband networks
- global positioning system (GPS) - allows the position of a device to be precisely located
- short messaging service (SMS) - text messaging
- multimedia messaging services (MMS) - allows the sending and receiving of other communications such as images, audio and video
- global system for mobile communication (GSM)/general packet radio service (GPRS) - data transmission services carried over cellular networks
The newest, fifth-generation of mobile internet connectivity – or 5G – is still in its infancy. It relies on new radio technology that runs on higher frequencies, and promises much faster data download and upload speeds, wider coverage and more stable connections. For now, however, its primary role is to boost the capacity of the existing 4G networks rather than replace them.
What can cellular networks do?
Cellular technologies offer additional ways for networking of mobile devices. The worldwide coverage of cellular networks means that such facilities are often available in places where other types of networking, such as local area networks (LANs) and wireless LANs, cannot reach. As a result, you can use these technologies alongside WLANs as a means of 'roaming' - maintaining contact while travelling.
Smartphones and other mobile devices give workers access to the internet, mobile business applications, wireless ordering, billing and online buying, email accounts and other services. This gives them much greater flexibility - allowing them to continue working remotely. See more on mobile technology.
3G/4G/5G networks offer faster data transfer and allow the development of more handset-based real-time business applications. Although GSM and GPRS data services will still be available for many years, the faster data rates available with 4G and 5G mean that they offer a more attractive service, and over time will replace the other two services.
Disadvantages of cellular technology
While cellular technology can offer businesses many benefits, it’s important to keep potential drawbacks in mind. For example:
- costs for handsets and network operators' packages vary enormously.
- data services may initially be expensive to use - particularly for streaming rich media.
- mobile network speeds have not increased as quickly as predicted.
See more on advantages and disadvantages of mobile technology.