From Bricks to Smartphones and Beyond

March 7, 2018

Thirty-five years ago this week, the DynaTAC 8000X mobile phone launched on the first 1G network in the United States. The phone, weighing one-pound, 12 ounces, took 10 hours to charge, had a talk-time of 35 minutes and cost just under $4,000 at retail.

Despite the steep price tag, the DynaTAC was a hit.  Thousands of customers flocked to waiting lists and the single letter “G” took on a new meaning. Soon the brick became a flip and the flip became smart and the mobile economy and the networks that support it have never looked back.

The DynaTAC operated on the first-generation (1G) cellphone network — the very first in the series of Gs that designate the capabilities of mobile communications networks and the devices that run on them. Aside from being the first, that 1G was also analog and while mobile, offered little more functionality than a traditional telephone.

From 1G we moved to 2G, allowing more efficient use of spectrum and data services beginning with SMS text messaging. From 2G we jumped to 3G which provides an information transfer rate of at least 200 kilobits per-second, and made early mobile broadband access possible. Today we’re living in a 4G world and the power of mobile broadband is in millions of Americans’ hands.

Now, we’re preparing to move into mobile networks’ fifth generation – and 5G is more than just another G. The evolution from 4G to 5G will transform connectivity in ways we’re only still imagining.

We often tout the lightning fast speeds 5G will offer, which will rival today’s wired home broadband speeds. That’s a big deal but it’s about more than just speed.  Lower latency will unlock a whole new world of innovation like virtual reality, enabled by minimizing the lag time in connectivity. And beyond the excitement of new consumer electronics, consumers and our broader economy stand to reap incredible benefits from the Internet of Things which could impact everything from health care delivery to education to transportation and beyond.

When the DynaTAC debuted in 1983, few among us were imagining the 4G connections and devices in purses and pockets everywhere today. As we stand on the precipice of the next leap forward to 5G, we’re excited for the innovation that is yet to come.