Timeline: The Evolution of 5G

How each generation of wireless technology brought us to the age of 100-Gb/s communications

20 March 2017

In celebration of The Institute’s 40th anniversary year, we’re presenting a series of timelines highlighting technologies that have moved forward significantly during the past four decades.

IEEE believes fifth-generation wireless technology will be not just the next generation of wireless networks but truly revolutionary. That’s why in December it launched its 5G Initiative to ensure that vital issues such as interoperability and security are addressed.

IEEE and its members helped build each wireless generation. The first, 1G, was invented by Motorola in 1973. The 1G networks provided basic phone service with analog protocols and speeds of 2.4 kilobits per second. Compare that to today’s 4G network speed of 100 megabits per second and 5G’s proposed 100 gigabits per second. Also in 1973, IEEE Member Robert M. Metcalf invented Ethernet, one of the key enablers of wireless and local Internet access. Ethernet is part of the IEEE 802 suite of standards that underpins wireless networking applications and includes access to the Internet. The 802.11 standard is better known by its trademark name: Wi-Fi.

This article is part of our March 2017 special issue on 5G wireless networks.

This article was written with assistance from the IEEE History Center, which is partially funded by donations to the IEEE Foundation.

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