The history of mobile networks dates back to the first decades of the 20th century when some very rudimentary prototypes of mobile devices were developed based on analogue radio communications. In the 1920s, some police departments in the US began to experiment with using wireless voice radios in their vehicles. However, this technology did not see much progress until the Second World War.
During World War II, the company Motorola developed the first model of a device that could transmit information using radio waves, called the 'Handie-Talkie'. This was an advance that revolutionised communications. After the conflict, the technology gave rise to the 'Walkie-Talkie', which began to be used in public services such as ambulance, police, and fire departments.
Towards the end of the 1940s, the first mobile phone standards began to appear, and then in 1973, the first mobile phone not associated with a vehicle was invented. These were big and heavy, and with them came the first generation of mobile phone standards – 1G. Being analogue networks, 1G was limited to voice-only communications which lacked security, as anyone with a radio tuner could listen to other people's calls.
In the early 1990s, the second generation, 2G, was launched in Finland. Unlike the others, 2G was not a standard, but marked the step from analogue to digital telephony thanks to the introduction of a series of protocols. This allowed improvement in call quality and increased the amount of information that could be transmitted in the same bandwidth. It also enabled the sending of short text messages (SMS).
This second generation of mobile telephones created the necessary conditions for the great development of later technologies. Another milestone achieved through 2G was establishing a common standard for all European countries, which helped solve market fragmentation as it was adopted across the continent.
The third generation, 3G, appeared ten years later and achieved a giant leap forward in mobile communications by introducing multimedia capabilities. This was possible thanks to the great increase in data transmission speed compared to 2G, enabling a stable internet connection with audio-visual transmissions in real-time, and call quality comparable to the wired network. These characteristics made users much more interested in owning mobile phones.
Following the immense rise in popularity of the first smartphones from 2006 onwards, the fourth generation of mobile networks began to emerge. The first 4G networks arrived around 2010, which improved the speeds up to 100 Mbit/s in movement and 1 Gbit/s in idle, with a high-quality signal. This allowed mobile networks to respond to the ever-increasing demands of broadband applications and provided users with a faster and more secure service at a lower cost than 3G.