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2G, 3G, 4G and 5G - simply explained

When talking about mobile internet on the tablet or smartphone, the terms 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G are often used. We'll tell you what it actually is and which standard your smartphone uses.

2G, 3G, 4G, 5G: That's what the abbreviations mean

The abbreviations 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G are the different cellular standards.

  • The G stands for generation and thus designates the second, third, fourth and fifth generation.
  • The main difference between 2G, 3G and 4G lies in the speed of data transfer. This is important on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets with SIM cards in order to surf the Internet as quickly as possible.
  • 2G, 3G and 4G currently exist in Germany, but not all three types are represented in every region. A smartphone always selects the best possible network, but not every smartphone supports 2G, 3G and 4G. In addition, many mobile phone providers currently only offer a 4G connection with certain contracts.
  • 5G should be launched at the end of 2019. While 4G will continue to be optimized for private use, 5G will also be used for completely different purposes. Even higher speeds are of particular interest to industry. Among other things, autonomous driving requires high bandwidths and a stable connection to evaluate data in real time without having to install a powerful computer in every car.
  • The first 5G-compatible smartphones are already on the market. Since the expansion is very expensive and new locations wait a comparatively long time for approval, the even faster Internet will initially only be available in a few major German cities.
  • While 5G is being expanded, the old 3G will soon be taken offline. The first mobile phone providers could pull the plug from 2021. Read more about the end of 3G here.

Explanation of terms: 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G

  • 2G: This mobile radio standard was introduced in Germany in 1992 and is still mainly used for telephony to this day. Mobile data is transmitted via GPRS with a maximum of 53.6 kbit / s or via Edge (E) with up to 220 kbit / s. This is very slow by today's standards and is sufficient for applications such as WhatsApp, but it takes forever to load a complex website or even a video.
  • 3G: In the year 2000 the third mobile radio standard (3G) with the name UMTS was developed. This enables speeds of up to 384 kbit / s. HSDPA followed in 2006, later HSDPA +, which are also referred to as 3.5G. This even enables transmissions of up to 7.2 Mbit / s and 42 Mbit / s.
  • 4G: 4G is the latest cellular standard for smartphones. In theory, a download speed of 1000 Mbit / s is possible. This means that even very large data can be downloaded within seconds. In practice, however, you'll be happy if you get a connection at around 50Mbps, but the numbers are increasing every year. LTE is constantly being expanded in Germany.
  • 5G: While 4G is still being optimized for private users and is completely sufficient, the industry in particular should benefit from 5G. Speeds of up to 10 GBit / s are promised, i.e. 10 times faster than 4G.
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Video: Where can I get 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G? Network coverage in Germany

For more information on the cellular standards and the respective coverage in Germany, see the large CHIP network test 2017/18.

(Original tip written by: Tim Aschermann)