Mobile broadband

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A mobile broadband modem in the ExpressCard form factor for laptop computers Expresscard 34.jpg
A mobile broadband modem in the ExpressCard form factor for laptop computers
HTC ThunderBolt, the second commercially available LTE smartphone HTC Thunderbolt.jpg
HTC ThunderBolt, the second commercially available LTE smartphone

Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access through a portable modem, USB wireless modem, or a tablet/smartphone or other mobile device. The first wireless Internet access became available in 1991 as part of the second generation (2G) of mobile phone technology. Higher speeds became available in 2001 and 2006 as part of the third (3G) and fourth (4G) generations. In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage. [1] Mobile broadband uses the spectrum of 225 MHz to 3700 MHz. [2]



Mobile broadband is the marketing term for wireless Internet access delivered through cellular towers to computers and other digital devices using portable modems. Although broadband has a technical meaning, wireless-carrier marketing uses the phrase "mobile broadband" as a synonym for mobile Internet access. Some mobile services allow more than one device to be connected to the Internet using a single cellular connection using a process called tethering. [3]

The bit rates available with Mobile broadband devices support voice and video as well as other data access. Devices that provide mobile broadband to mobile computers include:

Internet access subscriptions are usually sold separately from mobile service subscriptions.


Roughly every ten years, new mobile network technology and infrastructure involving a change in the fundamental nature of the service, non-backwards-compatible transmission technology, higher peak data rates, new frequency bands, and/or wider channel frequency bandwidth in Hertz, becomes available. These transitions are referred to as generations. The first mobile data services became available during the second generation (2G). [4] [5] [6]

Second generation (2G)  from 1991:
Speeds in kbit/sdown and up
CDPD up to 19.2
GSM GPRS (2.5G)56–115
GSM EDGE (2.75G) up to 237
Third generation (3G)  from 2001:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
UMTS HSPA 14.45.8
CDMA2000 1xRTT 0.30.15
CDMA2000 EV-DO 2.5–4.90.15–1.8
GSM EDGE-Evolution  1.60.5
Fourth generation (4G)  from 2006:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
HSPA+ 21–6725.8–168
Mobile WiMAX (802.16)37–36517–376
LTE 100–30050–75
 • while moving at high speeds100
 • while stationary or moving at low speedsup to 1000
MBWA (802.20)80
Fifth generation (5G)  from 2018:
Speeds in Mbit/sdownup
HSPA+ 400–25000200–3000
Mobile WiMAX (802.16)300–700186–400
5G 400–3000500–1500


The download (to the user) and upload (to the Internet) data rates given above are peak or maximum rates and end users will typically experience lower data rates.

WiMAX was originally developed to deliver fixed wireless service with wireless mobility added in 2005. CDPD, CDMA2000 EV-DO, and MBWA are no longer being actively developed.


Mobile broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union. MobileBroadbandInternetPenetrationWorldMap.svg
Mobile broadband Internet subscriptions in 2012
as a percentage of a country's population
Source: International Telecommunications Union.

In 2011, 90% of the world's population lived in areas with 2G coverage, while 45% lived in areas with 2G and 3G coverage, [1] and 5% lived in areas with 4G coverage. By 2017 more than 90% of the world's population is expected to have 2G coverage, 85% is expected to have 3G coverage, and 50% will have 4G coverage. [9]

A barrier to mobile broadband use is the coverage provided by the mobile service networks. This may mean no mobile network or that service is limited to older and slower mobile broadband technologies. Customers will not always be able to achieve the speeds advertised due to mobile data coverage limitations including distance to the cell tower. In addition, there are issues with connectivity, network capacity, application quality, and mobile network operators' overall inexperience with data traffic. [10] Peak speeds experienced by users are also often limited by the capabilities of their mobile phone or other mobile device. [9]

Subscriptions and usage

Worldwide broadband subscriptions
World population [11] 6.6 billion6.9 billion7.3 billion7.75 billion
Fixed broadband5%8%11.9%14.5%
Developing world2%4%8.2%11.2%
Developed world18%24%30.1%33.6%
Mobile broadband4%11%49.4%83%
Developing world1%4%40.9%75.2%
Developed world19%43%90.3%121.7%
a Estimate.
Source: International Telecommunication Union. [12]
Broadband subscriptions by region
  Fixed subscriptions:   2007201020142019a  
Arab States1%2%3%8.1%
Asia and Pacific3%6%8%14.4%
Commonwealth of
Independent States
  Mobile subscriptions:   2007201020142019a  
Arab States0.8%5%25%67.3%
Asia and Pacific3%7%23%89%
Commonwealth of
Independent States
a Estimate.
Source: International Telecommunications Union. [13]

At the end of 2012 there were estimated to be 6.6 billion mobile network subscriptions worldwide (89% penetration), representing roughly 4.4 billion subscribers (many people have more than one subscription). Growth has been around 9% year-on-year. [14] Mobile phone subscriptions were expected to reach 9.3 billion in 2018. [9]

At the end of 2012 there were roughly 1.5 billion mobile broadband subscriptions, growing at a 50% year-on-year rate. [14] Mobile broadband subscriptions were expected to reach 6.5 billion in 2018. [9]

Mobile data traffic doubled between the end of 2011 (~620 Petabytes in Q4 2011) and the end of 2012 (~1280 Petabytes in Q4 2012). [14] This traffic growth is and will continue to be driven by large increases in the number of mobile subscriptions and by increases in the average data traffic per subscription due to increases in the number of smartphones being sold, the use of more demanding applications and in particular video, and the availability and deployment of newer 3G and 4G technologies capable of higher data rates. Total mobile broadband traffic was expected to increase by a factor of 12 to roughly 13,000 PetaBytes by 2018 . [9]

On average, a mobile laptop generates approximately seven times more traffic than a smartphone (3 GB vs. 450 MB/month). This ratio was forecast to fall to 5 times (10 GB vs. 2 GB/month) by 2018. Traffic from mobile devices that tether (share the data access of one device with multiple devices) can be up to 20 times higher than that from non-tethering users and averages between 7 and 14 times higher. [9]

It has also been shown that there are large differences in subscriber and traffic patterns between different provider networks, regional markets, device and user types. [9]

Demand from emerging markets has fuelled growth in both mobile device and mobile broadband subscriptions and use. Lacking a widespread fixed-line infrastructure, many emerging markets leapfrog developed markets and use mobile broadband technologies to deliver high-speed internet access to the mass market. One common use case of mobile broadband is among the construction industry. [15]


Service mark for GSMA mobile broadband Mobile Broadband service mark.jpg
Service mark for GSMA mobile broadband

In use and under active development

GSM family

In 1995 telecommunication, mobile phone, integrated-circuit, and laptop computer manufacturers formed the GSM Association to push for built-in support for mobile-broadband technology on notebook computers. The association established a service mark to identify devices that include Internet connectivity. [16] Established in early 1998, the global Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) develops the evolving GSM family of standards, which includes GSM, EDGE, WCDMA/UMTS, HSPA, LTE and NR. [17] In 2011 these standards were the most used method to deliver mobile broadband.[ citation needed ] With the development of the 4G LTE signalling standard, download speeds could be increased to 300 Mbit/s per second within the next several years. [18]

IEEE 802.16 (WiMAX)

The IEEE working group IEEE 802.16, produces standards adopted in products using the WiMAX trademark. The original "Fixed WiMAX" standard was released in 2001 and "Mobile WiMAX" was added in 2005. [19] The WiMAX Forum is a non-profit organization formed to promote the adoption of WiMAX compatible products and services. [20]

In use, but moving to other protocols

CDMA family

Established in late 1998, the global Third Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) develops the evolving CDMA family of standards, which includes cdmaOne, CDMA2000, and CDMA2000 EV-DO. CDMA2000 EV-DO is no longer being developed. [21]

IEEE 802.20

In 2002, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) established a Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) working group. [22] They developed the IEEE 802.20 standard in 2008, with amendments in 2010. [23]

Edholm's law

Edholm's law in 2004 noted that the bandwidths of wireless cellular networks have been increasing at a faster pace compared to wired telecommunications networks. [24] This is due to advances in MOSFET wireless technology enabling the development and growth of digital wireless networks. [25] The wide adoption of RF CMOS (radio frequency CMOS), power MOSFET and LDMOS (lateral diffused MOS) devices led to the development and proliferation of digital wireless networks in the 1990s, with further advances in MOSFET technology leading to rapidly increasing network bandwidth since the 2000s. [26] [27] [28]

See also

Related Research Articles

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP, UMTS is a component of the International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard set and compares with the CDMA2000 standard set for networks based on the competing cdmaOne technology. UMTS uses wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) radio access technology to offer greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.

Wireless network any network at least partly not connected by physical cables of any kind

A wireless network is a computer network that uses wireless data connections between network nodes.

Wireless transfer of information or power that does not require the use of physical wires

Wireless communication is the electromagnetic transfer of information between two or more points that are not connected by an electrical conductor. The most common wireless technologies use radio waves. With radio waves, intended distances can be short, such as a few meters for Bluetooth or as far as millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications. It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable applications, including two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of applications of radio wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers, wireless computer mouse, keyboards and headsets, headphones, radio receivers, satellite television, broadcast television and cordless telephones. Somewhat less common methods of achieving wireless communications include the use of other electromagnetic wireless technologies, such as light, magnetic, or electric fields or the use of sound.

Wireless local loop (WLL), is the use of a wireless communications link as the "last mile / first mile" connection for delivering plain old telephone service (POTS) or Internet access to telecommunications customers. Various types of WLL systems and technologies exist.

3G is the third generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology. It is the upgrade for 2.5G and 2.5G GPRS networks, for faster data transfer. This is based on a set of standards used for mobile devices and mobile telecommunications use services and networks that comply with the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) specifications by the International Telecommunication Union. 3G finds application in wireless voice telephony, mobile Internet access, fixed wireless Internet access, video calls and mobile TV.

IEEE 802.20 IEEE standard

IEEE 802.20 or Mobile Broadband Wireless Access (MBWA) was a specification by the standard association of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) for mobile wireless Internet access networks. The main standard was published in 2008. MBWA is no longer being actively developed.

WiMAX wireless broadband standard

WiMAX is a family of wireless broadband communication standards based on the IEEE 802.16 set of standards, which provide multiple physical layer (PHY) and Media Access Control (MAC) options.

4G is the fourth generation of broadband cellular network technology, succeeding 3G. A 4G system must provide capabilities defined by ITU in IMT Advanced. Potential and current applications include amended mobile web access, IP telephony, gaming services, high-definition mobile TV, video conferencing, and 3D television.

Evolution-Data Optimized telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals

Evolution-Data Optimized is a telecommunications standard for the wireless transmission of data through radio signals, typically for broadband Internet access. EV-DO is an evolution of the CDMA2000 (IS-2000) standard which supports high data rates and can be deployed alongside a wireless carrier's voice services. It uses advanced multiplexing techniques including code division multiple access (CDMA) as well as time division multiplexing (TDM) to maximize throughput. It is a part of the CDMA2000 family of standards and has been adopted by many mobile phone service providers around the world particularly those previously employing CDMA networks. It is also used on the Globalstar satellite phone network.

WiBro wireless broadband Internet technology

WiBro is a wireless broadband Internet technology developed by the South Korean telecoms industry. WiBro is the South Korean service name for IEEE 802.16e international standard. By the end of 2012, the Korean Communications Commission intends to increase WiBro broadband connection speeds to 10Mbit/s, around ten times the 2009 speed, which will complement their 1Gbit/s fibre-optic network. The WiBro networks were shut down at the end of 2018.

Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access Multi-user version of OFDM digital modulation

Orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) is a multi-user version of the popular orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM) digital modulation scheme. Multiple access is achieved in OFDMA by assigning subsets of subcarriers to individual users. This allows simultaneous low-data-rate transmission from several users.

Generic Access Network (GAN) is a protocol that extends mobile voice, data and multimedia applications over IP networks. Unlicensed Mobile Access (UMA) is the commercial name used by mobile carriers for external IP access into their core networks. The latest generation system is named Wi-Fi Calling or VoWiFi by a number of handset manufacturers, including Apple and Samsung, a move that is being mirrored by carriers like T-Mobile US and Vodafone. The service is dependent on IMS, IPsec, IWLAN and ePDG.

This is a comparison of standards of mobile phones. A new generation of cellular standards has appeared approximately every tenth year since 1G systems were introduced in 1979 and the early to mid-1980s.

A wide variety of different wireless data technologies exist, some in direct competition with one another, others designed for specific applications. Wireless technologies can be evaluated by a variety of different metrics of which some are described in this entry.

Media Independent Handover (MIH) is a standard being developed by IEEE 802.21 to enable the handover of IP sessions from one layer 2 access technology to another, to achieve mobility of end user devices(MIH).

The 3GPP has defined the Voice Call Continuity (VCC) specifications in order to describe how a voice call can be persisted, as a mobile phone moves between circuit switched and packet switched radio domains.

The Nexus Hawk 4G is a gateway router linking broadband cellular data, such as CDMA, GSM and Wi-Fi a, b, g, n) and WAN networks providing enterprises with broadband wireless internet/network data services in mobile and remote environments.

International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced are the requirements issued by the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) in 2008 for what is marketed as 4G mobile phone and Internet access service.

Bernhard Walke German electrical engineer

Bernhard H. Walke is a pioneer of mobile Internet access and professor emeritus at RWTH Aachen University in Germany. He is a driver of wireless and mobile 2G to 5G cellular radio networks technologies. In 1985 he proposed a local cellular radio network comprising technologies in use today in 2G to 4G and discussed for 5G systems, like self-organization of a radio mesh network, integration of circuit- and packet switching, de-centralized radio resource control, TDMA/spread spectrum data transmission, antenna beam steering, spatial beam multiplexing, interference coordination, S-Aloha based multiple access and demand assigned traffic channels, mobile broadband transmission using mm-waves, and multi-hop communication.


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