Mobile network

Mobile network

A working mobile network is something most of us take for granted. It’s just supposed to work when we need it, which it mostly does. But there’s a really advanced technique behind what we can see, and it’s actually quite amazing that it works to the extent that it does.

A mobile network is built on three active parts that correlate; the mobile phone you call with, the base station for communication, and a call PBX to connect calls. It wouldn’t work as we know it today if these wouldn’t cooperate.

When you call the mobile phone contacts a base station, and the mobile then communicated the number you wish to call, to the station. The base station then in turn contacts a PBX. The PBX connects the number you call from with the number you want to call, so that you can communicate.

  • A mobile networks consists of three parts that cooperate.
  • The three parts are; mobile phone, base station, and PBX.
  • In your mobile phone you dial the number you want to call.
  • The mobile phone contacts the base station with the specific number.
  • The base station contacts a PBX with the number you want to reach.
  • The PBX connects the number you call from with the number you want to reach.
  • If one of them isn’t working, you can’t call.

Shared mobile network

In Sweden there are more mobile carriers than those who build their own networks. Although, those that do own their own network are Telia, Telenor, Tele2, Tre and Net1. There is a range of different carriers that don’t own their network and therefore choose to buy capacity from those that actually do. Mobile carriers that don’t own their own mobile network are called virtual carriers or MVNO (mobile virtual network operator) and have the ability to deliver telephony services without owning their own network.

The difference between 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G?

  • 2G is the first generation’s mobile network and is primarily used for calls and texts.
  • 3G is the third generation’s mobile network and is used mostly today for calls and allowed for mobile surf
  • 4G is the fourth generation’s mobile network and is used in parallell with 3G and allowed for commercial success with mobile broadband.
  • 5G den femte generationens mobilnät och är baserat på 4G med ny teknologi som kommer möjliggöra högre hastigheter och möjligheter än någonsin.

History of mobile networks

  1. As a first step in the history of mobile networks are of course the mobile phones that used analogue radio waves. The radio waves were used to communicate with the base station and the first frequently used system was called Advanced Mobile Phone System or AMPS in the US. This was however a very segmented technique and was primarily aimed for those that could actually afford it and other very specific cases.
  2. The next step was the development of digital mobile networks that came into light in the 1990’s. Mobile phones finally got their breakthrough since they were functional in day-to-day life in comparison with the ungainly predecessor. GSM or Global System for Mobile communications also brought the first 2G network technology with it that allowed for texts.
  3. A development of GSM was General Packet Radion Service, or GPRS, which was the first commercial mobile service. The speed for data transfer was up to 14 Kbps.
  4. Another improvement of the GSM was Enhanced DATA rated for GSM evolution, or EDGE. It performed better and was released in the early 2000’s with speed that now reached up to roughly 135 Kbps.
  5. UMTS or The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System was the first mobile network to officially be dubbed 3G. The speed reached up to 200 Kpbs and this was only the beginning of the smartphone revolution that took shape in Blackberrys and iPhones.
  6. Wimax or Worldwide interoperability for microwave access was presented as the market’s first 4G netowrk in the US and raised the standard for speed with up to 37 Mbps. The release was however not as successful as one could hope and Spring was first in delivering the first successful rival LTE.
  7. Our current standard today is LTE or Long-Term Evolution that can reach speed up to 200 Mbps. Today this is the fastest standard for both routers and mobile units. LTE is also a registered brand and is currently owned by ETSI (European Standards Institute).
  8. The next step in development is 5G which is the 5th generation’s mobile system. When released, it will bring plenty of new opportunities and speed with up to 10 Gigabit per second.

SIM cards and base stations

The SIM card is what identifies what network the phone wants to connect to, which services are included in the subscription, and which number is connected to the card. The SIM card searches a base station that it has the rights to connect with. If the regular network isn’t available it tries to connect to other networks.

The base station that a mobile phone is connected to is called Base Station Controller, and in short; BSC. These stations exist in different datacenters for different carriers. It can also be a Radio Network Controller that your phone connects to, which in short is RNC. These also work as base stations for mobile networks.

The phone PBX that the base station contacts is called Mobile Switching Center or MSC. These PBC centrals work as a link between the mobile phones when they’re about to connect to each other to call, text, video call, etc. Each mobile phone can be identified with a specific number called IMEI.

Safety and risk

A stolen mobile phone that is reported to the police, will have it’s IMEI number entered into a database called Equipment Identity Register (EIR). Here all stolen phones identities are collected which blocks the phone from whatever base station it tries to connect with, which in turn makes the phone useless.

The carriers for the different mobile networks never intercept themselves. Previously it was common with purpose of improving call quality. Interception is only allowed today if there is suspicion of specific crime. The carriers do however not intercept themselves, it’s turned over to an official agency that by law has the right to handle it.

The future requires more radio frequencies for all mobile network to work hassle free. In best case, the world’s telephony would exist on the same frequency, which means phones would always work anywhere in the world. But until then mobile carriers have to come up with new solutions.

The future of mobile networks

The 4G network is the most used today and data traffic has seen an incredible increase over the last years. But the request for better speed and networks always increase, which has resulted in the next step in development – 5G. 5G is predicted to have a huge breakthrough with speed up to 10 Gigabyte per second. The future is bound to become far more connected and a huge are of interested is therefore Internet of Things (IoT). This is may fore example entail self-driving cars and connecting huge industrires. Apart from this, it will be extremely useful for mobile broadband with much better speed than 4G. A positive and exciting aspect of the development of 5G are the prerequisites for Artificial Intelligence that will bring both new opportunities in the business and entertainment.

Want to learn more about 5G? We have written a blogpost that covers everything you’ll need!

Last update 27/11-19
Glossary