Mobile data can be a confusing topic – with many different options available, based on the handset, location and network that a person uses.

Therefore, it is unsurprising that many don’t understand the differences. In fact, for some, these random arrays of numbers can be enough to deter them from using the internet on their phone.

In this article, we take a look at the differences between the various different mobile data types, from 5G to GRPS, and everything in between.

Rapid technological advance has made it difficult to keep up with the different types of mobile data!

What is mobile data?

To begin at an elementary level, mobile data is the term given to describe how a mobile phone can connect to the internet when Wi-Fi isn’t available.

So when a person leaves their house, they are still able to access the internet using mobile data. A device that has mobile data turned on will be able to send and receive information over a wireless connection.

As long as a person has some form of signal, they will be able to get the internet on their phone. This means their normal notifications will continue to be received – and life will essentially continue, despite there being no Wi-Fi.

It is important to note however that mobile data use does cost money. However, for most people, there will be an allowance of data to be used each month. It is always worth checking with your mobile network.

Then, there are different types of mobile data. This includes GRPS, which was a groundbreaking data format many years ago, up to the latest iteration – 5G.

The Different Types

The first type of mobile network that was available was 2G. Whilst 1G did exist, it was purely analogue, rather than digital – which is what is needed for a phone to connect.

2G, also known as GRPS (General Packet Radio Service), was the first network that could be used by phones. It was introduced in the 1990s. It was used in the early days of mobile phones. 2G is the same as GRPS.

A slight improvement on 2G, called EDGE, was released in the latter part of the 1990s. In some areas, especially rural areas, this remains the fastest available form of data. It often appears as an “E” at the top of the phone’s status bar.

In the 2000s, 3G arrived, which coincided with the huge rise in mobile phone sales. 3G offered an enormous improvement in download speeds, and became very popular. 3G is called UTMS on some handsets.

In the late 2000s, an improvement on 3G happened in the form of HSPA, which appeared as a “H” on a phone, or HSPA+ – which looks like “H+”. Many phones continue to use this network in the absence of newer networks.

In the early 2010s, 4G arrived. This coincided with a boom in smartphone sales, as users ditched simple phones for phones that could do everything that a laptop could. 4G remains the best available option for many people.

4G was a landmark moment, as it provided enough speed for users to download and stream TV shows, live events, music and everyday browsing. It is also known as LTE. For most, 4G will actually be quicker than their Wi-Fi!

Then, in recent years – 5G has arrived. 5G offers an improvement on 4G, with its speed frightening! Moreover, 5G can cope with a huge number of people logging in to a network in a short amount of time without any compromise in speed.

What affects which mobile network I get?

The handset you are using is a big part of which mobile network you will receive. For instance, only newer models will offer the latest networks. For those with older handsets, they will normally be unable to connect to the most recent networks.

Your service provider will also affect this. For instance, in the United Kingdom, EE tends to have the best 5G coverage, so users who are customers of EE will typically have more choice than those on other networks. Equally, those on O2, Vodafone and Three are other major networks that should offer strong coverage.

Similar to the above, location is important. In rural areas, coverage can be limited. However, for those in large cities, they should be able to expect the very best speeds.

The Takeaway

There are many different types of mobile data, and keeping up with the differences and various new updates in the field can be difficult! But ultimately, mobile data has made our lives much easier.

Being able to stay connected once leaving Wi-Fi behind can be a huge help, and can even be life-saving in some instances. Further updates and generations will follow in the future, needless to say!