ACTE UK > Technologies > Cellular Wireless

Cellular Wireless Technologies

Cellular wireless technologies are usually referred to by their 'generation' i.e. 2G, 3G or 4G. Whilst this is fine for the consumer market we aim to be a little more accurate with our descriptions and references to  the underlying technology.

Below are the technologies supported by our manufacturers with links to pages containing further information and all relevant products for both embedded design and ready-to-use applications.


2G Wireless Technologies - click for products

Second Generation or '2G' technology was first launched in 1991. As such it is not a technology in itself but merely the reference used to distinguish the different types of cellular wireless technology introduced and used in any one geographic region.

Today the main technologies (though not the only) referred to as '2G' are GSM (as introduced initially in Europe) and CDMA initially introduced in the USA.

Initially both of these '2G' technologies only provided for basic digital data transfer (e.g. SMS messaging) however both have evolved to provide the following services in use today.

Generation Region
Technology Typical Packet Data-rates
2G Europe (originally) and used throughout the world

GSM (TDMA technology)

SMS only
2G USA (originally), some parts of S. America and Asia

CDMA1 - normally referred too as CDMA (technology)

SMS only
2.5G Europe (originally) and used throughout the world GSM + General Packet Radio Service (GPRS)

56K to 115K bit/s in theory (40Kbit/s in practice)

2.5G USA (originally), some parts of S. America and Asia CDMA+ 1xRTT (CDMA2000)

Peak of 153Kbit/sec,      typically: 80 to 100Kbit/sec

2.75G Europe (originally) and used throughout the world GSM + Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE)

Theoretically 250 kbit/s
(150 kbit/s in practice).



3G Wireless Technologies - click for products

As per for the second generation technology, the term '3G' is a common reference which may be applied to more than one technology.

In Europe, the evolution from 2G has been to the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) '3G' technology.

UMTS allows for several ways in which the underlying radio technology can work, the most popular being Wideband-CDMA which all our modules support. This (UMTS) Radio Access Technology (or 'UTRA' for short) dictates the data rates over the air. After a few tweaks, the standard known as HSPA was defined with a maximum of 14.4 Mbit/s down and 5.76 MBit/s up-link rate. A further revision and upgrade to this is known as HSPA+. There are several defined performance levels (or 'class' levels, as referred to in device specifications) with the theoretical peak rates up to 168 Mbit/s in the downlink and 22 Mbit/s in the uplink. Typically, our modules support the technology but not at such high rates, which are also very much network dependent.

In the Americas including USA the migration has been to CMDA2000 as a '3G' network. This is based on an underlying access technology know as EV-DO.

A summary of the frequency bands used for UMTS throughout the world can here courtesy of Wikipedia .. UMTS frequency bands deployment by region (lower table with colour).

4G Wireless Technologies - click for products

Today the fourth generation of cellular wireless technology dominant so far is LTE or Long-Term-Evolution.

Whilst two '4G' systems have been commercially deployed, only the LTE network system is widely available today. The other, Mobile WiMax has been used in South Korea and supported in the US for some time, however the system is currently not available for the European market.

Furthermore, LTE smartphones have been available since 2011, although due to the wide number of frequencies bands in use around the world, equipment made for different continents is not always compatible, because of different frequency bands.

4G / LTE is now set to hugely broaden it's appeal for M2M applications with the widening-out of technologies allowing devices utilise the 4G networks by way reduced cost Cat.1 and Cat.0 technologies. These will in tern pave the way for the new 4G/MTC varients to appear in the not too distant future.

Today we offer a wide portfolio of 4G Modules, Modems, Gateways and Routers which if correctly selected gaurante the best chance of avoiding equipment obsolescence. Furthermore we are pleased to be supporting products which provide the new Cat.1 rates which will of course smooth the way towards truely low-cost 4G (Cat.M / MTC).

Summary by region of frequency band allocation for 2G, 3G & 4G/LTE networks.

Below are the main FDD (Frequency-Division Duplexing) band allocations and frequencies in use by the primary EU & US mobile networks. This should be read as a general indicator of the frequencies used in each by region for the purpose of cellular device and antenna selection. In additional to the FDD & TDD bands recommended by the ITU which include the below, other bands are available and / or allocated. These may have been previously used, are currently in use or have planned usage by certain cellular networks, especially in relation to LTE and more prevalent in the North America region.

FDD Operating
Band Number
Band (MHz)
2G Allocation
3G Allocation
20 800