How does 1X/4G/LTE/5G even work?



Influenced by a post from earlier today, what do these mean? how does it work? I just know 1X means my phone data is basically useless and 4G/LTE is great. Not sure about any of the rest.

In: Technology

They’re all different radio wave types. So basically they’re a wave of electromagnetic energy like light or infrared or ultraviolet or microwaves or AM/FM radio or Bluetooth or Wifi. When we say they’re waves it means they kind of vibrate over time between two signals types. They all are the same thing structurally but the difference between them is the frequency, which is the difference in time between the highest point and lowest point of the waves. Analog things like radio use waves of constant frequency to send sound data over distances but they actually utilize different peaks and valleys in the signal range to represent sound. A radio station is always sent on a single frequency, whereas AM or FM radio overall is a spectrum of frequencies (kind of like the visual light spectrum). The difference between other signal types and Wifi/Bluetooth/Cell-signals is that these other signals are exclusively digital meaning they don’t give a shit about the highs and lows of the wave but rather if the wave happened or not which represents a 1 or a 0 in these signals. That binary data adds up to packets of information which are sent and verified by your phone or iPad or whatever and they make up digital data as you probably already thought of it. Websites and text messages and music and video and blah blah blah.

Source: I’m a computer scientist but I dick around in the IoT space which oftentimes uses radio waves for random stuff like garage door openers or light signals like infrared for things like universal remotes.

EDIT: As an addendum higher frequency for digital signals means more data faster (and in analog like radio it would only mean a higher quality of sound because analog signals can only be sent in real time) but higher frequency signals can’t go as far and remain stable. High end 5G (known as “millimeter wave” because it’s highs and lows are less than a millimeter between each other in physical space) can barely travel through a brick wall it’s so unstable. So most 5G you experience is a more limited variation though still about 10x as “fast” as 4G. Oh and the G means “generation” so 6G will inherently be the next mobile technology, though it’s a while out into the future because we’re nowhere near needing it, as 5G is still incredibly excessive for most people.

These are data standards for mobile phone systems. The long story short is that as mobile phone networks have evolved, the people who make the equipment and write the software sit down and create common design criteria for how phones and networks all should interact with each other to allow for widespread deployment that can be accessed with common equipment.

These standards are pretty complex and wide-ranging because that’s what it takes to have the ability to take your phone to other parts of the world and just have it work. But they’ll define things such as how the radios should operate, and once the radios are operating how they’ll signal data back and forth, how that data is organized so it can be read, how it gets transmitted across the network, etc.

As someone said above but I will paraphrase, they all use different wavelengths. Some wavelengths, 1x for example has a very long wavelength, thus, it is able to travel father and in interfered with less. However, the amount of information it can pass is limited.

5G has a very short wavelength, meaning it can transmit more information quicker. However, due to its constricted wavelength it is very easy to interfere with a 5G signal. It does not travel through objects such as buildings and mountains well. That is why they are building so many 5G towers. The faster phone companies try to make their service the shorter the wavelength becomes.