Second-generation mobile services (2G)
Mobile services are the communication capacities
that operators make available to customers (subscribers). These
capacities are completely defined by protocols and standardized
functions (at least in how they are used).
Services can be divided as follows:
Basic services, which have their own entities (they
can be delivered alone).
Supplementary services, which require a basic
service to provide the additional service to the customer.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in
turn, classifies services as follows:
Carrier services, which provide the capacity to
transmit information; nevertheless, they cannot achieve end-to-end
communication by themselves because they are independent of the
content of the information that is carried. An
example of a carrier service is the access to data transmission by
Teleservices, or telecommunication services,
which provide communication capacity between subscribers, since they
incorporate terminal functions that analyze information at the ends.
An example of teleservice is telephony.
The table shows basic
services that are typically provided in second generation mobile
Group of basic services
Short message service (SMS)
Point to point
Point to point
Asynchronous transmission of data
(Transmission rate varies depending
on the technology)
Access to data network access
(Transmission rate varies depending
on the technology)
Voice services for closed
The figure below shows the general competition
triangle in technology, highlighting the three aspects differentiating
services for the subscriber: innovation, service excellence, and
prices. 2G operators have competed among each other and have excelled
in each of the aspects through the following factors:
Figure 1. Triangle
of competition in technology services
Leader in prices:
More economical plans, plans for weekends and friends, flat rate
plans, prepayment accessible to all, promotional deals, lower rates
by use, service subsidies, etc.
Leader in service
quality: Better and wider coverage, personalized customer service,
greater number of service centers, easier and more efficient
management of prepaying customers (automatic recharging), offering
additional services to business, among others.
Leader in technical innovation: Last-generation
mobiles, early introduction of new network functionalities, which
mean new services for subscribers, etc.
every country, operators try to become leaders in one of the
above-mentioned areas, whereas the dominant operator is leader in at
least two of them. It is important to underscore that the operator’s
objective is to become a leader in at least one of the three areas, or
at least to be very close to being a leader, because these indicators
measure the degree of the operator’s qualitative competitiveness
compared to its competitors.
Note that the
triangle of competence applies to perfect or nearly perfect markets.
In mobile telephony, for a market to be perfect, the following minimal
conditions must be met: three or more operators competing under equal
conditions. This condition is not met in all Latin American
countries. In some, monopolies or duopolies remain, and in others,
one operator may dominate as regards investment resources. Such
landscapes completely alter the triangle of competence to reflect
landscapes where competition does not exist.
Evolution from 2G to 2.5G:
Data services on mobile networks
The evolution of
technology that has led to various generations of mobile networks has
been driven principally by the following factors:
Meeting the new
needs of users: People who travel increasingly across international
borders; “electronic” information is becoming a form of communication
all around the world; changes in lifestyle are making people “more
mobile”; free time is becoming mobile time; global competitiveness
requires new skills and ways of conducting business; and furthermore
there is rapid growth of mobile devices and “portable information.”
2G has met
subscribers’ expectations for telephone communications and has
partially met their aspirations for messaging (SMS). Nevertheless, 2G
did not meet the expectations of users regarding connectivity to
networks and data applications, as well as their impossibility of
additional sources of income for operators (increase average revenue
per user—ARPU): Through 2G services, it was possible to attract new
subscribers and raise their share to high levels (in European
countries, the share is over 60% and in many of them it is about 75%).
For operators, these figures account for a large part of possible
total capacity, and because of this, the way to secure further income
should be from the rise in use by current subscribers. So that this
can occur, new “value-added” services used by subscribers should be
Since the first
mobile networks, focusing on offering telephony services, but with
very limited capacities to develop and install data services, networks
have been endowed with new functionalities, which is expected to
culminate with the emergence of 3G networks.
Over the past
decade, the world of telecommunications has experienced two
unprecedented phenomena. On the one hand, the success of mobile
telephony; on the other, the impact supposedly exerted by Internet and
its applications on information systems, which is undoubtedly
contributing to changing the habits and customs of current society and
forcing the telecommunication market to transform its traditional
models and concepts.
This has become
apparent in phenomena such as the boom of message services among
European adolescents and the continuous emergence of services based on
data network access. These realities are evidence of the boom and
acceptance of this mode of communication as a starting point, but also
highlight unmet expectations and needs. Subscribers are calling for
personalized mobile communication and multimedia services.
telephony represents a milestone in the evolution of communication
services, the phenomenon of Internet has become a genuine
socioeconomic revolution, leading to a new model for business in
almost all sectors of society. The conception and provision of
Internet services have gone beyond that first phase confined to a
minority market to which connectivity facilities and basic
applications were offered to work on the network through access and
service providers, to become a service that is widely available and
used for users of the so-called global information infrastructure.
Today, the mobile terminal has become an indispensable tool for voice
communication between users, while protocols, mechanisms and
applications of the TCP/IP architecture have supplanted the other
models and become the baseline technology of the communication
networks of the 21st century.
To understand the
evolution and impact of mobile data technologies in services, one must
understand the main features and constraints of data services offered
on 2G mobile networks based on circuit switching, the capacities and
advantages stemming from the introduction of data services, and their
role as the first approach to 3G services.
Alberto Montilla Bravo
Additional Information: This article is part of the
material prepared by the tutor of the distance learning course:
"Service development for mobile telephony 2.5 G and 3G", that will
be provided by the Node of the Center of Excellence of the
International Telecommunication Union,
CONATEL Venezuela. This course will take place from September 19
to October 21, 2005. OAS/CITEL and the
Center of Excellence of the ITU have provided 18 fellowships to
participate in this course.