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Smartphones in 2G mode emit significantly more than in 3G and 4G

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Jun13,2024

Smartphones in 2G mode emit much more than in 3G and 4G

It is not surprising, but the transition from 2G to 3G cellular networks made it possible to reduce the radiation power of the transmitter in the smartphone by almost an order of magnitude! And with the new standard, we got high-speed Internet and better voice calls. Let's figure it out together: why phones in modern standards work with less power.

How much is possible?

To start with some numbers. In a cellular network, the maximum possible radiation power for a phone is determined by its class. For the second generation GSM standard, this range is quite wide: from hundreds of milliwatts to 20 watts. But most devices can emit up to 2 W – it's class 4 for 900MHz and 1W – for 1800 MHz (class 1).

Smartphones in 2G mode emit much more than in 3G and 4G

In 3G and 4G networks, the range of permitted power for terminals is much more modest and 2 W – this is the limit. And most smartphones belong to class 3 and can work at a maximum of 0.25 W. In 4G networks, the radiation classes are similar to those in 3G. As you can see, the difference between 2G and more modern standards – 4-8 times.

Smartphones in 2G mode emit significantly more than in 3G and 4G

What made it possible to reduce the radiation power for smartphones so much?

First of all – this is a fundamentally different approach to the distribution of frequency resources between subscribers. The networks of the second generation worked extremely inefficiently. Only a small part of the spectrum available to the operator was allocated for each cell phone and telephone. In 3G, every station and smartphone uses the entire spectrum on every station and desktop. This made it possible to increase the spectral efficiency by 12 times! In many respects, due to this, high-speed Internet appeared in cellular networks.

But such a revolutionary approach to the construction of a radio interface between cellular stations and telephones imposed a very strict limitation on the latter. Each terminal in the 3G/4G network should work at the minimum possible power so that the signal from it is heard only by 1-2 nearby stations.

If the phones work at the maximum, as in 2G, then the system will be filled with many signals from different devices and no one will “hear” each other. It will be like the noise in the school corridor during recess. For effective data transfer, it should be quiet like in a classroom during the lesson.

Therefore, most of the time smartphones on 3G/4G networks are learning with power much lower than 0.25W. Usually on average – it is several tens of milliwatts. On the other hand, 2G phones are not shy and work at their maximum – in 2 W from the very beginning of the connection, until the cellular station “puts out its fire”, commanding to reduce the power to acceptable (sufficient) values.

Closer to the station &ndash ; higher speed, and it is not necessary to shout

Another reason for less radiation from phones in 3G/4G networks – this is a reduction in the range of cellular stations. The task of 2G networks was to provide the coverage of the operator as large an area as possible with a minimum number of stations. Greater capacity, if needed, is achieved by adding transmitters (narrow channels).

But 3G/4G stations, whose main service is high-speed Internet access and which work on the same frequency, can no longer work with high power over long distances. What is further from the station – then the quality of data transmission will be worse.

In addition, the number of smartphones has increased significantly in recent years. To ensure sufficient network capacity, stations should be installed more often. And smartphones no longer need the ability to transmit a signal to distant cellular towers 20-30 km away.

That is why such a paradox has developed in cellular networks: that a higher data transmission speed – the lower radiation power of smartphones. Faster speed is needed: a smartphone should be smarter, not stronger.

Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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