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How 4G Internet Has Changed People’s Relationship With Digital Media

The internet has changed how we do things by revolutionizing communications. Nowadays, the internet provides a medium of communication that is the most preferred. Everyday activities like reading a newspaper can be done online. In the past, if one wanted to read a newspaper, they would have to find a newsstand and buy a newspaper edition with news of what happened yesterday. The internet has changed that as one can access news items worldwide as they happen with a click or two. Nevertheless, the internet itself has undergone massive changes. In the beginning, it was a static network designed to send small amounts of data. Nowadays, large amounts of data can be sent over the internet, and people can create, commentate and publish their contents. That development can be attributed to 4G internet. As the internet-related activities grew, the 3G and 2G networks could not keep up. The 4G network has revolutionized internet service by changing the speed of data and voice transmission. As a result, 4G changed how people relate to digital media. This paper shows how the 4G network has changed people’s relationship with digital media concentrating on the period before and after the introduction of the service.

Digital Media Before 4G Internet

Before the introduction of the 4G network in 2009, people used 3G, 2G, and 1G networks for their digital media and communication. According to Attaran (2021), 1G, or the first-generation network, was introduced in 1981. 1G was analog-based, utilizing a technology referred to as Advanced Mobile Phone System (AMPS). Users were required to enable transmission by pressing a button and disconnect by releasing the button (Bhandari et al., 2017). Notably, the 1G network divided cellular networks into geographical areas, with cells distributed into each cellular network area. Bhandari et al. (2017) note that 1G had speeds of 2.4kbps and a channel capacity of 30KHz. However, the 1G network faced significant challenges, mainly security issues as a person could listen into conversations. Also, the 1G network was unreliable and allowed only voice calls to be made (Attaran, 2021). In addition, the 1G network did not allow interoperability between countries because of its low capacity. Then came the 2G network, which used the GSM standard and digital transmissions, unlike its predecessor 1G network.

Introduced in the 1980s, the 2G network was founded on digital signaling technology. It had significant advantages over the 1G network mainly; it was digitally encrypted and introduced services such as text messaging (Attaran, 2021). Attaran (2020) notes that 2G offered a network capacity of between 30KHz and 200KHz with speeds of 64 kbps. However, 2G did not have internet capabilities and did not support devices with data capabilities. Nevertheless, 2G was improved with different countries making different adjustments that led to this improvement (Bhandari et al., 2017). For instance, 2.5G was introduced, which had speeds of 144kbps and made it possible to receive and send emails, Multimedia Messaging Services (MMS), and even access the internet. Attaran (2021) notes that 2.5G provides services such as SMS mobile games, Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), and search directories. Therefore, 2G improved the 1G network, allowing faster, secure, and clear transmission of data and information (Doust, 2020). The improvements such as 2.5G introduced internet capabilities and increased transmission speeds. For example, the 2G network could transfer a 40 KB text file in 2 to 6 seconds. However, the 2G network was too basic and did not revolutionize digital media.

Nevertheless, the third generation network (3G) changed how people viewed communication and digital media. With the arrival of 3G in the 2000s, digital devices were no longer restricted to voice calls but also encompassed social connectivity (Doust, 2020). 3G aimed to increase internet speed and initially supported speeds of up to 14 Mbps. Compared to 2G, 3G was fast as it took between 11 and 90 seconds to download a 3-minute Mp3 song (Bhandari et al., 2017). On the 2G network, downloading the same file would take between 6 to 9 minutes. Therefore, 3G enabled users to transfer vast amounts of data at even higher speeds. It also allowed users to browse the web, make video calls, watch online TV, play games online, and share files (Bhandari et al., 2017). As a result, 3G popularized streaming and made portability between different devices and universal access possible. This includes digital devices such as Personal Digital Assistants (PDA) and telephones. Like 2G, 3G was also improved and saw the introduction of 3.5G in 2006. 3.5G supported was designed to meet the increasing demands for higher speeds and throughput (Attaran, 2021). Although 3G changed how people relate to digital media, the speeds were not satisfactory, and another generation of network was needed.

Before introducing the 4G network, 3G, 2G and 1G network were in use although 4G directly replaced the 3G network. In short, 1G brought the first phones, 2G introduced texting, and 3G introduced online services (Mutabazi, 2019). Nonetheless, the 3G network was introduced to augment the success of 2G, which heralded demand for online information on the internet (Sharman, 2020). Digital media in the 2G era was restricted to text messages, voice calls, MMS, and emails (Attaran, 2021). On the other hand, 2G could not handle videos or other complex types of data. Although 2G was revolutionary at the time, it prompted the development of a network with improved speeds and data connectivity (Mutabazi, 2019). Then came the 3G network, which enhanced the quality of streaming. It improved and revolutionized people’s relationships with digital media. For instance, 3G introduced video conferencing and changed the way digital media devices were made, such as the introduction of smartphones (Mutabazi, 2019). 3G also had better connectivity and therefore increased data services attracting more customers to browse the internet. It also led to improved and widespread use of smartphones as they became smaller with enhanced battery life (Sharman, 2020). However, 3G had poor quality streams and did not guarantee secure data transmission. As the internet and digital media continued to grow, the 3G network became insufficient.

Digital Media After the Introduction of the 4G Network

When 4G was introduced, it brought the relationship between digital media and the user to a new chapter. Notably, 4G resulted in improvements in digital devices such as smartphones and other handheld devices. 4G is based on Long Term Evolution Technology (LTE) and offers speeds between 1 Gbps and 10 Mbps (Doust, 2020). Doust (2020) observes that 4G has significant advantages over the 3G network, such as better latency which translates to less buffering, social media and instant messaging services, improvements in quality of voice, faster download speeds, and higher quality streaming services. A significant drawback of 3G was interoperability was difficult where the different variants of the 3G network were to be found (Sharman, 2020). 4G addressed this by making it possible to connect to the internet even while on the move. Sharman (2020) notes that 4G provides efficient communication and faster network response compared with the older generation networks. It also delivers higher bandwidth and higher latency, which reduces buffering and has a huge network capacity. Therefore, 4G offers better services such as high quality sound and video and more complex volumes of information. This has revolutionized digital devices and how people relate to digital media.

Furthermore, 4G changed how people relate with digital media because it revolutionized streaming. According to Ibrahim and Khamiss (2019), although 3G introduced streaming, it offered buffering live streams or slow video loading and downloads. Sharman (2020) describes this scenario in the following words, “instead of watching, one was forced to wait.” However, 4G introduced new and improved speeds of theoretically between 1 Gbps and 10 Mbps (Doust, 2020). This meant that a person could watch a full-length movie or watch live television since 4G made the experience of connecting to cloud storage or gaming servers seamless. Ibrahim and Khamiss (2019) note that this forced digital media creators to change their ways of producing digital media as streaming became popular with many people. To exploit the potential of the growing streaming industry, digital media creators started making media that could be viewed on smartphones and other mobile devices (Ibrahim & Khamiss, 2019). For example, digital media such as movies had to look appealing and suitable for the smaller smartphone screens. Applications such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video emerged, which meant that people could easily access videos on their phones. This made videos and other digital media easily accessible to everyone with a smartphone. Before 4G, people watched videos on Compacts Disc (CD) and Digitally Versatile Disc, or slow and buffering plagued live streams (Ibrahim & Khamiss, 2019). Thereby, the shift to 4G revolutionized how people relate to digital media as it made streaming easier and possible because of high speeds and low latency.

In addition, 4G revolutionized how people relate to digital media as it formed the basis of the smartphone revolution. Sharman (2020) states that the shift to 4G implied lower latency, faster speeds, and more bandwidth. This changed people’s mentality and relationship with digital media as apps were made to cover everyday life. Sharman (2020) notes that digital media creators were inspired by the advantages of 4G to create applications that have become a part of everyday life. Notably, digital media creators made social media applications, video-streaming applications, and e-commerce applications that changed our relationship with digital media. For instance, Apple created the FaceTime application due to the introduction of the 4G network (Doust, 2020). It was followed by applications such as Uber, CityMapper, TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram. These applications allowed people to share videos, audio, images, games, and other forms of digital media with family, friends, and even strangers (Sharman, 2020). Thereby, 4G introduced new ways of consuming online content. It introduced applications such as Instagram, where people could share their everyday life. This then changed how people consumed and related to digital media.

Then, the 4G internet was an essential phase in the smartphone revolution. According to Gillenwater (2017), the first generation phones were large, heavy, and ugly and were often referred to as car phones as they required a car to carry them around. Also, calls were made from the car as it was challenging to carry the heavy phones around. In addition, the phone batteries were also unreliable, and so was connectivity (Gillenwater, 2017). Although that changed with the advent of the 3G network, 4G was another critical phase in the smartphone revolution. Now, instead of talking in your car, one can talk to their car thanks to the advent of a new 4G-inspired concept known as the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT and other technologies have changed how people relate to digital media. For instance, cable television boxes are connected to the internet, and users can control them over the internet (Attaran, 2021). 4G has made this possible, and many electronic devices have been connected to the internet. According to Attaran (2021), people can now communicate with their fridges, water their gardens using their phones, and defrost their cars from their houses. This has changed how people used to relate to electronic devices and revolutionized their relationship with digital media.

Also, 4G changed how people relate to digital media as it introduced higher speeds, more bandwidth, and lower latency, transforming the internet from a hobby to a daily routine. According to Attaran (2021), the 4G revolution introduced digital life in the homes of Americans and many people in developed countries. Sharman (2020) notes that with 4G, people now walk around and use at least one digital device for their communication, at work, out shopping, at dinner, and even when commuting. At home, many people stream shows, surf the internet, play online video games, post videos and pictures on social media, or interact with digital devices. People can talk to a virtual digital assistant such as Apple’s Siri or Amazon’s Alexa and receive weather forecasts or traffic updates (Sharman, 2020). In essence, 4G introduced new standards that defined our relationship with digital media. The internet was no longer a luxury; instead, it became a necessity. As a result, people’s relationship with digital media has undergone radical shifts. Due to 4G, mobile phones and other digital devices have changed from tools used primarily for communication to complex devices vital to our daily lives (Gillenwater, 2017). Therefore, 4G has revolutionized how people relate to digital media by making the internet a crucial part of our daily lives.

In conclusion, the 4G network has revolutionized how people relate to digital media. Before the advent of the 4G network, there were 1G, 2G, and 3G networks. 1G network was based on analog systems and led to the introduction of the first phones. However, it only supported voice calls and had security issues. Then came the 2G network, which was based on digital systems and led to the introduction of text and multimedia messages. Later variants of 2G supported internet capability. However, 2G was replaced by 3G mainly as it sought to augment the success of the 2G network. Nevertheless, 3G introduced new communication concepts and made the internet widely available. However, 3G could not keep up with the increasing smartphone innovations, which soon became inadequate and inefficient. Therefore, 4G was launched, completely changing people’s relationship with digital media. 4G had better speeds of up to 1Gbps, lower latency, and more bandwidth. As a result, it changed people’s lives, transforming the internet from a hobby to an everyday routine. 4G also led to the smartphone revolution as applications brought digital media closer to daily lives for most people.


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