What is 3G, 4G, and LTE – and Why Does It Matter?

For smartphone and tablet owners terms like 3G, 4G and LTE will sound familiar but many of them do not4GLTE know exactly what they are. If you want to get the best internet experience on your mobile device, it is important to understand the network options offered by telecommunication providers. When you sign up for a service plan for your smartphone, you will get a set amount of calls, texts and data usage. Connecting to the mobile phone provider’s network will enable you to visit your favourite websites, send emails and access many apps that require data exchange across the network.

3G (Third generation), 4G (Fourth generation) and LTE (Long Term Evolution) are the data networks that you most likely will hear about when you get a data plan for your smartphone. What sets them apart from each other is their speed and the data network that you will be able to use in your smartphone will be determined by its model. For instance, most older smartphones would only work with 3G. If you want to get optimum speed, you will need to choose a model of smartphone that supports the latest data network technology. Knowing how the different types of data networks work is crucial to ensure that you get the best out of your device.

Main aspects of 3G Network

Even though 3G was not the first data network technology available for smartphones, it was the first one that was truly capable of offering the speed required to support data. Prior to 3G, some devices worked with 2G EDGE technology but the data took too long to load due to the poor speeds that this network offered. Compared to 2.5G and earlier networks, 3G provides a higher data speed and better audio and video streaming quality. In the United States, GSM (Global System for Mobiles) and CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) are the main 3G technologies in use. T-Mobile and AT&T are GSM mobile phone carriers, while Verizon and Sprint use CDMA. The fact that GSM and CDMA are incompatible means that you would not be able to use a phone from T-Mobile on Sprint’s network or the other way around.

4G is the next step in wireless network technology is 4G, which offers considerably higher data speeds than 3G. It is important to take into consideration that there is more than one version of this technology and you will come across both 4G and 4G LTE, which some consider as the actual 4G technology. When phone carriers refer to 4G without any indication of LTE, most likely they are offering a HSPA or High Speed Packet Access network, which is simply a 3G GSM Network with enhanced speed. This 4G would be considerably faster than a standard 3G but would not achieve the speed levels of LTE. Since LTE networks are still on expansion, coverage is limited and the companies that claim to support 4G across the US, are probably referring to HSPA.

LTE or true 4G, could offer significant speed improvements over 3G but this depends on network load and signal strength. Even under the least favourable conditions, LTE is guaranteed to be faster than 3G and it works well with apps and tasks that require a lot of data capacity. A faster internet connection enables maps to be updated constantly, which makes LTE (4G) ideal for mapping apps. It also offers a better experience with music apps as radio stations load in only a few of seconds and video streaming is also improved thanks to a solid signal and fast download speeds. With LTE, you can share files on social media websites and send them as email attachments without major delays.

In summary, using a LTE network will allows you to enjoy the best internet browsing experience without requiring a Wi-Fi connection as you would be able to download, install and use the apps you want, even those that consume a large amount of data. With LTE you can share your internet connection with other Wi-Fi enabled devices around (tethering) with such a good speed that you would be able to use up to five devices (including laptops and tablets) supported with the same connection at the same time. In order to enjoy all the benefits of the most advanced wireless network, make sure that the smartphone that you choose supports LTE.

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