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Thursday, December 27, 2018

What is 4G LTE? Meaning and differences explained

What is 4G LTE? Meaning and differences explained

4G LTE, or fourth-generation long term evolution, sometimes is referred to as “the gold standard of wireless technology,” thanks to its ability to deliver both speed and power in more places of the world. Specifically, 4G stands for the fourth generation of data technology for cellular networks, as defined by the radio sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R). 4G follows 3G, or the third generation.
In March 2008, the ITU-R set standards for 4G connectivity, stating that all 4G services must adhere to a specified set of speed and connection standards. Connection speeds for mobile use must have a peak of at least 100 megabits/second while mobile hotspots must have at least 1 gigabit/second.
LTE means Long Term Evolution, or the highly technical process involved in high-speed data for smartphones and mobile devices, which most of us think of as wireless broadband speeds that meet our increasing wireless demands. LTE came about because the 4G standards set forth were a bit far reaching; in other words, the existing technology could not live up to the 4G standards, so the ITU-R agreed that the term LTE could be given to the technology that is put in place as networks pursue the 4G standards. Today, 4G LTE is the fastest connection available for wireless networks.
Challenges of 4G LTE
4G LTE is noticeably faster than 3G. However, for people not living in major metropolitan areas, it can be difficult to receive 4G LTE service. And, while some networks offer LTE and others are new 4G networks, users won’t necessarily notice a difference in upload or download speeds between the two.
Regardless of the network offering LTE or 4G services, they must package and send data so that all network points can interpret it. Older networks utilize circuit-switching technology, which establishes a connection directly to the target through the network so the entire connection occurs through that connection. That’s why users of older networks that utilize only circuit-switching technologies must reconnect if a call drops. On the other hand, newer networks utilize packet-switching technology that takes advantage of a greater number of connected points around the world. Packet-switching networks break up information into small chunks and send them along the most efficient path, so when a node drops out, the packet finds an alternate route and users don’t suffer dropped calls.
To solve the circuit-switching versus packet-switching challenge with 4G LTE, mobile carriers are using a combination of the two network types. Voice networks traditionally used circuit-switching technology. They do this by allowing the phone to rely on circuit-switching standards for calls, but to use packet-switching communication for data.
Advantages of 4G LTE 
4G LTE is the most advanced network when referring to speed. 4G LTE networks can download data anywhere from 5 to 12 megabits per second, which allows for smooth streaming of live video and better response times for multiplayer online games. When 4G LTE networks are optimized, users stream music and video, upload and download content, and more on their smartphones and tablets as quickly as they do with at-home broadband connections. It’s important to keep in mind that the 4G LTE speeds are achieved when the carrier and coverage area are optimized.
Because of 4G LTE’s speed, application developers have created better mobile user experiences for everything from gaming and socializing to shopping and watching videos. Live video chats are the norm with 4G LTE, and people are using their mobile devices more now than ever before, thanks to the speed delivered by 4G LTE. In fact, some of the latest data shows that mobile digital media time in the United Sates is now at 51%, compared to desktop at 42%. Additionally, 80% of smartphone owners use their phone to conduct Internet searches. As 4G LTE becomes even faster, more users are taking advantage of the speed and using their smartphones for far more than talking.
4G LTE is improving people’s lives. As carriers continue to work to improve 4G LTE, we can only imagine what lies ahead for mobile users.

What is the difference between 4G and 4G LTE?

Definitions of 4G and 4G LTE
4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technology. 4G was made to replace 3G and it offers a connection that is more reliable and delivers much higher speeds. Specifically, 4G LTE means “fourth-generation long term evolution,” with LTE being a type of 4G that delivers the fastest connection for a mobile internet experience – up to 10 times faster than 3G. Many people use the terms 4G and 4G LTE interchangeably, but they are not the same.

Features of 4G

4G is the next step above and the replacement for 3G, offering faster speeds for users who stream media (such as videos or MP3s), browse the Internet, and download data. The speed of 4G means less buffering for the user, often none at all, making it the ideal for users who take advantage of the many features today’s smartphones and tablets offer.
When 4G was first introduced, and even when it started to become widely available, many networks weren’t up to the speed of 4G. However some carriers sold 4G-compatible phones, even though customers weren’t truly getting 4G unless they were in an area covered by a 4G network. Most places offer 4G now, but when users with 4G devices are in areas offering only 3G, smartphones and other devices will switch over to 3G. If this happens you won’t have any talk/voice issues, you will just have slower Internet and downloading speeds.

Features of 4G LTE 

4G LTE is a type of 4G technology, and it delivers the best performance and speeds available today. If you use a lot of data each month or rely on your smartphone or tablet to browse the Internet, 4G LTE is usually the best choice. 4G LTE is about ten times faster than the older 3G technology, so the difference in speed is often quite noticeable when users switch from 3G to 4G LTE.
The speed does depend on the strength of your signal and the network load. 4G LTE networks are so fast that when using one on your phone, your Internet experience is about as good as it is on a home computer connected to a modern wireless broadband network.

Challenges of Using 4G and 4G LTE

When comparing the two, one challenge of using 4G and 4G LTE – if you’re currently using 3G – is that you will probably need to purchase a new smartphone with 4G capabilities. 3G devices simply cannot provide the 4G experience. You must also be in an area that offers a 4G network. If you want to use 4G LTE, your mobile device must support it, and you must be in an area that delivers 4G LTE service.
Another challenge is choosing a cell phone carrier that offers 4G or 4G LTE service. 4G is offered in most areas now, but 4G LTE may not be available. That’s why it’s important to check your carrier’s coverage map. If experiencing 4G LTE is something that matters to you, you will want to find a carrier that offers the most 4G LTE coverage.

Choosing 4G or 4G LTE

Choosing 4G or 4G LTE comes down to what speeds you require or prefer. If you need or want the fastest speeds available, you will want to buy a smartphone that supports 4G LTE. In addition, you will want to check the coverage maps for different carriers to see who offers 4G LTE in the most areas, or at least the areas where you spend the most time such as your home and workplace. It’s also a good idea to visit a wireless retail location to test the different network speeds yourself. You will find a noticeable difference between 3G, 4G, and 4G LTE.
When 3G networks started rolling out, they replaced the 2G system, a network protocol that only allowed the most basic of what we would now call smartphone functionality. Most 2G networks handled phone calls, basic text messaging, and small amounts of data over a protocol called MMS. With the introduction of 3G connectivity, a number of larger data formats became much more accessible, including standard HTML pages, videos, and music. The speeds were still pretty slow, and mostly required pages and data specially formatted for these slower wireless connections. By 2G standards, the new protocol was speedy, but still didn’t come anywhere close to replacing a home broadband connection.


The ITU-R set standards for 4G connectivity in March 2008, requiring all services described as 4G to adhere to a set of speed and connection standards. For mobile use, including smartphones and tablets, connection speeds need to have a peak of at least 100 megabits per second, and for more stationary uses such as mobile hot spots, at least 1 gigabit per second.
When these standards were announced, these speeds were unheard of in the practical world, because they were intended as a target for technology developers, a point in the future that marked a significant jump over the current technology. Over time, the systems that power these networks have caught up, not just in the sense that new broadcasting methods have found their way into products, but the previously established 3G networks have been improved to the point that they can be classified as 4G.


LTE stands for Long-term Evolution, and isn’t as much a technology as it is the path followed to achieve 4G speeds. As it stands, most of the time when your phone displays the “4G” symbol in the upper right corner, it doesn’t really mean it. When the ITU-R set the minimum speeds for 4G, they were a bit unreachable, despite the amount of money tech manufacturers put into achieving them. In response, the regulating body decided that LTE, the name given to the technology used in pursuit of those standards, could be labeled as 4G if it provided a substantial improvement over the 3G technology.
Immediately networks began advertising their connections as 4G LTE, a marketing technique that allowed them to claim next-gen connectivity without having to reach the actual required number first. (It would be like the U.S. claiming they had landed on the moon because they got pretty close and the spaceship that got them there was a lot better than the previous ship.) It’s not entirely trickery though, despite inconsistent speeds depending on location and network, the difference between 3G and 4G is immediately noticeable.
To make matters more confusing, you’ll also likely come across LTE-A at some point. This stands for Long-term Evolution Advanced, and it takes us a step closer to proper 4G. It offers faster speeds and greater stability than normal LTE. It’s also backward compatible and works by aggregating channels, so instead of connecting to the strongest signal in your vicinity, you can download data from multiple sources at the same time.


So the real question is, can you feel a difference between 4G and LTE networks? Is the speed of loading a page or downloading an app on your handheld device a lot faster if you have LTE technology built in? Probably not, unless you live in a city. While the difference between slower 3G networks and new 4G or LTE networks is certainly very noticeable, many of the 4G and “true 4G” networks have upload and download speeds that are almost identical. The rollout of LTE-A is starting to make a difference, but your mileage may vary. For now, LTE-A is the fastest connection available for wireless networks.


Creating 4G connectivity requires two components: A network that can support the necessary speeds, and a device that is able to connect to that network and download information at high enough speed. Just because a phone has 4G LTE connectivity inside doesn’t mean you can get the speeds you want, in the same way that buying a car that can drive 200 mph doesn’t mean you can go that fast on a 55-mph freeway.
Google Pixel XL|  What is 4G LTE? Meaning and differences explained
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends
Before carriers were able to truly offer LTE speeds in major areas, they were selling phones that had the capabilities they would need to reach the desired speeds, and they started rolling out the service on a limited scale afterward. Now that LTE service is fairly widespread, this isn’t as much of a problem, but if you don’t live in a major metropolitan area it’s worth checking to make sure you actually need LTE service where you live and work. With the rise in popularity, it’s uncommon for a provider to charge less if you aren’t utilizing the LTE speeds on a regular basis, but you can save money by picking up an older generation smartphone with only 3G or 4G connectivity.


No matter what the data is or how fast it’s being transferred, it needs to be packaged and sent so that other points on the network can interpret it. Older networks use circuit-switching technology, a term that refers to the method of communicating. In a circuit-switching system, a connection is established directly to the target through the network, and the entirety of the connection, whether it’s a phone call or a file transfer, happens through that connection.
The advantages of a circuit-switched network include a faster connection time and less chance of the connection dropping. Newer networks take advantage of packet-switching technology, a modern protocol that takes advantage of the much larger number of connected points across the globe. In a packet-switching network, your information is broken up into small chunks which are then sent to your destination over whatever path is currently the most efficient. If a node drops out of your connection in the circuit-switching networks, you’ll have to reconnect, but in a packet-switching network, the next packet will simply hunt for a different path.
A lot of the technology used to create 4G speeds doesn’t have anything to do with voice communication. Because voice networks still use circuit-switching technology, it became necessary to reconcile the difference between older and newer network structures. A few different methods have been enacted that deal with the issue, and most carriers chose to deploy one of two options that preserved their control over the minutes used.
They do this by either allowing the phone to fall back to circuit-switching standards when used to make or receive a call, or by using packet-switching communication for data and circuit-switching for voice at the same time. The third option is to simply run the voice audio as data over the new LTE networks, a method that most companies avoided for a while, most likely because it takes away their power to easily charge for voice minutes. Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is basically what happens already when you make a Skype call or a Facetime Audio connection to another user, with higher-resolution audio and faster connection speeds. Both VoLTE and Wi-Fi calling are growing more popular now.


Carriers are already testing the fifth generation of mobile broadband connectivity, 5G, but there’s a lot still to work out, even though phone manufacturers are already talking about 5G-capable devices. There’s plenty of hype, but no agreed-upon standard as yet, and we’re not likely to see 5G starting to roll out until at least 2020. Judging by what has happened with 4G, it could also be several years beyond that before it’s widely available. You can keep an eye on our guide to 5G to stay abreast of the latest developments.

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