Smartphone owners are likely to be familiar with terms such as 3G, 4G and LTE, since mobile carriers are usually referring to them when they advertise their networks. However, it is not easy to understand the way in which providers can make their claims about the capacity of their networks. It is important to make sure that you know the difference between 3G, 4G and LTEbefore you purchase a new phone because the kind of data network will have an impact on its performance. If you sign up for a service plan, there is a specific amount of data usage and calling minutes defined.
When you connect to the mobile provider’s network, your smartphone can connect to the internet to access apps and services, and to browse the internet. The terms 3G, 4G and LTE are widely used to refer to data network technology. The oldest technology is 3G, 4G is the fourth generation data network, while LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. The main difference between them is the speed of the network. When you are buying a smartphone, it is important to keep in mind that the latest data network technology may not be supported by older models. In order to select the right smartphone for you, the model and the type of data that it supports should be considered.
The 3G network was the first solution that provided enough speed to support a good browsing experience on a mobile device. Before 3G, there were smartphones using 2G EDGE, an older technology that didn’t offer fast performance, which left users waiting for ages for the data to be loaded. The main mobile providers in the United States have 3G networks that offer nationwide coverage. At the moment, the major competitors in the world of 3G are Global System Mobile (GSM) and Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA). T-Mobile and AT&T rely on GSM, while CDMA technology is used by Sprint and Verizon. These different 3G technologies don’t work well together, which is why you can’t use a Verizon phone on a T-Mobile network.
4G and LTE
3G has been followed by 4G and while it is generally faster, it is important to keep in mind that there are different versions of this technology and most provider are still working on these networks. It should be noted that there are 4G and 4G LTE and in general, when a provider states that it has a 4G network and doesn’t refer to LTE, it is likely that they are taling about Speed Packet Access or HSPA network. This kind of network is considerably faster than a 3G network, but given that LTE is still new, cellular carriers have not completely develop their network.
The HSPA network is slower than an LTE network, but it provides better speed than 3G. In essence, it is a faster version of the 3G GSM network. You may see that some companies state that they offer broad 4G coverage across the world. However, it is likely that they are referring to HSPA coverage instead of LTE coverage. Although LTE can be up to ten times faster than 3G, the actual speed will depend on factors like signal strength and network load. If you want to watch videos or play games, LTE is the most suitable network. It is the best option for fast browsing and for activities that require a lot of data. Before getting a smartphone, make sure that it supports LTE if that is the technology that better suits your needs. For instance, the latest iPhone models (from 5s onwards) support LTE, while the iPhone 4s supports HSPA and the iPhone 4 only works with 3G networks.