4G vs. LTE: What is the difference and why does it matter?
In this guide, we will outline the difference between 4G and LTE, so you can make an educated decision about a future cell phone signal booster or smartphone purchase. Today, most cellular carriers offer 4G network connectivity, and some areas are compatible with the faster 4G LTE network as well. To a casual observer, 4G and 4G LTE may seem like the same term, but they are actually different technologies.
What is 4G?
In March 2008, the ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) released new standards for 4G ("Fourth Generation") connectivity, including faster connection speeds and mobile hotspots. These standards were groundbreaking at the time, and it took years for the nation's cellular networks to catch up with the technology. Today, most of the 3G networks have been upgraded to 4G speeds, and the average smartphone can take advantage of 4G connectivity.
Unlike 3G, 4G allows users to fully enjoy digital media on their mobile devices, including streaming video, rich multimedia apps, and high-quality music. Users can start watching a movie in seconds, without worrying about long load times and buffering. When 4G was first introduced, it was more of a hypothetical target for tech developers, and most carriers didn't support the new network to its full potential. Today, 4G is the new standard, unless you're in a dead zone where 3G is the only available option.
What is 4G LTE?
Short for “Long Term Evolution”, 4G LTE is similar to the "S" series of iPhones. It is an improvement over its predecessor, but not substantial enough to qualify as a new generation. Think of 4G LTE as "3G S". It is a clever workaround that allows cellular networks to advertise 4G speeds, without reaching the minimum standards set by the ITU-R.
While 4G LTE is a major improvement over 3G speeds, it is technically not 4G. However, most cellular carriers now advertise their networks as 4G LTE, because it sounds the same as 4G (or even better). In some cases, your phone may even display 4G LTE-A (Long Term Evolution Advanced), which is even closer to proper 4G. This is the cutting edge of consumer cell phone technology.
4G vs. LTE.
In laymans terms, the difference between 4G and LTE is that 4G is faster than LTE. The reason for this is that 4G meets the technical standards designated for it whereas LTE data transfer speed standard is merely a stopgap measure standard devised until actual 4G speed is realized.
Can the average consumer tell the difference between 4G and LTE? In most cases, the download speed is comparable unless you reside in a major city. As cellular carriers continue to update their LTE networks, they have closed the gap between LTE and "real 4G". This is especially true with LTE-A, which is currently the fastest option available.
To take full advantage of 4G, you will need a smartphone or tablet with full 4G support (not just LTE). Older LTE mobile devices launched right prior to 4G deployment cannot provide 4G speeds because they aren't built to handle it. In 2020, all cellular carriers should now offer 4G service, if not offering 5G already. We recommend visiting a carrier's retail location and asking about their local coverage before making an investment in a new smartphone or signal booster for your workplace.
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