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The Difference Between 4G and LTE

Sep 17, 2019

The Difference Between 4G and LTE

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.

Our experts want to help you achieve the best cellular coverage possible. Try our risk free cell phone boosters today, with a 60-day money-back guarantee.


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16 comments

  • First and foremost, I always thought that LTE was the next step above 4G (3G, 4G, LTE, 5G). After reading this article and some of the comments, I turned off LTE on my phone and noticed more bars. However, I later realized that I needed to turn on LTE in order to use FaceTime and to have a faster experience via the Internet. It seems LTE is an enhancer for 4G. Am I correct?

    I also noticed an E in certain areas when I had LTE shut off. Will this status (E) ever be put to rest? Does it just enable cellular use as opposed to data? I couldn’t use FaceTime during that time.

    Tee on
  • I do not understand everything about 4G, 4G LTE, LTE AND 5G. But what I do know is that when my T. V. will not connect to my dish, my phone only has one bar and I cannot download anything over the internet and my Wi-Fi will not connect to my iPhone or iPad standing next to the modem it is NOT ATT’s fault it is something I did !

    Loyd Pendley on
  • Then am confused how a an iPhone 7 can have 4G yet my iPhone 7plus has LTE.. is there any I can upgrade?

    Kizito Elias on
  • I think I’m being had! I’m with U.S. Cellular and was told I was in a 4G area. My speed, with a booster, goes from 1X to 3G. The last week or so has been so bad, I can hardly download and connect with the U. S. Cellular site! I’m sure somehow this too will be blamed on the Corona Virus! I’m paying for 4 phones with unlimited data and can’t even download data from my cellphone carrier! If this wasn’t so frustrating, it would be comical!

    Janet Lankford on
  • AT&T diminishes daily with its promises. Ever increasing cost to ever decreasing delivery. Truth be told 3G is the best it gets no matter what they say about 4G, LTE, 5G etc. The struggle is real as to “keep it” or go to Tracphone.

    DJ Pow on
  • I am really irate, because of legalities involved with cellular providers, and when will they be accountable for their fraudulent billing, false advertising like AT&T stating they launched 5G first in 2018?
    Changing plans increasing your monthly bill, with no prior advertisements, assigning corporate accts with VOLTE on my cellphone not ever related to any corporation. Billing me for several lines
    Charging me for Access ton 4G LTE VVM and I have never received 4G or VVM . I AM CONSTANTLY GETTING dropped? Everyday my caller o says im fading in and out. The call being dropped are happening at home or away. The Manager of AT&T in Palm desert said she couldn’t handle speaking with me anymore she thought it was my S8+ than we realized it wasn’t.
    I have been going through this since I signed on with AT&T. They need to be accountable and start to compensate for their brutal negligence of 4G LTE VOLTE ISP they are technically inept,

    Trudy on
  • Ditto on not knowing till research…. Walmart changed my coverage from 4 to LTE and now I know why I’m dropping and hard to get into games vs last week ..
    Just like Facebook…. change with no obvious explanation… Only find out with the glitches ((((

    Duane Thornton on
  • How can we know if our phones have 4G or LTE. Where do we find that info? From the phone carrier, or the phone itself?

    Jim Barnhart on
  • Why is it that when I turn off LTE on my iPhone XS Max I get three bars signal at my home, whereas when LTE is enabled I get two bars signal.

    Kingsleyo on
  • I have an AT&T XS iPhone. It has ability to turn LTE off. When I do that, the phone displays 4G not LTE. The speed difference is dramatic. LTE is between 65 and 77Mbps download and 4G is 8 or so. I’m thinking that ‘4G’ displayed is really ‘3G’ in reality.

    Loboc on
  • 4G LTE just means that it’s almost as fast as 4G. 4G is FASTER and BETTER than 4G LTE is the bottom line. You want 4G over 4G LTE!

    John Brebeuf Garcia on
  • IYES, MY HEAD IS READY TO EXPLODE WITH ALL THESE NEW TECHNOLOGICAL WONDERS. ANYONE ELSE FEEL THE SAME? It’s annoying for me too. I remember the days when phones were just phones (and text) and your biggest concern was not getting stuck with roaming charges. Unfortunately, the design of cell phones has changed. The older phones had external antennas which made for better reception. Also, there are many more people using cell phones so there’s congestion involved, especially if you go somewhere busy like a ball game or concert. Throw in factors like weather and building materials to the mix and you have a lot of interference with your cell phone. There are things you can do to get a better signal besides upgrading from 3G to 4G (or 5G soon), worrying about what 4G speed means, or what is more advantageous, lte or 4G.

    Mickey Orleans on
  • My question is, what is LTE? LTE versus wifi. 3G. 4G. 5G. Oy vey. Can someone just build a cell phone where I can make calls and hear the person on the other line and not worry about a dropped call? I’ve been using cell phones since the late 90’s and while their abilities expand, the call quality remains garbage. Actually, I used to have better calls with my old clam shell phones. What is it with modern phones? Why can’t I enjoy a clear call every time I reach out and touch someone?

    Darren Greenfield on
  • 4G LTE phones have been around long enough that I knew 5G was coming soon. Now that I see ads for 5G phones (it looks like Verizon is leading the charge here), it’s important for me to know exactly which is faster, LTE vs. 4G. I don’t think I’m ready to try 5G yet (although its features sure sound enticing if they work), but I do want to know what my options are until I get a 5G phone. Yes, my head is ready to explode with all these new technological wonders. Anyone else feel the same?

    George Richards on
  • I had no idea what 4G LTE speed meant compared to 4G (or LTE vs. 3G for that matter). I like when I can find out about technology from a neutral site as opposed to going to a cell phone dealer and getting a song and dance about what the terminology really means. It can be confusing trying to determine which is faster, LTE vs. 4G but I feel like I have a firm understanding of things now.

    Raymond Sallis on
  • This just goes to show you how clever marketing can fool people. I’ve never known what LTE means until I read this. I always thought 4G and LTE were the same thing. If you asked me which is faster, 4G or LTE, I’d be clueless. From what I can tell, LTE is a poor man’s 4G, not quite 4G, but enough to squeak by any legal requirements for disclosure. If I wanted to buy a cell phone booster, I’d be wasting my money if I didn’t know the difference. I’ll have to check my phone because I don’t know if I own a 4G or an LTE. I owe whoever wrote this a cup of coffee and a donut.

    Helena Cross on

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