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What is the Difference Between 4G vs 4G LTE?

Updated on April 4, 2016
4G means faster internet
4G means faster internet | Source

4G is replacing 3G very fast. You have probably heard many times about the terms related to it like 4G, 4G LTE, WiMax etc. It may sound difficult to understand for common non tech people. So, in this page I’ll try to make things easier for you.

4G stands for 4th Generation. The term refers to the wireless data transfer technologies faster than 3G (3rd Generation). Look, I have used “technologies” instead of “technology”. Yes, there is more than one such technology available in the market claiming to be the 4G.

What is 4G LTE

The term LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution”. LTE is not actual 4G. It is actually a marketing gimmick. LTE falls short of minimum 4G speed but comes closer to it. So, the term long term evolution is used to denote that it is going to be true 4G very soon. It was first designed by NTT DoCoMo Corporation of Japan. But it was first implemented in the Scandinavian countries of Norway and Sweden in 2009. It came to the US in the next year.

It is true that LTE is considerably faster than 3G networks. The speed of a common 3G network is 2/3 Mbps. But LTE scores at 100 Mbps. But still, it is far from the minimum required speed to be considered as real 4G.

LTE Class

LTE is an ongoing process. So, many advanced forms have been released. The LTE different classes are called categories. Category 4 claims 150 Mbps download speed, Category 5 claims 300 Mbps. The highest category till date (Cat 12) boasts a maximum speed of 600 Mbps. It is nearer to the real 4G limit.

Category 4 uses two channels for bot downloading and uploading. Cat 7 uses two channels each for download and upload. By separating downloading form uploading, categories from 7 and above have gained much speed improvement.

LTE is the Future
LTE is the Future | Source

True 4G

The network that crosses the 1Gbps constant data transfer speed is the “True 4G”. LTE Advanced is a true 4G technology. Actually, the release 10 version of the LTE-A has achieved the true 4G mark.

Another such true 4G connection is WiMax-Advanced Rel 2. It stands for “Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access”. WiMax is actually used as external 4G modems and not very suitable for Smartphone. HTC tried to make a WiMax supporting mobile Evo 4G in 2010. But later they shifted to more conventional LTE.

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Why LTE Advanced is much faster than LTE?

LTE Advanced is about 10x faster than common LTE. Such a phenomenal speed has been achieved by using multiple connections at a time. The technology is called “carrier aggregation”. It actually aggregates five LTE data channels simultaneously to get more speed. Among these five, 3 is used for download and two for upload.

As it uses the existing LTE signals, LTE Advanced is backward compatible. So, there is no need of changing existing LTE hardware. It is very cost saving and also helpful for customers who have not posses LTE-A enabled devices.

End User Difference of Speed of LTE and True 4G

As an end user, you will not probably feel much difference between LTE and True 4G. It is because our phones do not support 1Gbps download speed. The hardware limitation is there. The main problem is power. If you use a 1Gbps network, the battery will be drained too fast.

When one comes from 3G to 4G LTE, the difference is noticeable. It is because; she will experience a massive 25 – 40 x speed boost. The high definition 4K videos will render much faster, the apps will be loaded a lot quicker and overall you will feel a much better experience.

Spread of 4G in the World

LTE is now common in most of the advanced countries of the world. But LTE-Advanced or “True 4G” is not that common till date. Many operators are switching to this technology.

LTE category 11 with 600 Mbps speed is rare. China, Japan and South Korea have implemented that technology. Other countries are following suit with LTE cat 6 or 4.

United States is behind the European or East Asian countries in mobile operator speed battles. There is not an operator here with even LTE Cat. 6 speed, which is about 1/3rd of “True 4G”.

4G is the Future

4G or more specifically, LTE Advanced is the future of mobile internet. Very soon, all the operators will upgrade their existing network servers to launch higher categories of LTE.

In reality, till today, there is no true 4G commercial network in any country. The existing fast LTE networks are merely close to “True 4G”. But LTE has the word “Evolution” in its name. So, it is a long and ongoing process of evolution. We have to wait for one or two years to get full benefit of it. It is also possible that very soon 5G will came and make 4G obsolete.


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