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Fast Cell Phones: What is 3G, 4G and LTE?

Updated on March 28, 2012

In the ads, cell phone technology sounds like some sort of "code", something that insinuates it is faster and better.

So, 4G networks are the newest cell phone networks that can handle a the fastest. 3G networks are a little older and therefore, slower. Most smart phones need 4G networks because of the data and streaming capabilities that non-smartphone do not need and are using 3G. The difference in speed and access varies with carrier and location, but expect a 4G network to be able to download data anywhere from 5-20 times faster than any 3G network. Most 3G networks download 2 mbps, most 4G networks download between 4-9 mbps.

There are variations of 4G, like HSPA+, WinMax, these are faux 4G networks, and are just much faster 3G networks. The fastest of them all is LTE. This is just now being rolled out to many carriers. LTE networks average anywhere from 10-30 mbps, with the higher number frequently being the case.By comparison, the average broadband Internet speed is 6 mbps.

Those with ipads and use data extensively should have 4G or LTE. If you are in area where 4G is not present, many phones will operate on a 3G network.

The speed of the network determines how long it takes to download a TV show, a movie, videos. Those are the most intensive uses of data. A movie often runs 1G or more of data, TV shows, half that. If you only occasionally download a lot of data, 4G is fine. Not all phones on the market are 4G capable because mostly smart phones need it, those that access Internet, basically.


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