Can you tell the difference between LTE and 4G? In this blog post, I will explain what is LTE and what is 4G.
What Is LTE?
In the telecommunication industry, the acronym LTE stands for Long-term Evolution. This is a standard for wireless broadband communication for data terminals and mobile devices.
LTE is based on the GSM/EDGE and UMTS/HSPA technologies. Many times you have probably seen the 4G symbol displayed in the upper right corner of the display screen on your phone.
However, that wasn’t really 4G because when the ITU-R had initially set the minimum speeds for 4G.
Those speeds were unreachable at the time, regardless of the amount of money that technology companies invested in it with the hopes of achieving those speeds.
As a result of this, the regulating body decided that the name LTE which was given to the technology used when persuing those standards.
Should be labeled as 4G if it provided significant improvements over the 3G technology.
Shortly thereafter all the service providers started advertising their connections as 4G LTE.
This was a marketing technique that gave them the ability to claim next-gen connectivity even though they couldn’t reach the required speeds.
Even though the desired speeds were unreachable, the difference between 3G and 4G was noticeable.
In the pursuit of 4G speeds, LTE-A was implemented, this stands for Long-Term Evolution Advanced.
This is an improvement over LTE which brought us a little closer to the real 4G. LTE-A offers faster connection speeds and improved stability in comparison to the normal LTE.
LTE-A is also backward compatible, which means that it works by aggregating channels. So it does not connect to the strongest signal in proximity to you.
Instead, it simultaneously connects to multiple sources which give you the ability to download data from multiple sources.
When you’re thinking about getting a new cell phone and you do some research. You will discover that there are a number of acronyms and you may not fully understand what they mean.
In layman terms, the G in 4G stands for generation, so 4G is the 4th generation because there were 3 generations prior to it.
LTE stands for Long-term Evolution, this represents the pursuit to improve wireless broadband speeds to meet the demands.
What Is 2G?
2G was a network protocol that only allowed basic smartphone functionality. Most 2G networks offered texting, basic phone calls, and a little bit of data via a protocol called MMS.
What Is 3G?
The introduction of 3G gave us quite a bit of improvements over its predecessor. With 3G technology, it became easier to access larger data formats such as music, standard HTML pages, and videos.
The speeds had improved, however, they were still very slow by today’s standards, and they were not fast enough to replace a broadband connection in a house.
The pages and data were formatted in such a way that they could be accessed via the slower wireless connections.
What Is 4G?
In March 2008, the ITU-R set standards for 4G, according to these standards, all services described as 4G must adhere to a set of connection standards and speed.
Tablets and smartphones must have connection speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and mobile hot spots must have connection speeds of at least 1 gigabit per second.
At the time ITU-R set these standards, these speeds were not common in the real world because they were intended as a goal for technology developers.
This would represent a particular time in the future that marked a significant improvement over the current technology.
The great thing is, technology eventually caught up and the established 3G networks have been greatly improved to the point that they can be categorized as 4G.
Can You Tell The Difference Between LTE And 4G?
It’s very difficult to tell the difference between LTE and 4G, the differences are minute, but they may be more noticeable in certain areas.
Nevertheless, the differences between 3G and 4G or LTE are extremely noticeable. While there are many 4G and true 4G networks which offer almost identical speeds.
The implementation of LTE-A has provided some improvements for some, but the amount of improvement it provides will vary depending on the area.
For a while, LTE-A offered the fastest connection speeds for wireless networks. However, 5G networks have been slowly rolling out in different cities all across the U.S.
What’s Required For 4G?
If a phone has 4G LTE capabilities there’s no guarantee that you will always be able to get the speeds that you want. Two elements are required to create 4G connectivity, they consist of:
- A network that’s capable of supporting the necessary speeds.
- A device that is capable of connecting to the 4G network and downloading information at the appropriate speeds.
Service providers were selling phones that had LTE capabilities before they had the ability to offer true LTE speeds in major cities.
Shortly thereafter, they started rolling out LTE services on a limited scale. Now that the LTE services are more established, this is no longer a problem.
Packet Switching And Circuit Switching Are Essential:
Regardless of how fast the data is being transferred and what type of data it is. It must be packaged and sent and it will be received on other points on the network to be interpreted.
Circuit switching technology is used by the older networks, this is a term which refers to the process of communicating.
In circuit switching, a direct connection is established to the target via the network. Whether it’s a file transfer or a phone call, it will happen through that connection.
There are some advantages to circuit switching which include: less chance of losing connection and faster connection time.
Packet switching technology is used by the newer networks. This is a modern system that works well as a result of the many connected points across the world.
Packet switching works by breaking up your information into smaller pieces which are sent to your destination via the most efficient path.
In the circuit switching networks, if a node drops out, you will have to reconnect. But you must do so in a packet switching network.
The following packet will seek a different path. Quite a bit of the technology that was used to achieve 4G speeds, does not have anything to do with voice communication.
This is due to the fact that voice networks are still using circuit switching technology. As a result of this, it became necessary to regulate the newer and older structures.
There have been a few methods which have been established to deal with the problem. But most service providers chose to use one of two methods that maintained their control over the minutes used.
These methods are:
- Allowing the phone to switch back to circuit switching standards whenever it’s used to receive or make a call.
- Simultaneously using circuit switching for voice and packet switching for data.
- Run the voice audio as data via the LTE networks, this option is not used as much.
Most service providers have avoided the third option on this list for a while because it makes it more difficult for them to charge for voice minutes.
Nevertheless, Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is the technology used to make a call via Skype or FaceTime Audio connection. With faster connection speeds and high-resolution audio.
Wi-Fi calling and VoLTE have become extremely popular among smartphone users within the past few years.
5G Is Next:
Service providers have been testing and slowly rolling out their 5G services in various cities across the U.S.
Some phone manufacturers have also started making phones with 5G capabilities. But that’s a bit premature because lots of work still has to be done in the development of the 5G infrastructure to be able to take full advantage of a 5G phone.
5G is emerging, but LTE is still advancing so it may eventually catch up to 5G but only time will tell.
Based on the way the 4G rollout happened, we may have to wait a few years before 5G services are widely available. Now you know what is LTE and what is 4G.