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4G vs. LTE: we explain the main differences

If you are in the process of searching for a new phone, you can find that there are too many acronyms around the device and can be confusing: CDMA, GSM, LTE, WiMax, and the list goes on. What is the significance of each acronym? Let’s focus now on the networks more prevalent so that you can get to know the differences between 4G vs. LTE.

The simplest explanation is that the “G” in 4G means “generation”, because 4G is the fourth generation technology of mobile data, as defined by the radio sector of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU-R). LTE means “long term Evolution” (Long Term Evolution) and applies more generally to the idea of improving the speed of wireless broadband to meet the growing demand.

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When 3G networks started to be deployed, to replace the system 2G, a network protocol that only allowed the most basic of what we would now call functionality in your smartphone. Most of the 2G networks handled phone calls, text messages, basic, and small amounts of data via a protocol called MMS. With the introduction of 3G connectivity, formats of larger data became much more accessible, including HTML pages, standard, videos, and music, but the speeds were still pretty slow, and most required pages and data especially formatted for these wireless connections were still slow. To standards 2G, the new protocol was quick, but he still wouldn’t come to be equated with a broadband connection at home.


The ITU-R has established standards for the 4G connectivity in march 2008, requiring that all of the services described as 4G are expected to adhere to a set of standards of speed and connection. For mobile use, including smart phones and tablets, the speed of the connection should have a maximum of at least 100 megabits per second, and uses more stationary, such as hot-spots, at least 1 gigabit per second.

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When we announced these standards, these speeds were unheard of in the practical world, because they were intended to be a target for technology developers, a point in the future that marked a significant leap over the current technology. With time, the systems that feed these networks have been since the day, not only by the new methods of transmission have come to the products, but because the 3G networks already set forth above have been improved to the point that it can be classified as 4G.


LTE means long term Evolution, and is not so much a technology in itself, but the path followed to achieve 4G speeds. For a long time, when your phone was showing the symbol “4G” in the top right corner, it was not really so. When the ITU-R set out the minimum speeds for 4G, they are relatively unaffordable, despite the huge amount of money that the manufacturers of technology got to do that. As a result, the regulator decided that LTE, the name given to the technology used in the search for those standards, it could be labeled as 4G if it provided a substantial improvement with respect to the 3G technology.

Immediately, operators began to advertise their connections as 4G LTE, is a marketing technique that allowed them to claim connectivity of next generation without having to reach first the actual number required (something like saying that NASA had landed on the Moon because it came up quite a bit, and the spacecraft that took him there was much better than the previous ship). However, it is not entirely misleading, despite the inconsistent speeds depending on the location and the network, and that the difference between 3G and 4G is immediately noticeable.

In order to do things if there is still more confusing, it is likely that in addition you find with LTE-A at some point. This acronym means Advanced Evolution in the Long Term, and takes us a step closer to the 4G. It offers faster speeds and a greater stability than the LTE normal, is compatible with earlier versions and it works by adding channels, so that, instead of connecting to the more powerful signal of your neighborhood, you can download data from multiple sources at the same time.


So, the question is, can you notice a real difference between 4G networks and LTE? Does the speed to load a page or download an application on your handheld device is much faster if you have the LTE technology built in? Probably not, unless you live in the right area. Although the difference between the 3G networks slower and the new 4G networks, or LTE is certainly very remarkable, many of the networks 4G and “4G true” have download and upload speeds that are almost identical. The launch of LTE-A has made a difference to some, but your performance may vary. LTE-A was the fastest connection available to wireless networks for a while, but we are beginning to see how networks of 5G will begin to be deployed in certain cities.


The 4G connectivity requires two components: a network to support the speeds required, and a device that can connect to that network and download data at a speed high enough. The fact that a phone has 4G LTE connectivity does not mean that you can get the speeds you want, the same way that buying a car super sports car does not imply that you can overcome the speed limits on the highway.

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Before the operators could actually deliver LTE speeds in major areas, whether they sold phones that had the capabilities that would be needed to achieve the speeds desired, and then began to deploy the service on a limited scale. Now that the service of LTE is quite widespread, this is not a problem anymore.


Operators are already testing the fifth generation of mobile broadband connectivity, 5G, but much remains to be done, even when some handset manufacturers are beginning to reveal devices with a capacity of 5G. There is a on information and high expectations on this new standard, but the reality tells us that the infrastructure will take time and large investments to be operating in a generalized way. LTE also continues to make progress, so that the gap between the 5G and LTE may not be as big as you think. Judging by what has happened with the 4G, it could be years before 5G is widely available.

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