4G v LTE. What's the difference?

Tech jargon can be confusing, so let us explain...
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4G v LTE. What's the difference?

Everything you need to know about 4G and beyond

4G. LTE. 5G. LTE-A. It’s just a load of tech jargon if you don’t know what it all means.

So, let us explain the key differences between these types of mobile technology for you. Being armed with this knowledge will help you choose the most suitable phone, network and tariff.

What is 4G?


The ITU-R is the United Nation’s agency for information and communication technologies. And in March 2008, it defined what the standards for 4G should be.

According to the ITU-R, all services described as 4G needed to live up to a certain set of speed and connection standards. For normal mobile use such as smartphones and tablets, connection speeds needed to be at least 100 MB per second. For stationary use (mobile hotspots and the like), connection speeds had to be 1GB per second.

Nobody could actually achieve these speeds when the standards were announced. They were simply intended as targets. And that’s where LTE comes in…

What is LTE?


LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. Think of it as a piece of technology doing its best to achieve true 4G speeds. In fact, the ITU-R decided that LTE could be labelled as 4G if it offered a big enough improvement over existing 3G technology. So when you see the ‘4G’ symbol on your smartphone display, you’re actually getting LTE.

And now, there’s a step up from LTE, known as LTE-A (Long Term Evolution Advanced).

LTE-A is even closer to true 4G, and it’s currently the fastest connection available for mobile networks. Most new smartphones come with LTE-A support - but it’s only available in a few major UK cities so far, on selected networks. If you’re in London, Manchester, Birmingham or Liverpool, you might be in luck.

What’s next?

5G, the fifth generation of mobile connectivity, is already being tested. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but it’s expected to start rolling out globally in 2020. When it does, it’s going to be a huge leap forward. Not just a faster, better version of 4G, but something that’s going to change the way we live. Read more about 5G here.

Are you happy with your mobile network speeds when you’re out an about? How close to getting the true 4G experience do you think you are? Share your comments below.

What are your thoughts? Join the conversation here…

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