It’s almost certain that you’ve heard the term “4G” or “4G LTE” thrown around all over the place recently, usually by commercials advertising for mobile phones or mobile service carriers. However, while the telecommunications companies love to use the term, they never seem to bother explaining it in their advertisements. For many people 4G is nothing more than a slogan, used as much as possible to attract the attention of potential customers.
However, 4G is in fact an actual measurement of data speed, held to rigorous standards by several organizations. And 4G is indeed faster than 3G, but there’s some dispute about what devices and mobile networks actually conform to 4G standards. This article will endeavor to explain what exactly 4G is, where it comes from, and why it’s important.
Firstly, the ‘G’ stands for ‘generation’. This means that 4G devices are held to conform to fourth-generation standards. A new standard comes around about every ten years: 3G debuted in 2001, and 4G in 2010. So what makes 4G stand out from its predecessors?With 4G, you can experience speeds up to 5 times faster than 3G. Do all the things you love faster.
The main factor is, as you might know, speed. More specifically, the speed at which the network or device is able to transfer data. This is the main criterion for determining to which standard or generation a device belongs. 4G is quite a bit faster than its predecessors, due to advancements in several different technologies. Some of these have to do with network technology–cell towers and so forth–and some are advancements in consumer devices, like antennas which support more than one data stream at a time (also known as MIMO: Multiple In, Multiple Out technology). Other advancements include mobile networks acting more like conventional Internet connections, allowing for more complex things like websites to be accessed via mobile devices.
The practical end of all this is that with a 4G-enabled device on a 4G network, you have access to some of the fastest and most advanced mobile communication technology ever invented. Combined with smartphone or tablet devices, users can access nearly anything on the Internet from almost anywhere in the world: social media, online shopping, email–with 4G it’s all available, at speeds which would have been unthinkable 20 years ago.
However, as mentioned above, there is some controversy surrounding the 4G standard. Which devices actually qualify as 4G? Which network providers actually supply their customers with 4G speed? Who gets the final say-so?
To answer the last question first, international wireless communication standards are set by a special division of the United Nations known as the International Telecommunications Union, or ITU. 4G networks and devices, according to the ITU, must conform to the International Mobile Telecommunications – Advanced (IMT-A) standards, which include a certain type of network, certain transfer speeds based on the location of a customer (i.e. stationary or mobile), backwards compatability with pre-existing networks, and no drop-offs when moving between coverage areas. As for which networks and devices conform to the standards, it’s best to individually examine devices and network carriers, since they may vary significantly from place to place and company to company.