Published on March 11th, 2013 | by Nizam Nasirudin1
How Fast is your 4G Connection?
We’ve all seen companies of all sorts touting their mobile device and cellular networks as ‘the latest in 4G technology,’ claiming to have the fastest connections of anyone around. But how fast is 4G really, and how is it measured?
To understand the answers to these question, you’ve got to first understand something about data, and how it’s transferred. As you may or may not know, all data–the stuff that makes up websites, digital images and documents, everything on the Internet–is made up of small pieces called bits. A bit is the smallest piece of data there is, and it’s always one of two things: a 0 or a 1. (This is known as a binary value.) Eight bits together form a byte, which is a term you may recognize, since it’s more common in every day language. Data storage is measured in bytes, most often in gigabytes (1,000,000,000 bytes, or eight million bits). Data transfer, however, is measured in bits per second, or bit/s.
One bit per second would mean that exactly one binary value would be transferred every second. This sounds extremely slow, and it would be. Thankfully our technology moves much more quickly than this. 4G connection speed for a stationary user, according to standards set by the United Nations, is one gigabit per second, or Gbit/s. This is equivalent to 1,000,000,000 (one billion) bits per second. For a mobile user, such as someone on a train or in a car, the standard is slightly lower: 100 megabits per second, or Mbit/s. This is equivalent to 100,000,000 (one hundred million) bits per second.
These numbers are extremely large, much larger than the average person deals with on a daily basis. However, the average 4G user never sees or even thinks about the millions and millions of binary values streaming back and forth from their devices at any given moment–and this is a good thing. Technology that works so well that its users don’t notice it is doing its job extremely well.
But what does all of this amount to? The short answer is: a great deal. With faster, more secure, and more stable connectivity all around the world, 4G allows its users to browse the web, communicate via social media, shop online, check their email, and very much more, from almost anywhere, using a broad range of devices from laptop computers to smartphones.
Some network carriers and device manufacturers also advertise something labeled 4G LTE. The abbreviation stands for “Long-Term Evolution,” which is an intimidating name which simply means that the LTE system is designed to change and be modified over time, as opposed to other systems which may be completely replaced. While many LTE networks and devices are in fact faster and more efficient than ones marketed as 4G, it should be noted that several non-LTE networks and devices do not in fact meet the standards set by the UN. However, LTE devices do, and either way, the technology is some of the best ever produced.