What’s the difference between 4G and 3G?

3G versus 4G

3G and 4G represent the third and fourth generations (hence the ’G’) of mobile broadband. In short, they are the evolving technologies and systems which enable us to access the internet via our smartphones and other portable devices.

The difference? 4G is simply an enhanced version of 3G – it is the next generation – offering faster connection speeds, more capacity and smoother usability.

3G versus 4G

Whilst 2G offered basic data services such as text messaging, with 3G came the concept of the mobile internet. Surfing the web, checking emails and watching videos had never been so convenient. And as our demands for more data and better quality have increased, 3G has evolved.

The latest versions of 3G offer a speedy service, but coverage can still be limited. And when it comes to big multimedia usage – watching videos, playing online games, downloading content – more oomph is needed. Enter 4G.

Number of 4G LTE mobile connections in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2013 to 2016 (in millions)

Much better at handling mobile internet and data, 4G is as dependable as your home broadband services. Technically, the main differences include:

  • More spectral efficiency – it delivers more bits per hertz
  • All-IP (Internet Protocol) – even for voice data, leading to improved competency of systems
  • Increased capacity – it can support a greater number of users at one time
  • Higher data rates – multimedia applications work more smoothly
  • Reduced latency – more immediate response to commands
  • More sophisticated – self-organising and self configuring, meaning it can override problems without intervention

But what does all this mean? The main advantage is speed. With 4G, download speeds are around 5-7 times faster compared to existing 3G. Therefore, it is ideally suited for services which require greater capacity, such as social media, video streaming, downloading music and multiplayer gaming.

Pages load faster; videos don’t take an age to buffer; songs download at a faster rate per second; and games run more smoothly.

Like all ‘Gs’, 4G is backwards compatible, meaning it can communicate with earlier 3G and 2G technologies.

Why choose 4G over 3G?

Number of mobile internet users in the UK forecast (in million users)

Although 4G can do many things 3G can’t, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is the right option for everyone. If you’re only interested in checking your emails and surfing the web for news or entertainment, the latest versions of 3G are more than adequate. In fact, it makes sense to choose a package which offers value for money for your needs.

However, if you expect to be able to access a whole host of internet-based applications throughout the day – if you want to watch YouTube on the train or stream Spotify wherever you go, then 4G is ideal, offering super-fast, high quality internet in your pocket whenever you need it. And data plans for 4G and 3G are usually comparable.

See our others posts on 4G below:

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