You’ve heard it in commercials, considered it plastered throughout billboards, and possibly even read about it in your cell phone plan. But what is 4G LTE, and how do its speeds and coverage evaluate to other 3G and 4G networks?
A History of 3G and 4G
To understand what LTE is–beyond “an honestly fast network”–we have to take a step lower back in time. You probably understand when the 3G, or 3rd generation, fashionable was once a huge deal in the 2000s–it made having access to the net on your phone significantly quicker and extra convenient.
3G is required to meet IMT-2000 (International Mobile Telecommunications-2000) technical standards, which means a height download fee of 200 Kbps, or 0.2 Mbps. This might also seem sluggish to you now, however, at the time, it used to be sufficient to get your email in a timely fashion.
Logically, the next step after 3G–the third technology of wireless cell communications technology–would be 4G or the fourth generation. The ITU Radiocommunications Sector (ITU-R) set some necessities as to what would represent a 4G network: it needs to grant height 100 Mbps downloads if you’re the usage of a cell machine such as a cellphone or tablet. Stationary devices, such as cellular hotspots, should supply peaks speeds of 1 Gbps.
In extra latest years, 3G has made some advancements. High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA), for example, can provide theoretical speeds up to 7.2 Mbps and is often known as 3.5G or Turbo 3G.
Then came 4G, in the form of Evolved High-Speed Packet Access (HSPA+) and Long-Term Evolution (LTE). Both were marketed this as “4G”, even although they didn’t meet the ITU’s standards–neither reached that one hundred Mbps download rate.
LTE, however, wasn’t just another enhancement of 3G. It was once supposed to be more of an umbrella time period given to the technologies designed to get us to the 4G standard. In different words, it’s what 4G will be when the technology evolves adequate to provide those speeds. It’s 4G-Eventually.
As a way of compromising, the ITU-R decided that mobile carriers should market LTE (and HSPA) as 4G, considering they represented a sizable enhancement over 3G and paved the way for actual 4G speeds.
How LTE Stacks Up in Speed and Coverage
Okay, we’re executed with the records lesson. Let’s address the query that sincerely matters: What sort of speeds does LTE clearly offer right now? Frankly, it depends on the place you are and who you are the use of for your wi-fi service.
According to a document via Open Signal, the common LTE download pace in the US is 9.9 Mbps whilst the international common is 13.5 Mbps. That’s a long way off the perfect a hundred Mbps 4G standard, but a marked improvement over old 3G speeds. In a race between the large four USwi-fi carriers, even the perfect common velocity (Verizon) was simply over 12 Mbps.
Remember, that’s an average. Your velocity may additionally be faster, or it could be slower. As you can see to the right, I used Speedtest app on my iPhone 6S (which is on hand for Android as well) on T-Mobile in Florida, and mine had been tons greater (albeit nevertheless way beneath a hundredMbps).
But it’s no longer just about speed: coverage things too. After all, if you never see that “LTE” icon in the menu bar of your phone, you won’t ever get these highly-advertised speeds.
Coverage depends on your carrier. Each of the 4 major US carriers–AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, and T-Mobile–utilize special frequency bands, which is how they separate their indicators from one another. A frequency band is a group of radio frequencies cellular carriers, therefore, use to speak with clients, i.e. your smartphone, and vice-versa.
LTE, in its modern-day specification, permits carriers to installation it on extraordinary frequency bandwidth blocks. In essence, a bandwidth block is how a good deal house a provider allocates to a network. Currently, both Verizon and T-Mobile have committed the widest channels for their LTE from 10MHz to 15MHz, all the way up to 20MHz.
Network insurance at lower frequencies, specifically the 700Mhz range, will furnish LTE get entry to more locations such as constructions and sheltered areas. In fact, in phrases of coverage–measured through how tons time subscribers are capable of getting an LTE signal, the top three carriers have nearly reached parity.
According to the oft-cited OpenSignal report, Verizon comes out on top, with almost 87% coverage,observed by AT&T 82.6%, and T-Mobile at 81.2%. Sprint comes in a far-off fourth at 70%. Remember, these exhibit the percentage of time subscribers get an LTE signal, no longer a geographic proportion of land–but that’s nevertheless quite good.
The Future: LTE Advanced and 5G
That’s the present. So what about the future?
Mobile speeds will no doubt continue to advance and acquire speed. LTE Advanced is the new trendy companies are hyping, which promises to subsequently deliver “True 4G” speeds. So basically, LTE Advanced is what 4G was supposed to be all along.
5G, meanwhile, will be the subsequent logical step up from 4G. As you would possibly guess, 5G stands for the fifth generation and is supposed to promise speeds up to 10 gigabits per seconds–enough to download a full HD film in mere seconds.
Unlike LTE, which occupies decrease frequency bands, 5G can occupy both lower frequency bands and ultra-high bands. Using these higher bands skill 5G won’t journey as some distance as 4G LTE and will want to be boosted to make it practical to a broad audience. None of this things tons at this point, however, as the technical standards are still being labored out and won’t be finalized till2020.
For right now, 4G LTE is properly sufficient for the substantial majority of cellular users and will be for some time. Logically, if or when True 4G or LTE Advanced will become the norm, it will suffice for a time while cellular carriers roll out 5G and so on.