Difference Between 3G and 4G Mobile Technology?


3G vs 4G
Wireless telecommunications has made huge leaps and bounds in technology over the years. The world now relies on mobile telecommunications, without which the entire social infrastructure can collapse. Gone are the days of old cellular GSM - the world has moved on to next-gen wireless networking. We often hear the terms 3G and 4G with respect to mobile telecom. What exactly are they? And how exactly do they differ from each other?

Wait, what? I thought this was a blogging-related blog! What has telecom got to do with blogging? Admittedly, not much. But for those of you who live in Pakistan, this shouldn't be surprising. 3G and 4G licenses were successfully sold to telecom operators today generating almost a Billion dollars in revenue. It was quite a while in the coming, but it's finally here. Pakistan, welcome to the delights of 4G! Rest of the world, just skip to the next heading!

Bloggers need to stay connected with the world, no matter where they are. With the onset on these new telecom technologies, bloggers can stay connected on the laptops, tablets and smartphones, and enjoy mobile broadband!

Someone asked me how this would help us bloggers, and how do the two technologies vary - i.e. which one to opt for. Which brings me to the topic at hand.

3G vs 4G

First, some history. The "G" obviously stands for "Generation". 1G was analog, 2G was digital. 2G catered for mostly voice and text communication. With the advent of technologies like GPRS and EDGE (informally known as 2.5G and 2.75G respectively), the concept of 'mobile internet' was born. This was taken to the next level with 3G, which minimum consistent internet speeds of 144 Kbps, although the actual speed can go as high as 2 Mbps.

4G is supposed to be even faster. New generations usually bring new base technologies, more network capacity for more data per user, and the potential for better voice quality.

Internet Speed

The main difference between these 'generations' is their speed. A 3G network can give you speeds anywhere from 144 Kbps to 3.1 Mbps, depending on the carrier. It averages at around 0.5 to 1.5 Mbps. 4G, on the other hand varies. There are so many variants, including HSPA+21/42, WiMAX, and LTE. A 4G connection can potentially provide a data throughput of 100-300 Mbps, but it typically averages 2-12 is real life.

It all depends on the carrier. Carriers with more available radio spectrum for 3/4G and LTE can typically run faster networks than carriers with less spectrum, for instance. Although 4G has been defined, it hasn't been completely achieved. Some people consider LTE to be the only true 4G network, whereas some believe we're not there yet. Carriers are, however, trying to achieve true 4G standards and are fully advertising 4G.

Network coverage

Network coverage is a major issue when it comes to 3/4G networks. In the US. Verizon provides nationwide LTE coverage, but elsewhere in the world, carriers are still struggling to cover a majority of the areas with 3G and 4G networks. Buying a 4G phone in an area that doesn't even have 3G signals doesn't make much sense.

Many towns and cities around the world do not currently have a 3/4G network. In the UK, there are vast areas of some counties which don’t have a 3G reach. However, more masts are being built which aims to increase the number of tablets, smartphones and laptops that can connect to 3G. The reach of 4G is also minimal and some countries don’t have it yet. This is bound to change, especially as the world continues to crave a faster internet speed than what it has at the moment.

Data usage and cost

Besides bandwidth, the data usage has also increased with 4G. When a smartphone or a tablet connects to a 4G network, it can handle more data than 3G. Although a 4G mobile phone company is expected to set limits on how much can be downloaded, it is bound to be more than what 3G can offer.

With great power comes great responsibility speed comes great cost. 4G is expected to increase usage caps, but will also make mobile internet a lot more expensive. This is because it works on a much more expensive infrastructure, and while 3G is wide-area cell based, 4G is based on an integration of wireless LAN and wide area. So you can expect the prices to be much higher.

Do you currently have 4G in your area? Let us know about the highest download peak you've achieved!

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