What is 4G really? All mobile operators are advertising their 4G mobile phones and 4G networks. Learn about the 4G technology, 4G networks and their speed.

What is 4G?

4G is the fourth generation of mobile networks, the next step in the evolution of mobile networks after 3G or third mobile network generation. The 4G system enables much faster mobile broadband internet speed comparing to the older 3G system.

Read about the 3G technology in the post What is 3G? Compare 3G Speed and 4G Speed.

What is 4G: Different “4G  Technologies”

In most cases LTE technology, or Long Term Evolution, is used as synonym for the 4G networks. Don’t be surprised if you also find other technologies mentioned as 4G technology. Sprint even in 2010 used the 4G for their WiMAX network. Not to mention the first WiMAX network in the world launched in 2006 by South Korean KT. AT&T and T-Mobile have used the term 4G technology for their HSPA+ network.

What is LTE and LTE technology you can find out in the post What is LTE, 4G Technology and LTE Advanced. Read about the LTE technology, LTE network architecture, and LTE features in the post LTE Technology – Basic Architecture of the 4G Mobile Internet Access.

If you want to learn about the voice over LTE (VoLTE) and voice services in LTE, check the post Voice over LTE (VoLTE) – the New Features in the LTE. If you are not sure what is better technology, LTE or WiMAX, read the post WiMAX vs LTE – What is a Better 4G Technology. It is very hard for an average mobile subscriber to distinguish what is 3G and what is 4G and what are their speeds. I will in this post explain what is really 4G and what technology can really carry 4G tag.

Read about the 4G technology, WiMAX, LTE in the post 4G Internet – There is still no Real 4G Technology on the Market. Check about 4G wireless internet, 4G Mobile phones, tablets, laptops, dongles, MiFi and M2M in the post 4G Wireless Internet – How to get the Mobile Internet Access with 4G.

Definition of 4G Technology by ITU-R – IMT-Advanced Specification

International Telecommunication Union-Radio communication sector (ITU-R) has specified in 2008 requirements for the 4G standards called International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT-Advanced) specification. According to the IMT-Advanced specification, two requirements for the 4G service are:

  • 100 Mbps for high mobility communication like cars and trains
  • 1 Gbps for low mobility communication like pedestrians and stationary mobile users

Yes, this isn’t an error – the wireless data transfer of 1 Gbps of 4G service. On the other hand the mobile operators are using the name 4G for the speeds in most cases well below 10 Mbps for downlink. So as you see, the real 4G technology with the real 4G speeds is still Science fiction for all. The actual speeds are even 100 times below 1G, the speed specified by the responsible organization for the mobile communications.

The 4G speed test of four biggest U.S. mobile operators Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint performed in New York, you can read in the article Verizon Wins NYC 4G Showdown, Sprint Dead Last.

What is 4G Technology?

LTE Advanced

LTE Advanced

As I already mentioned, there is no commercial mobile technology that meets the IMT-Advanced specifications for the 4G service. The real answer to the question what is 4G technology is there is still no real 4G technology. The more appropriate question would be what is a 4G technology advertised as 4G? The answer for this question in most cases is LTE – Long Term Evolution.

LTE, comparing to other “4G networks”, is quite dominant technology. The mobile broadband technology closest to real 4G service is the LTE Advanced. Read about the LTE Advanced and new functionalities of LTE Advanced in the post LTE Advanced – the Latest Mobile Broadband Internet Access Technology.

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