By Mo Raja

A Quick Guide to 4G

By Mo Raja

With so much talk about 4G and the wireless capabilities many smartphones offer, it is easy to get caught up in the talk; but for those who are looking at this new technology, the major question really is: what is 4G?

What is 4G?

In basic terms, it is the latest in wireless connectivity, being the fourth generation for connecting wirelessly. Prior to this was the ever popular (and still used) 3G connectivity.

How fast is it?

It can run anywhere from five to ten times faster than the previous 3G network. It is possible that 4G networks run from 5 to 20 MB per second. This is in contrast to 3G, which only was capable of running at 1 MB per second. Since no standardized definition has yet been laid out, actual speeds can vary from network to network.

Here’s some additional sources on the speed of 4G

What might affect a 4G network?

Like 3G, the broadcasting of 4G networks is going to depend on the time of day, how it is used for, and what tasks the network is used for. During peak hours, expect a slowdown in the speeds from a 4G network, but that is not the only factor that will slow down a network’s performance and speeds.

Other areas that might affect the speed of a 4G network include:

  • The proximity from a mobile network tower when using a device (the shorter the distance from a tower, the faster the speeds that can be expected out of your network).
  • The quality and quantity of traffic.
  • The device: older devices might not run as smoothly as the latest smart phones on the market today.

These are some additional factors that might play a role in the speeds and connectivity you can expect out of a 4G network.

Can any device work with 4G?

No. Like the prior 3G, devices must be compatible and hardwired to run on the latest 4G network in order to be able to reach the highest speeds. Since there are many 4G networks, make sure the device is compatible with the network it will be running on. So, knowing the connectivity and whether or not a phone can run on those networking options is important.

Note that 3G enabled phones that provide the option of connecting at 4G will still be limited to running at 3G speeds, due to the fact that the phone is not enabled to run on the higher network.

Choosing 4G

Some things to consider are:

  • Make sure your phone and network are 4G enabled for use.
  • Find a service that is 4G enabled in your area, and if you travel frequently, in the areas you visit often as well.
  • At least a dual core processor is required in the 4G phone to take advantage of all 4G offers.

There is much more to learn about 4G networks, but this overview should give you the basic knowledge you need.

  • >> Since no standardized definition has yet been laid out, actual speeds can vary from network to network.

    There was a standardized definition, but the “Big 4” carriers decided to completely ignore the requirements of the definition and label their “3.5G” technology as “4G”. Thanks to their confusing marketing tactics, the standard had to be effectively thrown out. From “In March 2008, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector (ITU-R) … [set] speed requirements for 4G service at 100 megabits per second (Mbit/s) for high mobility communication (such as from trains and cars) and 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) for low mobility communication (such as pedestrians and stationary users).”

    >> At least a dual core processor is required in the 4G phone to take advantage of all 4G offers.

    While you’d be hard-pressed to find a 4G device released today that isn’t at least a dual-core device, there is no requirement for multiple processor cores with respect to 4G. 4G defines the data portion of the mobile network, which is handled by the device’s *modem/radio*. In fact, Verizon’s earliest 4G phones were single core devices: HTC Thunderbolt (1 GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655), Samsung Droid Charge (1 GHz single-core Samsung Exynos 3), LG Revolution (1 GHz single-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S2 MSM8655), just to name a few. All of these devices had LTE radios as a secondary device, external to the SoC — which is why their battery life was generally terrible, and why LTE has a reputation as a battery-killing technology. Modern devices have the LTE radio integrated into the primary modem.

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