What Is True 4G? Understanding LTE and LTE-Advanced Networks
Truly understanding the state of cellular networks in the world today can be quite difficult. With so many buzzwords and marketing terms being thrown around by wireless carriers – LTE, 4G LTE, LTE-Advanced, VoLTE, Next Generation LTE – it’s often quite hard to cut through the meaningless jargon and figure out what, exactly, LTE is.
This is especially true when it comes to 4G LTE, also known as “LTE-Advanced”, which differs from standard LTE service in some very important ways. So, to clear this up once and for all, we’ve put together a quick explainer on the what, exactly, LTE an LTE network is, and how it differs from LTE-Advanced.
What is LTE?
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, and is designed to be a common platform upon which the next generations of mobile technologies can be built and – you guessed it – evolve.
This wireless communications standard is developed and governed by 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project).
3GPP is a massive consortium of telecommunications associations, and is responsible for the development and maintenance of: GSM and other “2G and “2.5G” standards like GPRS and EDGE, UMTS and HSPA 3G standards, and LTE and other “4G” standards.
LTE has designed to be very flexible and robust. True LTE must provide downlink peak rates of 300Mb/s, uplink peak rates of 75 Mb/s, and Quality of Service provisions that permit a transfer latency of less than 5 milliseconds in the radio access network.
Here’s where things start to get confusing. Despite these high-performance networks, LTE is not necessarily 4G. “4G LTE” is mostly a marketing term designed to show that LTE networks are the next step from “3G” networks. True 4G LTE will not be provided until LTE-Advanced is implemented.
As the name may imply, LTE-Advanced or Long-Term-Evolution-Advanced is the next step along the evolution of LTE, and can truly be considered a “4G” service. In America, there are still few carriers using a true LTE-Advanced standard, though Verizon Wireless rolled out LTE-Advanced coverage in some select cities in late 2016. The primary difference between LTE and LTE-Advanced are technical advancements that provide a more smooth, higher bandwidth experience. Some of these include:
Multiple Input-Output Technology
As the name may imply, this technology uses arrays of multiple antennae – both on sending and receiving (input and output) communication devices. The combination of LTE MIMO technology allows more bandwidth to be provided at the same level of power consumption and processor capacity.
Voice over LTE
VoLTE has already rolled out on some wireless networks, and provides about 6 times the voice bandwidth of traditional voice calls, allowing for “HD” calls, and a better ability to make calls over WiFi.
*Narrowband: a new mobile network, with energy-saving capabilities and a battery life of up to 10 years
*Cat-M1 & Cat-NB1: Cat-M1 and Cat-NB1 are provided as alternatives to the 2G standard
E-UTRA stands for Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access. It’s a next-generation network upgrade standard that features low transfer latencies and extremely high bandwidth, and is the next generation of cell-tower connectivity.
In the end, a true “4G” LTE-Advanced network will be miles ahead of current LTE standards – where current LTE standards have about 300 Mb/s download times, LTE-Advanced could bring speeds of nearly 3000 Mb/s, among a host of other connectivity benefits.
Hopefully this article has been helpful as you try to navigate the murky waters of cell phone connectivity. While LTE is certainly a huge upgrade from previous 3G and 2G services, we still haven’t even begun to see the advancements that are sure to come when LTE-Advanced networks begin springing up around the globe, and it will certainly be interesting to watch these networks grow, form, and develop.
For further questions - we are happy to help you.