With high download speeds and consistent performance, 4G has been a staple of cellular internet for over a decade as of 2022, and it isn’t going away just yet.
What Is 4G?
4G is the fourth generation of cellular networks, created to adapt to the increase in smartphone technology that took over the 2010s. Cellular networks connect your devices directly to local cell towers to provide you with an internet connection instead of utilizing access points as you would with a WiFi connection.
While 5G is gaining traction across the country but 4G LTE is still the main form of cellular network that you will find in the U.S.
How 4G Differs From 3G
While 3G was a perfectly acceptable form of cellular internet in the flip phone era, smartphones needed a more advanced way to connect to the internet. 4G was there to fill that technological need, providing a type of connection that could be compatible with a miniature personal computer.
Cellular networks, in general, began in the 80s with what we retroactively refer to as 1G. This preliminary form of cell network only had analog voice options, but it set the framework for future cellular connections.
2G brought along the ability to utilize digital voice services and text messages for the first time. This was finally refined into 3G in 2003, which was the first network to allow users to browse the internet, make video calls, and download music and videos.
3G was the beginning of cellular networks acting as internet connections, although at that time, there was not an infrastructure available for connections that could rival home internet.
4G was where this changed, as phones began to look and function more and more like personal computers. 4G networks could provide speeds exceeding five times faster than what you could get with 3G. Casual internet browsing on your phone became a possibility for the first time.
How 4G Became the Industry Standard
Smartphones quickly overtook the mobile market, and as of 2022, 85% of Americans own a smartphone. This dominance meant that every major cell carrier had to focus on catering to the capabilities of a smartphone. They reduced latency, improved call quality, and video calls became something you could do on the regular.
4G also ushered in a new era of app usage on cell phones. Phones became radically customizable in ways that were never possible before, with people using their phones as gaming platforms and work tools in addition to a phone. 4G gave people the ability to run multiple apps on an internet connection at speeds comparable to a home computer.
What’s the Difference Between 4G and 5G?
The new internet advancement is 5G, taking cellular internet to the next level. With this fifth-generation cellular network, 5G takes latency even lower and speed even higher. 5G employs a larger spectrum than 4G, utilizing everything from low 1GHz bands to high band mmWave.
5G can support capacities roughly 100 times what 4G could handle, making it well suited for congested urban areas. This, combined with the significant decrease in latency, opens up a wide array of possibilities. 4K streaming will become more viable, with video calls, gaming, and other forms of increased usage will be even easier on phones.
What Is LTE?
LTE is not separate from 4G; instead, it acts as an evolution of the fourth generation of cellular networks. LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution, and it bridges the gap between 4G and 5G bandwidth. For many cell carriers, 4G LTE is what you would have been using instead of the original iteration of 4G.
Are LTE Networks Faster Than 4G?
LTE sees lower latency and faster speeds than 4G speeds, making it the current standard in the mobile landscape. It does not match theoretical 5G high-speed capabilities.
Still, until 5G is integrated across the country later this decade, 4G LTE networks will continue to be the primary form of cellular internet in the country.
Which Cell Carriers Offer LTE Service?
4G LTE is the most commonly used cellular network that exists right now. The 2020s have seen the gradual shutdown of 3G services due to them being obsolete, with 5G coming into play. Given that 5G will spend the rest of the decade becoming fully viable and 3G is going away entirely, 4G LTE is what you will find with your carrier.
The big three carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile, all primarily utilize 4G LTE. All of them are pushing heavily for 5G, but as of 2022, none of them have a wide 5G network that can compete with 4G.
What Happens When Your Phone Loses LTE Service?
You have a few options when your phone loses LTE services. In the past, some phones would downgrade to 3G to attempt to connect to a different network, but with 3G going away, that will no longer be possible. If you do not have access to your cellular network, try connecting to a WiFi network to ensure that your network has problems and not your phone.
Every carrier competes to have the best LTE and 5G speeds, and the company on top is constantly changing. Use Navi to analyze your needs and determine which carrier has the best hardware and software for you. If cellular network speed is your primary concern, Navi can help you figure out which provider offers the best speeds for the best price.
As 5G continues to change the mobile market in innovative ways, Navi will use industry insight to guide you through the process. 5G will spend the rest of the decade replacing 4G LTE as the primary cellular network in the country, and one day some form of 6G will come out to replace that as well. Make sure you keep up to date to know you’re getting the best value for your money.
Mobile Fact Sheet | Pew Research
What is 5G | Everything You Need to Know About 5G | 5G FAQ | Qualcomm
What is LTE Data & What Does it Stand For? | T-Mobile
Plan Ahead for Phase Out of 3G Cellular Networks and Service | FCC