Last updated 2 December 2021
What is LTE?
It's a worldwide standard for 4G wireless transmission data, the fourth generation of mobile network technology.
4G LTE networks are the next generation from the existing 3G networks - Universal Mobile Telecommunications System UMTS or 3rd Generation.
LTE full form
LTE stands for Long Term Evolution.
It was indeed a "long-term evolution" for mobile networks (based on 3G tech at that time) when 4G came out in 2008.
The evolution took many years.
1G (First generation)
Let us talk to each other on mobile phones
Let us send SMS and travel (roaming)
Introduced some mobile internet experience
Brought fast internet experience
Brings super-fast Internet and much more
Mobile network generations: from 1G to 5G - Source Thales 2021
A global standard
Who's in charge of defining and maintaining this technology?
The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards group has developed and maintains LTE high-speed wireless technology.
3GGP unites telecom standard development organizations so that everybody uses the same technology.
And 4G LTE is a global success.
64% of mobile users have 4G LTE
LTE is a success worldwide, with 6 billion subscriptions connecting 64% of mobile users globally, according to the Global mobile suppliers' Associations (GSA - October 2021 report).
907 telecom operators are running LTE networks in 243 countries and territories across the globe.
LTE vs. 3G
Is LTE the same as 3G?
No. LTE means 4G, and the visible difference is speed!
- 3G (third generation of mobile communications introduced in 2001) theoretically delivers 7.2Mbps and up to 3Mbps in practice.
- 3G HSPA+ (the advanced version - High-Speed Packet Access+) or 3G++ delivers up to 42Mps and up to 6Mbps in practice.
LTE vs. 4G
What's the difference between LTE and 4G?
Well, they are not competing. LTE is the technology behind 4G (the fourth generation of mobile communications - an architecture).
All 4G phones utilize LTE technology in 2022. It brings high speed to mobile and broadband data.
How fast is 4G LTE?
In theory, LTE's maximum speed is 100Mbps. In practice, it tops at 15Mbps. Of course, it all depends on where you're located.
But what is LTE-A?
LTE-A, LTE-Advanced, 4G+, and LTE+
LTE-A, LTE-Advanced, 4G+, and LTE+ are all acronyms for the same 4G service. It's a faster version of LTE.
How fast is LTE-A? Again, in theory, LTE-A data rates are up to 300Mbps. In practice, you can expect between 40 to 90Mbps.
4G LTE features at a glance
LTE is designed for lower latency (the time it takes for data to travel in the network) and increased bandwidth - very interesting for the Internet of Things.
In fact, bandwidth increases can be as high as 100 Mbps on the downlink and up to 50 Mbps on the uplink.
- The higher bandwidth enables faster access to content and applications, particularly video applications that can only be offered today on fixed systems.
- The low latency enables time-sensitive applications like voice services.
- The all-IP architecture enables new converging services based on the IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS).
Voice over LTE (VoLTE)
What is VoLTE on your phone?
VoLTE means voice-over LTE. It's an improved version of 4G LTE for voice and video calls.
In essence, you get HD voice and video calls, and it's a great experience overall with better coverage and battery life increase.
If you upgrade to 4G LTE, make sure you also get 4G VoLTE.
But 4G LTE is also decisive for IoT devices (connected things).
4G LTE for the IoT (Internet of Things)
There are three broad categories within 4G – which is mainstream to connect industry-grade IoT devices today.
- The LPWAN, low powered wide area network, has two variants, which are category M (Machine to Machine) (Cat-M or LTE-M) and category NB-IoT (Cat NB-IoT).
- The mid-range bandwidth is category LTE-1 (LTE Cat 1).
- The high bandwidth applications typically use networks called LTE Advanced (LTE-A) or LTE Advanced Pro.
4G comes in different flavors for connected objects. Here are some examples of IoT devices and their specific bandwidth needs. The suitable 4G LTE module can then be selected according to the need.
LTE back-ward compatibility
LTE is compatible with existing mobile networks to provide the maximum amount of flexibility.
This encompasses formerly deployed network technology, including GSM, cdmaOne, W-CDMA (UMTS), and CDMA2000.
Wi-Fi vs. LTE
Wi-Fi was created in 2000 by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It is a set of wireless local (limited range) area network (LAN) protocols for short-distance connectivity.
Access to the Internet is most commonly done via a wireless router.
Wi-Fi is based on IEEE 802.11.
LTE is a broadband (unlimited range) wireless network technology.
First, Wi-Fi-certified products came with IEEE 802.11b (yes, b came before a).
How fast is Wi-Fi?
Wi-Fi comes in many flavors now, and speed performance continues to improve with each new generation.
Before wireless – If you're old enough to remember – network connections on a LAN or over the Internet were done via Ethernet wired connections or a modem over phone lines.
Wi-Fi works best for line-of-sight use, and walls, pillars, or TV screens (obstacles) may seriously reduce range. Practical performance is also related to distance from the router.
Wi-Fi speed continues to improve with each new generation.
Is 5G the same as LTE?
No, it's not. LTE is a 4G technology.
5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology. 5G does not replace 4G LTE. 4G and 5G work together.
5G network technology, 5G services, and 5G-enabled smartphones have started their roll-out.
Needless to say, there's no such thing as 5G LTE.
4G - 5G milestones
- 4G (2008) networks brought all-IP services (Voice and Data), a fast internet experience, with unified network architectures and protocols.
- 4 G LTE ( for Long Term Evolution), starting in 2009, is doubling data speeds.
- 5G (starting in 2019) networks expand broadband wireless services beyond mobile Internet to IoT and critical communications segments with speed up to X10 compared to 4G LTE.
When will 5G take over?
In short, 2019 was when 5G lifts off, and 2020 onward is when 5G networks and 5G phones will be available en masse.
ABI Research sees 5G overtake 4G by 2025.
But there's more in 5G than speed.
Discover key facts and more about 5G technology and worldwide roll-outs in our 5G web dossier.
Now it's your turn
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