4G LTE is an abbreviation for fourth generation Long Term Evolution that was developed by the 3rd Generation Partnership Project. LTE is a particular type of 4G that is designed to deliver a fast mobile internet experience 10 times faster than 3G speeds for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, notebooks and wireless hotspots. 4G LTE aims to make the Internet experience on a mobile device the same as on a home computer.

In 2008, the International Telecommunications Union required all services using 4G to adhere to a set speed and connection standards, making the gap between 3G and 4G enormous in terms of service and capability. To bridge the gap, LTE was created to represent a “long-term evolution” toward the 4G standard. In short, 4G LTE is better than 3G, but not as good as true 4G, although the difference between LTE and true 4G may not be very noticeable.

4G LTE is one of several competing 4G standards along with Ultra Mobile Broadband and WiMax (IEEE 802.16). Over 800 operators support LTE use to over 4 billion users globally.

4G LTE vs. 5G

Cellular phone companies began deploying 5G in 2019. 5G uses more advanced radio technology, allowing for downloading and uploading data to be much faster. While 4G LTE requires fewer masts built miles apart, 5G uses lots of small cells located closer together. These stations can be placed on streetlights or on the side of a building.

In theory, 4G LTE hits speeds of up to 150Mbps download and 50Mbps upload. (In reality, the speeds are more like 20Mbps download and 10Mbps upload.) 5G theoretically hits speeds upwards of 10Gbps.

5G is still in the developing stages, so coverage is limited.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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