Differentiating 4G, 5G, and LTE: A Comprehensive Overview - Jammer Wiki

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Differentiating 4G, 5G, and LTE: A Comprehensive Overview

2023-05-18 By: W, Lynn

Understanding 4G, 5G, and LTE: Importance and Distinctions Explained


Differences Between 4G, 5G, and LTE: Importance and Relevance Explained



4G Explained: Understanding the Next Generation of Mobile Networks


In 2008, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defined the 4G specification. This standard was set by the ITU-R, which governs radio communications. Known for its broadband capabilities, 4G offered significantly faster speeds than its predecessor, 3G, which introduced data connectivity to cellular networks.


To distinguish their services from the old 3G networks, companies looked for ways to promote their advancements to customers. This resulted in the development of LTE, which stands for “Long-Term Evolution.” Originally coined as a “Long-Term Evolution” toward the 4G standard, marketers realized that adding “4G” to the front of the acronym would make it appear more advanced than the standard. Thus, “4G LTE” was born.


In summary, 4G is a standard for cellular networks that is known for its broadband capabilities and faster speeds compared to 3G. LTE was developed as an evolution toward 4G, but marketers added “4G” to the acronym to make it seem more advanced. As a result, companies promoted “4G LTE” as a superior option to standard 4G networks.


4G Speed: How Fast is it?


The ITU standard set the bar high for wireless networks by specifying that a true 4G network should be capable of a minimum download speed of 100 Mbps and a maximum of 1Gbps. However, this was not achievable when the standard was first introduced. It took several years for U.S. carrier networks to catch up and meet these lofty aims.


Today, to truly qualify as a 4G network, your wireless network must be able to deliver download speeds of at least 100 Mbps. Some carriers have even given catchy names to their upgraded networks, such as 4G LTE-A (Verizon), 5Ge (AT&T), or 4G LTE+ to differentiate them from standard 4G LTE networks. With faster download speeds, these networks offer improved performance and better user experiences for the most data-intensive applications like video streaming, video conferencing, and online gaming.”

Do 5G Phones Work on 4G Network?


Even though 5G has been deployed, 4G networks are still dominant in America, with most calls and text being handled over 4G. Currently, 5G networks mostly handle data, though that’s projected to change in the foreseeable future.


T-Mobile has made claims that they’re working on Voice over 5G or Voice over New Radio (VoNR) so their 5G network can handle voice and data. Neither Verizon Wireless nor AT&T have announced plans for a voice service over 5G. Thus, high-speed 5G phones will continue to use 4G networks for a while (2030 to 2035 is estimated, but 4G could last even longer).


What is LTE and What Does LTE Stand For?


As stated previously, LTE stands for “Long Term Evolution” and is a marketing phrase to signify progression toward true 4G. When someone says 4G LTE, they are actually talking about something weaker than true 4G, but better than simple 3G. At this point, the LTE International Standard is loosely defined and frequently updated, making a true LTE standard hard to nail down.


In short, it’s an upgraded 3G, but worse than true 4G. 4G LTE networks send data to 4G LTE phones at a rate lower than 100 Mbps.


The worst part is, now that companies have attained 4G speeds, they don’t want to advertise it. Most consumers believe 4G LTE to be an advanced version of 4G instead of what it really is. Hence the terms 5Ge, 4G LTE-A, 4G LTE+ (which are just 4G). These are the fastest 4G options available.


How Fast is LTE?


As there is no true standard for 4G LTE, it covers the entire range between 3G’s average 3 Mbps to 4G’s 100 Mbps, giving it a massive range of potential speeds. On average, however, download speeds range from 12-30 Mbps, with faster speeds available in major cities.


What is 5G?


5G is the new standard laid out by the ITU. This fifth-generation network is designed to deliver faster speeds, lower latency, greater network capacity, and more reliability to connect virtually everyone and everything. It leverages new technologies and expands into new frequency spectrums to achieve this.


To be considered true 5G, the standard has a minimum requirement of 1 Gbps with 1 millisecond of latency.


There are three types of 5G, low-band 5G, mid-band 5G, and high-band 5G, all with different speeds and latency rates. Like 4G, one could say not all 5G is true 5G.


Rollout began early 2019, and it’s likely to take decades for full implementation.


For a deep dive on 5G, visit our ultimate 5G guide.

How Fast is 5G?


5G will revolutionize download speeds and completely change the way devices stay connected. In its most perfect form, 5G is supposed to offer a maximum of 20 Gbps and a minimum of 1 Gbps. However, with so many different flavors of 5G, speeds vary a lot.



Types of 5G Frequency Bands Speed
5G Low-Band 600 MHz-1 GHz 50-250 Mbps
5G Mid-Band (Includes C-Band) 1-6 GHz 300 Mbps – 1 Gbps
5G High-Band (aka mmWave) 24-47 GHz 1+ Gbps


5G speeds will vary depending on the frequency band being used. Lower frequency bands can deliver slightly faster speeds compared to 4G, but higher frequency bands, such as the mid-band and mmWave, can provide significantly faster speeds. However, the downside to using these higher frequency bands is that the signal range decreases.


Despite the faster speeds provided by 5G, it is not meant to replace 4G entirely. There are still benefits to using 4G that make it a valuable technology. If you want to learn more about the differences between 4G and 5G waveforms, there are articles available that could help you.”

Does 5G Have Lower Latency Than 4G?


Latency is the amount of time it takes for a signal to travel to and from a network server. Lower latency means faster response time, and vice versa.


5G offers an extremely low latency rate. The specification for true 5G calls for about 1 millisecond, while 4G’s ideal rate is 10ms. Huge difference.


Realistically, you probably won’t get close to 1ms latency rates unless you’re connected to C-Band or the mmWave. In these early stages of 5G, real-world results show between 5ms to 10ms. The average for 4G is between 30ms to 70ms.


Wireless Standard Ideal Latency Rate Real-World Estimate
5G 1 millisecond 5 to 10 milliseconds
4G 10 milliseconds 30 to 70 milliseconds


What are 5G+, 5GUW, and 5GUC?


As mentioned above, there are different types of 5G that operate at different frequencies and provide different speeds. Because each carrier has different names for each level and markets them as such, there are a variety of different 5G icons. Cue the same confusion that 4G and 4G LTE caused.



When connected to low-band frequencies, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile devices display the standard 5G icon. The icon changes to 5G+ for AT&T, 5G UW (Ultra-Wideband) for Verizon, or 5G UC (Ultra-Capacity) for T-Mobile when connected to the mid-band or high-band spectrum. These will be the 5G networks closest to true 5G.

5G NR: Understanding the Next Generation wireless technology


If you’ve been researching 5G, the term 5G NR or 5G New Radio has probably popped up a couple of times. It’s the new radio access technology set by 3GPP for the 5G standard. The previous radio access technology specification being LTE.


5G NR defines how 5G devices (smartphones, routers, gateways, etc.) and 5G network infrastructure (cell towers, small cells, and other Radio Access Network equipment) use radio waves to talk to each other. It’s developed in such an intricate way to create a flexible, scalable, and efficient 5G network to support a wide variety of use cases and demands.


Compared to LTE, 5G NR provides faster data transmission, less latency, and other significant enhancements to the network.



To learn more about 5G NR, click here for a great and relatively easy-to-digest article by Sierra Wireless.

Compatibility of 4G Phones with 5G Networks: Can You Use 5G on Your 4G Phone?



5G networks are the newest wireless technology that offer faster speeds, lower latency, and increased capacity compared to 4G networks. However, 5G networks use completely different frequencies than 4G networks, which means that older 4G phones are not compatible with 5G networks. While your 4G phone will continue to work in a 5G world, you will not be able to take full advantage of the benefits that 5G has to offer unless you upgrade to a 5G device.


If you are living in an area where 5G is not yet available or you do not use your phone for high data tasks regularly, there is no need to upgrade to a 5G device just yet. However, if you are interested in speed improvements or really want to take advantage of the latest technology, upgrading to a 5G device may be a worthwhile investment.


Is 5G Safe?


There have been various fear mongers out there questioning the safety of 5G technology. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), few studies have been performed. However, since radiofrequency exposure remains below international guidelines, no public health risks are anticipated.


Think about it. Low-band 5G uses similar frequencies as 4G. We know that the only concrete data relating to those frequencies is an increase in body temperature. There is no definitive proof of other potential health risks. As frequencies increase, which 5G’s clearly do, there is less penetration into the body.


Look at where in the spectrum 5g mid-band frequencies are located – near the 2.4GHz and 5GHz WiFi bands. They are not going to harm us any more than WiFi. Plus, many studies state that there is no evidence of health effects from WiFi radiofrequency exposure.


The mmWave is the most feared – a bit ironic. These frequency waves can only travel short distances and are easily interrupted. Many experts say that the mmWave does not penetrate beyond the outer layer of skin, if that. Its only proven effect is that it makes things slightly warmer.


As more research is published, we’ll be sure to keep you posted.


5G vs 4G: Understanding the Differences


The difference between 5G and 4G goes beyond waveforms, speed, and latency.


5G infrastructure will be much larger than 4G. As you probably already know, 4G predominantly uses large cell towers to transmit signals. That’s not going away. 5G will also use cell towers to transmit long range frequencies. For higher frequencies that only travel short distances, however, small cells will be densely deployed throughout urban and some suburban areas.


The technology implemented into 5G networks makes it so that cell sites can support approximately 1 million devices per square kilometer, whereas 4G supports about 4,000 devices within the same area. Cell sites can also focus 5G signal directly into a device rather than broadcasting in every direction, creating a more efficient network.


This significant increase in capacity allows greater connectivity to more than just phones. Revolutionizing the way we receive data, and, more broadly, the way machines, devices, and the Internet of Things (IoT) communicate.


With faster speeds, extremely low latency, higher capacity, and new tech, 5G can make vitalization, full self-driving cars, same-day delivery drones, and more a reality. Even though it will take years to get there, this is something that isn’t possible with 4G.


Where 5G might not be noticeable yet is in your basic calls and texts. In the meantime, carriers plan to make use of their existing 4G network and slowly integrate 5G. As of 2022, 5G only provides data and does not affect voice.

Can the Average Person Tell the Difference Between 4G and 5G?


Since 5G standards are always being worked toward, the differences between 5G and 4G will only increase. If all you do with your mobile devices is send texts and make calls, you won’t see much difference. Where the difference is most felt is in areas where 5G is available when running data-intensive applications.


Distinguishing 4G from LTE: Is it Possible for the Average Person?


With the advent of 4G LTE-A, the distinction between true 4G and false 4G is becoming blurred. Under ideal conditions, a true 4G signal should deliver minimum speeds of 100 Mbps. However, the maximum speeds for 4G are much higher, reaching up to 1000 Mbps down and 500 Mbps up, which places you on the cutting edge of 4G technology. Despite the fact that these specifications were established over a decade ago, they continue to represent the most advanced level of 4G performance.


One crucial factor to consider is the quality and strength of your signal. While true 4G connectivity can deliver lightning-fast speeds, a weak or suboptimal signal can undermine your experience. In many areas, weak 4G signals are a common problem that can cause frustratingly slow download and upload speeds; fortunately, there are ways to improve your signal strength. Knowing how to optimize your 4G or LTE signal is essential if you want to maximize your mobile data speeds and enjoy the full benefits of true 4G technology.

Boost Your 4G, LTE, or 5G Signal: Top Tips for Improved Connectivity


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