Tag: LTE-A

4G, 3G, HSPA+ and LTE Explained

In layman’s language, what do these initials mean? This article aims to elaborate all these without much technical jargons.

4G Network
4G stands for fourth generation. The 4 in 4G stands for the fourth technology in mobile telecommunications. The G stands for generation, which basically means the changes that have taken place in mobile communication since the first move of analog technology in 1981. This analog technology, being the first attempt, is the one referred to as First Generation (1G). This was followed by 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G

Why all these changes?
As time goes by, the need for more data and more space keeps on increasing. Think of all the social media and audio streaming sites out there. Changes in science and technology brings about changes in how things are done. From analog to digital world, the need for more data and more speeds have been on the upward trend.

As a result, mobile communication has undergone major changes aimed to cope up with man’s need for more data and speedy communication. These systematic changes are the ones we’re now referring to as generations.

How is 4G different from 3G?
With the ongoing discussion, it’s now understood (hopefully) that 4G is a more current technology than 3G. In mobile communication, generation simply mean the systematic changes in how things are done.

There are usually a host of changes involved when moving from one generation to another. Some of these changes include the size of channel for sending data (technically referred to as channel frequency bandwidth), the speed for sending data (referred by another big word as peak bit rates) and whether the new generation is compatible with the previous one (backwards-compatible transmission).

However, the speed of data transmission is usually the one major change most people use to differentiate the different generations. 4G can attain peak speeds of 100 Megabits per second (100 Mbit/s) for things that are moving at high speeds (such as cars and trains), and 1 Gigabit per second (1 Gbit/s) for things moving at lower speeds such as pedestrians and stationary users.

3G has a much lower speed of about 200 Kilobits per second (200 kbit/s). What all these really mean is that you can download stuff much faster when using 4G than 3G technology.

All 3G connections don’t have the same speed (this is also true for 4G connections). The fastest 3G-based standard is known as Evolved High Speed Packet Access (HSPA+). It is the second phase of HSPA which is an upgrade over the existing 3G network. It also provides a method for telecommunication companies to easily migrate towards 4G speeds. HSPA+ can achieve data rates of up to 42.2 Mbit/s. There is yet another evolution of this, which is referred to as Advanced HSPA+, which really means more speeds (of about 84.4Mbit/s).

Now what the hell is LTE?
LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution. It’s major goal was to increase the capacity and speed of wireless data networks. It therefore has much faster speed than HSPA+. LTE can provide download speeds of 300 Mbit/s,and upload speeds of 75 Mbit/s.

LTE is commonly marketed as 4G LTE. You have probably seen this in a good number of smartphones. However, it’s important to note that LTE does not meet the technical criteria of a 4G wireless service.

LTE Advanced (LTE-A), is a further evolution of LTE. As a result, LTE-A meets the requirements for a 4G services is therefore usually referred as “True 4G”.

Are these speeds attainable?
For a normal day today use of telecommunication devices such as smartphones, these peak speeds are beyond reach. However, in theory, these top speeds can be achieved using smart antennas in a technique referred to as MIMO communication. MIMO stands for multiple-input multiple-output. What this really mean is that more than one antenna is used.

All these big initials are basically about improvements in mobile communication. One of the major changes of interest is the data or transmission speeds. Therefore, in terms of data speeds, these evolutions can be ranked as follows, starting with the lowest.

  • 3G Network
  • HSPA+
  • LTE
  • LTE-A / True 4G.

I hope this helps