Understanding the Differences between 4G and LTE

A cell tower in a rural area.

Many people presume that 4G and LTE are the same. However, there are some subtle differences between the network technologies, understanding which will help you to make an informed decision when choosing a 4G LTE booster or buying a new smartphone.

What is 4G?

Most cellular carriers around the world offer 4G network connectivity these days, while some provide a faster 4G LTE network as well. The ITU Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) launched new standards for 4G or “Fourth Generation” network connectivity in March 2008. This included faster connection speeds and improved mobile hotspots. Today, all the latest smartphones are capable of leveraging 4G connectivity.

Unlike 3G network connectivity, 4G allows you to have a better experience when accessing digital media on a mobile device. This may include high-res video and music streaming, high-end gaming, using multimedia apps, and more. In short, 4G connectivity resolved the common issues of network lag, load times, and buffering to provide an enhanced user experience.

What is LTE?

LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, came as an improvement over 3G connectivity, but it was not substantial enough to be termed as the next generation. So where network carriers advertised better speeds with 4G LTE, it was still below the minimum standards that were set by the ITU-R to be categorized as 4G. This means that although LTE is a significant improvement over the 3G network, it is not technically 4G.

Note that some cellular providers market their networks like 4G LTE even if their network infrastructures are only somewhat improved than 3G connectivity. This is because 4G LTE sounds much better and can lure in more customers. Some providers even advertise their networks as 4G LTE-A, which refers to Long Term Evolution Advanced, a closer standard to proper 4G.

Difference between 4G and LTE

To put it briefly, the main difference between 4G and 4G LTE is that the former is much faster than the latter. That is why 4G LTE is often used as a provisional measure until the actual 4G speed is realized in a particular area. The most interesting part though is that the download speeds for both 4G and LTE can be comparable for an average consumer. So you cannot tell them apart in most cases.

In any case, you will need a smartphone that is capable of supporting full 4G and not just LTE to take full advantage of 4G connectivity. Some of the older devices that were launched before the 4G deployment may still display LTE but will not provide 4G speeds since they were not built to support the new generation network connectivity.