If you have a cell phone or a tablet you will almost certainly have heard people mention 3G or 4G. Of course, this does not help you to understand what either of these things are and which is the better one for your device to have!
Fortunately, it is an easy concept to understand!
The Basis of ‘G’ technology
The G in 3G, (or 4G), stands for ‘Generation’. The higher number simply refers to the fact that it is the latest technology. As time progresses you may even see a 5G or 6G!
3G technology is the third version of this communication method which is available on cell phones. In fact, the generation refers to a whole section of phones. The very first ‘mobile’ phones were big and heavy and used to communicate with each other via analog signals; much like your television or radio. This was, effectively 1G.
By the 1990’s mobile phones had shrunk and now used digital signals to connect to each other; this was known as 2G. However, the rapid increase in mobile phone use and the uptake of the internet soon left this technology struggling to cope with the demands of consumers. It was simply not possible to connect to the internet reliably.
The start of this century saw the arrival of 3G; the digital signals are now bounced between radio towers; hence the build-up of these around the countryside. These enable signals to travel great distances without loss of quality or speed. Suddenly phones were able to receive and send signals with extreme reliability.
3G is built into every cell phone which is sold. It allows you to connect effortlessly to the internet and browse for any information you need. The amount of browsing you will be able to do will depend upon the payment plan you have adopted. The more you spend each month on your contract the bigger the amount of data you can access from the internet.
The 3G network has expanded rapidly and now covers the majority of the country. However, there are still patches where you are unable to connect. Alongside this the speed of access to the internet can be variable; this will depend upon your closeness to the radio tower and the amount of people accessing the internet at any given time.
4G – The Next Generation
4G is the next step in the communications industry. In a word it is designed to be faster. 4G offers improved access to the internet and faster downloads of information. There is no doubt that it will gradually replace 3G as the dominant or even standard technology. It operates at approximately five times the speed that 3G does. In principle it could provide download speeds of 100MBPS; however, in practice there are too many other demands to ever make this possible.
4G has become a necessity as more and more people go online and need to access information on the move. The old system will eventually overload. To counter this scientists have established a method of increasing the amount of data taken by one stream of radio frequency. The communications system remains the same as for 3G; from tower to tower. However, the increased amount of data in the signal allows for faster delivery and more information.
Alongside this cell phones have started to adopt the two antenna approach which sends an additional signal out; thereby doubling the data movement process. All of these factors combine to increase the speed of your mobile internet and the amount of information you can obtain. This is the real difference between 3G and 4G.
It is worth noting that the frequency used by the 4G carriers can vary; a 4G phone in the UK will not necessarily pick-up 4G in the USA.