In a Nutshell
4G stands for ‘Fourth Generation’ while LTE is short for ‘Long Term Evolution’. If that doesn’t make it clear, don’t worry, very few people actually understand the difference. 4G is an umbrella term that was created by ‘The International Telecommunications Union-Radio (ITU-R) ‘ in 2008. It governs wireless internet connections and sets the industry standards by which providers should adhere to. 4G is simply the fourth generation of wireless connection technologies. But, the technology still falls short of its initial speed goals – and that’s where LTE comes in. LTE refers to advances in connection speeds that improve 4G capabilities.
The Whole Bushel
When the ITU-R set a standard for all fourth-generation wireless connections they were a bit ambitious. Providers were to offer users a peak download speed of 1 Gbit/s while stationary and 100 Mbit/s while travelling at high speeds. These targets were aggressively out of reach for all wireless internet providers, and the technology needed to be drastically improved to meet these speeds. The tech world has invested a significant sum trying to achieve these speed goals with minimal effect. Once they hit the mark, the industry standard will be re-evaluated giving marketers a new generation to sell. Due to recent developments, 5G might be hitting the international market in late 2018.
LTE is a simple upgrade for 4G wireless technology. Since 2008, there have been leaps and bounds in wireless connection speed which needed to be explained to the public. Wireless connections that use LTE are often referred to as 4G-LTE. This means that the 4G connections they use are significantly more advanced than the older 4G technology. Although LTE can theoretically get to the required speeds set out by the ITU-R, it operates on a much lower level. As the technology evolves, more and more acronyms are getting added to the list. Marketers are keen to tell users just how advanced their new technologies are. Currently, you’ll hear LTE-A being punted as the next best improvement. The ‘A’ stands for ‘advanced’ and once again, takes us closer to the original 4G goals.
LTE is an improvement on 4G, but neither reach the international ITU-R goals. In order of speed, it goes 4G, to 4G-LTE, with LTE-A being the fastest. Keep in mind that service providers will always tell you what the maximum speed is, which is rarely the operating speed. Different providers use different networks and this means you’ll find some differences in speeds. Just because you choose a device capable of LTE-A, it doesn’t mean that you will always be connected to an LTE network.