3G vs. 4G – What Is The Difference and Why Should We Care?

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There are many different technologies employed by mobile devices worldwide – and sometimes it can be difficult to understand the technical nuances that make one device (or even cellular network!) immeasurably better than another, by comparison.

Bluetooth 3 and Bluetooth 4, 5” screens vs. other sizes, finger-touch locks – there are so many features to talk about and be impressed by that we may fall short of noticing the one key difference that makes the usability of a smartphone or tablet increase or decrease significantly among devices: cellular data transmission rates.

What I mean to say is, specifically, 3G vs 4G (or even worse) – specifically – should be the #1 thing most cell phone shoppers should be aware of when looking for a device. As we live in an increasingly connected world and we have more and more stand-by Apps on our smart devices that consume data – and if we, for instance, want to load a webpage in less than a second vs 5 seconds – then we need to understand the huge difference between 3G and 4G devices and networks.

Cellular Data Transmission Rates

The technical specifications of 3G and 4G are as such that 3G network speeds are rated, as a standard, at 144kbps. While different varieties of 3G can offer 400kbps to upwards of 4000 kbps – the standard of 144kbps for the technology is what we see most prevalent worldwide.

4G – on the other hand – is newer technology, and allows devices to download anywhere (using the same scale) on average from 5000kbps to 12,000kbps – all the way up to a screaming 50,000 kbps.

To put this into context, to watch a TV online, in example a High Definition streaming from Netflix requires 3GB/hour – if we put this in terms of kbps (which – if you’re wondering – is a different scale entirely, standing for ‘kiloBITS per second’ vs 3GB which stands for ‘gigaBYTES’) – requires 6666kbps to view without interruption. We see now that 3G is simply unable to compete when it comes to high-bandwidth applications in today’s market, and falls short of delivering the online experience that many would require in their smart device (or network).

I’ll explain my math just in case you’re uncertain: 3GB/hour is 3,000,000 bytes per hour, which is 24,000,000 bits per hour – 400,000 per minute, and then 6666.66(6666666…..) per second.

Availability of Coverage

The only actual issue with choosing 4G over 3G is that it may not be fully supported in your local area. Head to Google and search for your coverage map and see whether or not you’re deep within a 4G zone.

The benefits of most smart devices is that they’re ‘smart’ – and in instances where your 4G device can’t get a 4G connection from the network, it’s likely to fall back on a 3G connection and still function – albeit slower.

It’s very important to consider – say if you’re in a very remote, rural area – whether you’d ever have any actual benefit from choosing 4G vs. 3G, however, if you’re anywhere near an urban centre than I don’t think you’ll find you’ll have any troubles.

In conclusion, if you do choose 4G over 3G there’s one final thought to worry about – your network and your cellular data plan probably have a monthly limit on download/upload bandwidth. Be careful not to abuse the full strength of a 4G connection for too long or else you may end up paying money in overage charges! Otherwise, we hope you’ve found this article useful and we wish you the best of luck when you choose your faster-than-the-competition device.

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