• How many Gs do you have? – 3g vs. 4g


    Read time (bolded): 2 minutes
    Read time (comprehensive): 10-15 minutes

    Whether you’re using an iPad, Android phone or a laptop with a 3G card, with cell phone companies desperate to prove to every consumer that they have the ‘”fastest network in America'” (or anywhere!), and new forms of data transfer being invented seemingly overnight, it might make your head spin to try to figure out which phone, carrier and network has fastest data-transfer available for your mobile devices. Luckily for you, I’m here to help you sort it out!

    First of all, the G stands for the word generation. There were once phones using 1G and 2G, yes, but this was before cell phones became ubiquitous, and before having the ‘fastest wireless network’ became important to telecom companies.

    For trivia’s sake, you should know that 1G phones were the ‘brick’ style mobile phones, the first that were available anywhere, the ones that were larger than your wireless phone at home. 2G phones were the cell phones we remember, only before the advent of digital networks.

    3G is most likely the first mobile phone standard any of us became familiar with, as it was the first standard to become a marketable term. With 3G (which was first unveiled in Japan, in 2001), the ability to transfer data wirelessly became very accessible due to solid wireless standards and digital networks. Suddenly people were doing very data-demanding things on their mobile phones, like watching TV, video chatting and streaming movie trailers.

    And after 3G comes 4G. The fourth generation of wireless data transfer, with speeds that will blow your mind. The advantages of a speedier wireless network are clear:
    Web pages load faster
    Video is smoother and more consistent
    • More reliable data transfer thanks to concatenated FEC
    • Greater quality of multimedia

    But what is 4G? What makes it tick? This is a difficult question to answer, as no matter what we call 4G, the underlying technology is not the same – for example, Sprint uses a technology called WiMax, while Verizon wireless uses a technology called Long Term Evolution, or LTE.

    Due to these divergent approaches to 4G , the specifications for 4G have not yet been standardized, and 4G service is only currently available in big cities. Because of the lack of a golden standard, it’s very difficult to generalize about 4G, it’s speed or its advantages over 3G.

    Regardless of the technology beneath the surface, the primary goal of 4G is speed, plain and simple. With 3G, we’re lucky to experience speeds of up to 2mbps, which is pretty respectable. However, 4G boasts (depending on the carrier) speeds anywhere from 10Mbps to 1Gbps, while still utilizing the same bandwidth as 3G (5-20 MHz).

    The result of graduating to a new wireless standard is not a marketing trick, nor just an annoyance. With these more sophisticated wireless standards will come smarter phones, much richer and more ‘on-demand’ multimedia, not to mention greater possibilities for what we use our mobile devices for.

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