What does “LTE” mean on a phone?

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Curious about the LTE symbol on your smartphone? It is one of the many wireless standards you can use to communicate on the go. But what does LTE mean and what is the difference with 5G?

A 4G standard

LTE or Long Term Evolution is a 4G wireless broadband standard used by mobile carriers to provide data and voice services on your phone. It offers faster internet speeds and lower latency than 3G. As a result, you can stream videos, play games and do super-fast data transfers in the palm of your hand.

LTE is mainly used on smartphones and mobile hotspots. But you can also find the technology on some smartwatches, tablets, laptops and other devices.

Although LTE is often marketed as 4G LTE, it does not technically meet the criteria of a 4G wireless service established by the ITU Radio Communications Industry (ITU-R). ITU-R is a unit of the International Telecommunication Union and is responsible for the development of communication standards, such as 4G. According to ITU-R, a true 4G network delivers maximum data transfer rates of at least 100 Mbps on the move and at least 1 Gbps when stationary.

However, when mobile carriers were unable to achieve these speeds, ITU-R relaxed the requirements so that LTE could be marketed as 4G technology. ITU-R said any wireless technology that provides “a substantial improvement in performance and capabilities” over the original 3G network can also be considered 4G.

What are LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro?

LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro are improved versions of the LTE standard and can provide even faster internet speeds. Theoretically, LTE Advanced can deliver a maximum download speed of 1 Gbps and Advanced Pro can go up to 3 Gbps. As a result, both LTE Advanced and Advanced Pro meet the technical requirements for true 4G.

Fortunately, both LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro are backwards compatible and regular LTE devices can work with these networks. But unfortunately you don’t get the enhanced benefits.

Many LTE networks around the world have already been upgraded to LTE Advanced. And it’s represented by LTE+, 4G+ or LTE-A symbols on your phone, instead of the usual LTE or 4G.

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How does LTE work?

4G phone

Mobile standards have traditionally used both circuit-switched and packet-switched networks to deliver voice and data services to their consumers. While a circuit-switching network establishes a special connection with the person on the other end and maintains the connection until a call is completed, a packet-switching network, on the other hand, uses data packets to transfer information from one device to another. a digital network. These data packets can freely take the path of least resistance to reach their destination and do not need a special line.

Unlike 2G and 3G technologies, LTE uses a full packet switched network. As a result, there is no circuit switching for placing voice calls. Instead, VoLTE or voice over LTE is used to handle voice calls. That said, LTE supports the circuit-switched fallback option (CSFB) to enable voice calls over existing 3G and 2G networks when a phone doesn’t support VoLTE or LTE isn’t available. In fact, during early LTE deployments, carriers often used CSFB. But VoLTE is now very common.

LTE makes efficient use of existing network bandwidth to provide faster internet speeds and low latency. This is possible thanks to technologies such as MIMO or Multiple Input Multiple Output, Carrier Aggregation, multi-carrier modulation and more.

LTE vs 5G

Someone doing a 5G speed test.

While LTE is still a dominant standard for mobile technology worldwide, 5G or fifth generation wireless broadband technologies are rapidly gaining traction. A number of wireless carriers around the world, including in North America, are rolling out their 5G networks that promise higher internet speed, reliability and bandwidth.

So with a 5G network, you can expect to upload or download data at a much faster speed than LTE. You can also enjoy data and bandwidth intensive applications and services like cloud gaming, high resolution streaming, etc.

The fifth generation networks are theoretically capable of delivering download speeds of up to 10 Gbps. However, these top data rates are only possible with high-frequency mmWave 5G bands. 5G can also use the sub-6GHz frequency bands, but internet speeds in these frequency bands will not be as fast as mmWave 5G, but still more than LTE speeds.

And as the 5G networks are still in the growth phase, it will take some time for them to mature as LTE has matured over the years. Moreover, since 5G is a new technology and not backwards compatible like any other previous network generation, you need a 5G compatible device to experience it. For example, your LTE phone cannot connect to a 5G network.

All in all, while 5G offers several advantages over LTE, it’s not quite ready to replace LTE yet. So in the coming years we will see 5G and LTE coexisting and complementing each other.

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