4G vs LTE: What’s the difference?

Tech jargon is confusing at the best of times, but 4G is a real minefield. We explain the differences between 4G and LTE to help you understand.

4G isn’t the same thing as LTE. We explain the differences between the two.

By | just now

4G, LTE, LTE-A, carrier aggregation.

It’s all tech nonsense if you don’t understand what the jargon means. Here we explain the differences between 4G and LTE so you’re better equipped to choose not only the best phone[2], but also the best tariff. These days, there are a lot of decisions to make when getting a new phone.

Along with deciding which handset is best for you, you might also have to choose a new tariff, and that’s a complex business in itself.

4G is the big buzzword you’ll hear or see, but what exactly is 4G? Is it the same as LTE? In a word, no, but phone manufacturers and mobile operators love to use them interchangeably, and further muddy the waters with dumbed-down marketing materials.

In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about 4G, the speeds you can expect to get and equip you to choose a phone and tariff that’s right for you.

What is 4G?

The International Telecommunications Union-Radio (ITU-R) is the United Nations official agency for all manner of information and communication technologies, which decided on the specifications for the 4G standard in March 2008. It decided that the peak download speeds for 4G should be 100Mbit/s for high mobility devices, such as when you’re using a phone in a car or on a train. When you’re stationary, (low-mobility local wireless access) it decided that 4G should be able to deliver speeds up to around 1Gbit/s.

If true 4G is supposed to offer us download speeds of up to 1Gbit/s, then why are we getting 100x less in the UK, at around 10-12Mbit/s in real-world speeds? 4G vs LTE

Unfortunately the ITU-R doesn’t have control over the implementation of the standard, which led to first-generation technologies like LTE being criticised for not being up to scratch with true 4G. (We’ll explain LTE in a minute.) The reason for this is that other groups (3GPP[3] being an example) that work with the technology companies who develop the hardware had already decided upon next-gen technologies, leaving us with sub-standard 4G capabilities.

What is LTE?

Though originally marketed as 4G technology, LTE (Long Term Evolution) didn’t satisfy the technical requirements that the ITU-R outlined, meaning that many early tariffs sold as 4G weren’t actually 4G.

However due to marketing pressures and the significant advancements that LTE brings to original 3G technologies, the ITU later decided that LTE could be called 4G technology. So, LTE is a first-generation 4G technology that should theoretically reach speeds of around 100Mbit/s. Unfortunately, Ofcom reports that the UK average is around 15.1Mbit/s.

While that’s around twice the speed of an average 3G connection, it’s a long way off from the theoretical top speed of LTE. 4G vs LTE

As well as lacking in overall download speed, LTE also lacks uplink spectral efficiency and speed. Uplink spectral efficiency refers to the efficiency of the rate that data is uploaded and transmitted from your smartphone.

It falls short of the true 4G capacity mainly because of the lack of carrier aggregation (explained below) and because phones don’t have enough antennae. That’s where MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) comes in. It’s a practical technique for sending and receiving more than one data signal on the same channel at the same time by using more than one antenna.

With better carrier aggregation and MIMO, we can head towards a new standard: LTE Advanced. This is also known as ‘true’ 4G. Imagine playing a PlayStation 3 when you could be playing a PlayStation 4.

The PS3 isn’t necessarily too slow to use, but you’d have a better experience using the faster console, the PS4. It’s the same with LTE – LTE is the PlayStation 3 and LTE Advanced (LTE-A) is the PlayStation 4.

What is carrier aggregation?

Carrier aggregation is part of LTE-Advanced and lets operators treat multiple radio channels in different or the same frequency bands as if they were one, producing quicker speeds and enabling users to be able to perform bandwidth hogging activities like streaming HD video much faster than ever before. Think of your wireless connection as a pipe.

You can’t increase the size of the pipe, but you can add a second and third pipe. Use all three simultaneously and you’ll have three times the flow rate. It’s the same concept with carrier aggregation.

4G vs LTE

Another advantage of carrier aggregation is that speeds don’t decrease, no matter how far away from the cell tower you are. Combining two signals – or channels – should theoretically double the download speed to around 150Mbit/s. In the future, there could be aggregation across more than two channels, potentially up to five, which was defined in the LTE Advanced standard.

What about HSPA+?

HSPA+ may be marketed as 4G technology but it’s technically 3G.

HSPA+ stands for High Speed Packet Access Plus. It was the next step after 3G, with UK network provider Three aiming for it to be used by 2012 (before the introduction of LTE). The technology was developed with a theoretical top speed of 21Mb/s, which is pretty impressive for technology that doesn’t count as 4G (3G has an average speed of around 1Mb/s).

However, it was quite a way away from its theoretical top speed as the average is around 4Mb/s.

Who offers the fastest 4G LTE connection?

Now you know more about what the difference is between true 4G and the 4G LTE we’re being sold, which UK network provides the best 4G LTE connection? In November 2014, Ofcom tested the 3G and 4G connections of every major provider in the UK in five cities. The results proved that EE has the fastest 4G LTE connection, measuring in at 18.4Mb/s on average, though still far from the theoretical top speed of LTE.

You can see the results in the graph below:

Research and graph by Ofcom[4] It’s not just the download speed that dictates overall responsiveness of a 4G connection; latency also plays an important part.

A lower latency provides better responsiveness and reduced delays when using data for browsing, video calling, etc. Surprisingly, EE wasn’t the best provider when it came to latency – that award went to Three. Ofcom reports that Three took the least time to deliver data on both 4G (47.6ms) and 3G (53.8 ms), while O2 came last with the highest levels of latency, measuring in at 62.7ms on 4G and 86.4ms on 3G.

LTE-A availability

LTE-A is already available in selected areas – Vodafone started its LTE-A rollout in Birmingham, Manchester, and London, while EE offers it in most major UK cities.

Upgrading infrastructure to support LTE-A will be a slow process and is likely to take a couple of years, much like the initial 4G rollout. You won’t automatically get LTE-A though: there are other factors that have to be taken into consideration. 4G vs LTE

The main one is compatibility.

Your phone be need to support LTE-A. As with the 3G to 4G migration, many existing phones don’t have the technology to be compatible with LTE-A. The good news though is that most recent devices, especially flagships, support the tech including:

  • iPhone 6s onwards
  • iPad Pro
  • Blackberry Priv and Passport
  • Google Pixel and Pixel XL
  • HTC One M9, A9, and 10
  • Moto Z and X Style
  • LG G3 onwards
  • Huawei Honor 6, Mate 8, and P9 onwards
  • OnePlus 2 onwards
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 onwards, Notes S4 onwards, and A-series
  • Sony Xperia X, XZ, and Z3 onwards

The good news is that it appears that both Vodafone and EE aren’t charging people for the extra speed.

As long as you’re in a supported area and using a compatible phone, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of LTE-A’s carrier aggregation and see (theoretical) download speeds of around 150Mbit/s.

Just watch out you don’t burn through your monthly data allowance in a few minutes!


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  2. ^ best phone (
  3. ^ 3GPP (
  4. ^ Ofcom (

Broadband project gets £1.2m boot to reach 40000 Black Country homes

RESIDENTS and businesses across the Black Country are being urged to make the most of the new superfast broadband technology being rolled out across the region. The call comes as the multi-million pound Black Country Broadband Project – led by the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and BT – announced it had now reached another major milestone, making faster fibre broadband available to more than 40,000 local premises. The ambitious partnership also confirmed it had secured additional investment for the area from the LEP, the Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) programme and BT, where an extra ?1.2m will enable the Black Country Broadband Project to make the technology available to an additional 2,000 local premises.

Areas to benefit from the recent move include Blackheath, Brierley Hill, Cradley Heath, Dudley, Halesowen, Kingswinford, Lye, Sedgley and Stourbridge. Ninder Johal, board member for the Black Country LEP, said: “This additional funding will help us to roll out fibre broadband even further than we’d originally planned, which is even more great news for Black Country residents and businesses.

“The Black Country Broadband Project is making terrific progress, but we’re keen for more local people to take advantage and upgrade their broadband service, which they can do at little or no extra cost, to ensure they don’t get left behind in a world where so many things rely on us having access to fast, reliable broadband.”

So far, engineers from Openreach – the local network business which is part of BT group – have installed nearly 200,000 kilometres of optical fibre and around 370 fibre broadband road-side cabinets for the Black Country Broadband Project, which is part of the Government’s BDUK programme. Ian Binks, BT’s regional manager for the Black Country and the West Midlands, said: “High-speed fibre broadband enables businesses to share information with their customers and suppliers more easily and quickly, whether that’s around the region or on the other side of the world.

“At home it opens up new learning and leisure opportunities, making it easier for families to connect several devices to the internet at the same time to download music, play games, watch catch-up TV and do research and online shopping, without worrying about buffering.”

The Black Country Broadband Project was launched to bring fibre broadband to areas of the region that are not already able to access faster fibre broadband as a result of any commercial roll-outs of fibre broadband by the private sector.

For more information on the Black Country Broadband Project visit


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Splatoon 2 latest rumours

Splatoon 2 latest rumours – release date, UK price, pre-orders and gameplay

Here’s everything we know about the sequel to the cult favourite Wii U shooter for Nintendo Switch. Read the latest rumours on the Splatoon 2 gameplay, price and pre-orders, and UK launch date.

Splatoon 2 is coming to the Nintendo Switch – here’s everything we know

By | just now

Splatoon 2 was one of the games that Nintendo revealed during its January Nintendo Switch[2] Presentation, unveiling a trailer and giving some fans and press the chance to try the game out. See also: Nintendo Switch review[3]

The sequel to the popular Wii U multiplayer shooter is still a few months off, but here’s everything we know so far about the game, including its release date, price, and gameplay features. Read next: Most anticipated Nintendo Switch games[4] Latest update: Switch owners can now download the Splatoon 2 beta ahead of the start of the Global Testfire event in late March – read more[5].

When is the Splatoon 2 release date?

Splatoon 2 UK release date: Summer 2017

Nintendo hasn’t yet announced a specific release date for the game beyond the broad ‘summer 2017’ window, so we don’t know exactly when to expect the game.

We’ll update this as soon as we hear more specific news. Read next: Zelda: Breath of the Wild news and rumours[6]

How much will Splatoon 2 cost in the UK?

Splatoon 2 UK price: ?59.99

Like other major Switch games, we expect Splatoon 2 to have an RRP of ?59.99, and indeed that’s the price at which retailers have begun offering pre-orders. You can already claim the game from Amazon[7] and Game[8], and we expect more stores to follow suit and begin taking pre-orders before too long.


From what we’ve seen so far, anyone who’s played the first Splatoon should find the sequel very familiar. For the uninitiated, it’s an online multiplayer arena shooter, but instead of shooting bullets, you shoot coloured ink. You use this to both attack enemies and cover the walls and floor, giving you space to swim through as a squid (you’re an ‘inkling’, and can transform into a squid at will), and the winning team is the one that covers the most of the map.

There will also be local multiplayer for those who don’t want to play online, and as with the first game we’re expecting some sort of single-player campaign to work through. Early indications are that Nintendo’s focus will be on the multiplayer however, with efforts to make Splatoon 2 popular as an eSport. That’s particularly clear thanks to the announcement that up to eight Switch systems will be able to connect over LAN for lag-free multiplayer, in addition to a Private Battle Spectator View to allow spectators to watch the game from multiple angles.

Read next: Super Mario Odyssey news and rumours[9] There’s also a selection of weapons and outfits to unlock, and that’s where we’re expecting the biggest additions from the first game, with plenty of new unlockables – and no doubt some new maps to play on too. The game will also be compatible with existing Splatoon amiibo figures, and we’d expect Nintendo to release some new ones too.

Oh, and the first game’s soundtrack is absolutely brilliant, and if there are any new songs we’ll be very happy indeed. See also: Nintendo Switch vs Wii U review.[10]

How to play Splatoon 2 early

There are a couple ways to get your hands on Splatoon 2 before its summer release. First up, Nintendo is taking the game to a big gaming event: Insomnia60[11].

It runs from 14-17 April in Birmingham in the UK, and Nintendo will be there with the Switch, exhibiting not just Splatoon 2, but also Arms, Mario Kart 8: Deluxe Edition, and more. Nintendo is also giving Switch owners a chance to try Splatoon 2 out early, running a free beta weekend in March called the Splatoon 2 Global Testfire. The free weekend will run from 24 March – 26 March 2017, though the game won’t be available to play for that whole time – instead there will be six specific one-hour slots in which it’s available.

Players will have access to four main weapons, including the new Splat Dualies and remixed versions of the Splat Roller and Splat Charger from the original game. Eager players can download the beta version of Splatoon 2 now ahead of the Global Testfire event, so it’s ready to go as soon as the free beta kicks off. Head to the Nintendo eShop on your Switch to grab your copy, and get the 410MB download out of the way ahead of time.

Here’s when you’ll be able to take part in the Global Testfire: March 24th from 7pm GMT
March 25th from 3am GMT
March 25th from 11am GMT
March 25th from 7pm GMT
March 26th from 4am GMT
March 26th from 12pm GMT Find out more in the slightly surreal trailer for the beta:

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  2. ^ Nintendo Switch (
  3. ^ Nintendo Switch hands-on review (
  4. ^ Most anticipated Nintendo Switch games (
  5. ^ read more (
  6. ^ Zelda: Breath of the Wild news and rumours (
  7. ^ Amazon (
  8. ^ Game (
  9. ^ Super Mario Odyssey news and rumours (
  10. ^ Nintendo Switch vs Wii U review (
  11. ^ Insomnia60 (