Confused in 2G, 3G, 4G, 4G LTE – What are They?

Quite simply, the “G” stands for Generation, as in the next generation of wireless technologies. Each generation is supposedly faster, more...

Quite simply, the “G” stands for Generation, as in the next generation of wireless technologies. Each generation is supposedly faster, more secure and more reliable. The reliability factor is the hardest obstacle to overcome. 1G was not used to identify wireless technology until 2G, or the second generation, was released. That was a major jump in the technology when the wireless networks went from analog to digital. It’s all uphill from there. 3G came along and offered faster data transfer speeds, at least 200 kilobits per second, for multi-media use and is still the standard for wireless transmissions regardless of what you hear on all those commercials. It is still a challenge to get a true 4G connection, which promises upwards of a 1Gps, Gigabit per second, transfer rate if you are standing still and in the perfect spot. True 4G on a wide spread basis may not be available until the next generation arrives. 5G?



What are the Standards of the G's

Each of the Generations has standards that must be met to officially use the G terminology. Those standards are set by, you know, those people that set standards. The standards themselves are quite confusing but the advertisers sure know how to manipulate them. I will try to simplify the terms a bit.

1G – A term never widely used until 2G was available. This was the first generation of cell phone technology. Simple phone calls were all it was able to do.

2G – The second generation of cell phone transmission. A few more features were added to the menu such as simple text messaging.

3G – This generation set the standards for most of the wireless technology we have come to know and love. Web browsing, email, video downloading, picture sharing and other Smartphone technology were introduced in the third generation. 3G should be capable of handling around 2 Megabits per second.

4G – The speed and standards of this technology of wireless needs to be at least 100 Megabits per second and up to 1 Gigabit per second to pass as 4G. It also needs to share the network resources to support more simultaneous connections on the cell. As it develops, 4G could surpass the speed of the average wireless broadband home Internet connection. Few devices are capable of the full throttle yet. Coverage of true 4G is limited to large metropolitan areas. Outside of the covered areas, 4G phones regress to the 3G standards. We have a ways to go. For now, 4G is simply a little faster than 3G.

4G LTE– Long Term Evolution – LTE sounds better. This buzzword is a version of 4G that is becoming the latest advertised technology but still not true 4G as the standards are set. When you start hearing about LTE Advanced and WIMAX Release 2, then we will be talking about true fourth generation wireless technologies because they are the only two formats realized by the International Telecommunications Union as True 4G at this time.

WiMAX - Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access – should be capable of around 40 megabits per second with a range of 30 miles. It is one of the closest technologies to meet the standards of true 4G and as it develop should surpass the 100MB/second which is the 4G standard. Mobile WiMAX allows the use of high speed data transfers and is the main competition for the 4G LTE services provided by cellular carriers.

The major wireless networks are not actually lying to anyone about 4G, they simply stretch the truth a bit. A 4G phone has to comply with the standards but finding the network resources to fulfill the true standard is difficult. You are buying 4G capable devices but the network is not yet capable of delivering true 4G to the device. Your brain knows that 4G is faster than 3G so you pay the price for the extra speed. Marketing 101.

Where does it go from here and why does this page exist? Not sure where this path will lead but the reason I wrote this page was to try to understand the lingo a bit better. I think I cleared it up for myself so I thought I would pass it along. Hope it helps

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