What is 4G? Everything You Need to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is 4G? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

What is 4G?

The world of mobile networks has come a long way since the early days of 1G. Now, we are in the era of 4G and 5G, also known as the fourth and fifth generation of mobile network technology.

But what exactly is 4G, and how does it impact our daily lives? In this blog post, we will unpack the ins and outs of 4G, its key components, and the benefits it offers for both users and applications.

Summary

  • 4G is the fourth generation of mobile network technology, providing faster speeds and increased capacity compared to 3G.
  • 4G LTE has revolutionized mobile communications with its fast, reliable & efficient connection for users.
  • 5G already coexists with 4G, offering increased bandwidth & reduced latency for a better user experience.

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Understanding 4G: The Fourth Generation of Mobile Network Technology

4G is the latest and greatest in mobile network technology, providing faster speeds and increased capacity compared to its predecessor, 3G. Developed in the late 2000s, 4G has since become widely available for mobile devices worldwide. It’s based on an all-IP network infrastructure and uses MIMO and OFDM technologies to ensure there’s plenty of bandwidth for users.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) defines 4G as a system that meets the capabilities outlined in International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced (IMT Advanced). This includes technologies such as LTE, WiMAX, and HSPA+, which have been designed to achieve theoretical data speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s for high-mobility communication and 1 Gbit/s for low-mobility communication.

WiMAX and LTE were initially competing approaches to 4G wireless cellular technology, with WiMAX being rolled out in South Korea in 2006 and LTE in Oslo and Stockholm in 2009. However, LTE has become the predominant standard for mobile network providers worldwide, primarily due to its use of Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) for faster and more reliable data transmission.

As a result, 4G has revolutionized mobile phone technology, enabling the widespread use of mobile phones, tablets, and other connected devices.

Evolution from 3G to 4G

The transition from 3G to 4G was marked by significant advancements in mobile network technology. While 3G was based on a combination of circuit-switching and packet-switching network nodes, 4G is solely based on packet switching, allowing for more efficient data transmission.

The first-release WiMAX standard was rolled out in South Korea in 2006, followed by the deployment of LTE (Long Term Evolution), a pre-4G 3GPP technology, in Oslo and Stockholm in 2009. These early 4G technologies introduced increased bandwidth speeds and laid the foundation for the development of advanced 4G transmission technology like LTE Advanced, which meets and exceeds the ITU’s IMT Advanced specifications.

The shift from 3G to 4G has brought about numerous benefits for users and applications. Faster data speeds, improved network capacity, and reduced latency are just a few of the advantages 4G has to offer. These improvements have enabled a new generation of mobile devices and applications, transforming the way we live, work, and communicate.

4G LTE: A Step Forward

4G LTE has been a game-changer in the world of mobile network technology. Standing for Long Term Evolution, LTE represents a significant advancement in mobile communications, providing higher data speeds and improved network capacity compared to previous generations. LTE was first launched in Stockholm and Oslo in 2009 and has since become the standard for mobile network providers worldwide.

LTE and its successor, LTE Advanced, utilize additional spectrums and multiplexing techniques to achieve faster data speeds and greater network capacity. With peak data rates of up to 100 Mbit/s in the downlink and 50 Mbit/s in the uplink, LTE enables faster and more reliable connections for a wide range of mobile devices, including smartphones, tablets, and IoT devices.

As a result, 4G LTE has revolutionized the mobile communications landscape, providing users with a high-speed, reliable, and efficient means of staying connected in today’s fast-paced world.

Key Components of 4G Technology

4G technology is built on three key components: Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO); Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM); and all-IP networks. These technologies work together to provide the fast data speeds, increased capacity, and improved network performance that set 4G apart from its predecessors.

MIMO technology uses multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver to send multiple streams of data simultaneously, increasing the capacity and speed of the network. OFDM is a digital multi-carrier modulation technique that divides transmissions into smaller chunks and allocates different frequencies to different users, ensuring simultaneous transmissions won’t interfere with each other and providing faster and more reliable connections.

All-IP networks, on the other hand, use Internet Protocol (IP) for all communications, allowing for more efficient data transmission and simplified network management for mobile network providers.

Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO)

MIMO, or Multiple Input Multiple Output, is a crucial component of 4G technology that significantly enhances network performance by enabling more users to be supported simultaneously. By utilizing multiple antennas at both the transmitter and receiver, MIMO allows for the transmission and reception of multiple streams of data at the same time. This greatly increases the capacity and speed of the network, improving the overall user experience.

MIMO technology makes it possible to transmit high-speed data in a fading channel more reliably. This is accomplished by using multiple antennas at the transmitter and/or receiver. This results in better network performance, faster data speeds, and a more reliable connection for users.

Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM)

Orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) is another key component of 4G technology that contributes to its improved performance over previous generations of mobile networks. OFDM is a digital multi-carrier modulation technique that divides transmissions into smaller chunks and allocates different frequencies to different users. By allowing simultaneous transmissions to occur without interfering with each other, OFDM provides faster and more reliable connections for users.

The use of OFDM in 4G technology enables faster data speeds, increased capacity, and improved network performance compared to the technologies that powered 3G. This makes 4G ideal for supporting a wide range of applications and services, from mobile internet and streaming video to wireless broadband and IoT devices.

All-IP-Based Networks

All-IP networks are a vital component of 4G technology, as they enable more efficient data transmission and simplified network management for mobile network providers. Unlike previous generations of mobile networks, which used a combination of circuit-switching and packet-switching network nodes, 4G is solely based on packet switching. This allows for faster and more reliable data transmission, ultimately providing a better user experience.

All-IP networks use Internet Protocol (IP) for all communications, supporting both voice and data transmission over the same network infrastructure. This not only simplifies network management for mobile network providers, but also allows for more efficient use of network resources, ultimately benefiting users through improved network performance and faster data speeds.

Advantages of 4G for Users and Applications

The advent of 4G technology has brought about a host of advantages for users and applications. Some of the most notable benefits include enhanced data speeds, reduced latency, and the introduction of Voice over LTE (VoLTE). These advantages have enabled a new generation of mobile devices and applications, transforming the way we live, work, and communicate.

Faster data speeds enable users to access their data much faster, improving the overall user experience. Reduced latency ensures more reliable data transmission, which is particularly important for applications that require a quick response, such as online gaming. VoLTE technology allows for high-quality voice calls and video chats over 4G networks, providing users with a seamless communication experience.

Enhanced Data Speeds

One of the most significant benefits of 4G technology is the enhanced data speeds it offers. With theoretical speeds of up to 100 Mbit/s for high mobility communication and 1 Gbit/s for low mobility communication, 4G provides significantly faster data transmission than 3G.

This improvement in data speeds, including download speeds, enables users to access their data much faster, improving the overall user experience and enabling a new generation of mobile devices and applications.

These faster data speeds allow users to stream high-definition video, play online games, and access their data-intensive applications with ease. As a result, 4G technology has not only transformed the way we use our mobile devices, but also opened up new possibilities for businesses and consumers alike.

Reduced Latency

Another notable advantage of 4G technology is its reduced latency compared to 3G networks. Latency refers to the time it takes for data to be sent and received between devices, and lower latency ensures faster and more reliable data transmission. This improvement in latency is particularly important for applications that require a quick response, such as online gaming, where a shorter delay can significantly enhance the user experience.

Reduced latency in 4G networks also benefits other applications, such as video conferencing, live streaming, and remote working. By providing faster and more reliable data transmission, 4G technology enables users to communicate and collaborate more effectively, ultimately enhancing productivity and connectivity.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

Voice over LTE (VoLTE) is a groundbreaking technology that enables high-quality voice calls and video chat over 4G networks. Unlike traditional voice calls, which are transmitted over circuit-switched networks, VoLTE calls are transmitted as digital packets over 4G LTE networks, providing users with a seamless communication experience. This not only results in better call quality, but also allows for faster call setup times and improved battery life for mobile devices.

VoLTE technology also offers the added benefit of allowing users to use data and make voice calls simultaneously, enabling them to browse the web or use their apps while on a call. This level of multitasking was not possible with 3G networks, making VoLTE a significant advancement in mobile communications.

4G and IoT: Opportunities and Challenges

While 4G technology has revolutionized mobile communications, it also presents some limitations when it comes to IoT devices. High power consumption, limited coverage, and cost are some of the main challenges faced by IoT devices when using 4G networks.

However, LTE-M, a type of low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) designed specifically for IoT devices, provides a solution for these challenges. LTE-M offers fast data rates, power-saving features, and affordable components, making it an ideal solution for IoT connectivity.

By providing a reliable and cost-efficient way to connect IoT devices to the 4G network, LTE-M enables businesses to save money, become more efficient, and even generate more income.

Limitations of 4G for IoT Devices

One of the main drawbacks of 4G technology for IoT devices is its high power consumption, which can be a significant issue for battery-powered devices that require constant connectivity. Additionally, 4G networks do not support network roaming, which means that devices must remain connected to the same network in order to communicate. This can be problematic for IoT devices that need to operate across different networks or geographical locations.

Another challenge faced by IoT devices when using 4G networks is the limited coverage and spotty network connections that can occur in certain areas. While 4G networks have made significant strides in coverage, there are still areas where network connectivity is not as strong or reliable as it needs to be for IoT devices to function optimally.

LTE-M: A Solution for IoT Connectivity

To address the limitations of 4G technology for IoT devices, LTE-M has emerged as a promising solution. LTE-M, or Long-Term Evolution Machine Type Communication, is a type of low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) designed specifically for IoT devices. It offers fast data rates, power-saving features, and cost-effective components, making it an ideal solution for IoT connectivity.

By leveraging the existing 4G LTE infrastructure, LTE-M enables IoT devices to transmit more data with less power, while also supporting Power Saving Mode (PSM) and Discontinuous Reception (DRX) to further reduce power consumption while idle. This combination of features makes LTE-M a highly attractive option for businesses looking to implement IoT solutions while minimizing the impact on their existing network infrastructure and resources.

The Future of 4G and Transition to 5G

As we look to the future, 4G networks will remain relevant even as the transition to 5G technology gains momentum. It is estimated that by 2025, two-thirds of all mobile connections will be 4G, highlighting the continued importance of this technology in the coming years.

However, the emergence of 5G networks brings with it a host of benefits, including increased bandwidth with peak speeds as high as 20 Gbps, which will offer significant advantages for users and applications alike.

The transition from 4G to 5G will not happen overnight, and it is likely that both technologies will coexist for the foreseeable future. As the roll-out of 5G networks continues, businesses and consumers can expect to see even more advanced mobile devices and applications, further transforming the way we live, work, and communicate.

Remaining Relevance of 4G Networks

Despite the ongoing development and deployment of 5G networks, 4G technology will continue to play a critical role in mobile communications for the foreseeable future. The wide coverage, high speeds, and low latency of 4G networks make them an essential component of our daily lives, enabling us to stay connected and access information, entertainment, and services with ease.

As 5G networks continue to be rolled out and adopted, 4G networks will provide a solid foundation for the next generation of mobile devices and applications. The continued relevance of 4G networks ensures that users will continue to enjoy the benefits of fast, reliable, and efficient mobile communications, even as new technologies emerge and evolve.

Benefits of Moving to 5G

While 4G networks will continue to play a vital role in mobile communications, there are numerous benefits to moving to 5G technology. The most notable advantage of 5G is its increased bandwidth, with peak speeds reaching up to 20 Gbps, which is significantly faster than the speeds offered by 4G networks. This increase in bandwidth will enable even more advanced mobile devices and applications, transforming the way we live, work, and communicate.

In addition to faster speeds, 5G networks also offer reduced latency, which ensures even faster response times and an improved user experience. The combination of these benefits, along with the continued development of new and innovative mobile devices and applications, will ensure that the transition from 4G to 5G is a smooth and exciting journey for both businesses and consumers alike.

Summary

In conclusion, 4G technology has revolutionized the world of mobile communications by providing faster speeds, increased capacity, and improved network performance. As we look to the future, 4G networks will continue to remain relevant even as 5G technology is introduced, offering a seamless transition for users and applications. With the continued development and deployment of advanced mobile devices and applications, the possibilities for mobile communications are seemingly endless, and we can expect to see even more exciting innovations in the years to come.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

What does 4G means?

4G, short for fourth-generation wireless, is the latest generation of mobile technology that offers faster download and upload speeds than its predecessors. It’s also capable of powering more data-intensive services such as video streaming and online gaming. 4G has revolutionized the way we experience the internet on our devices!

Is 4G the same as LTE?

It’s important to know the difference between 4G and LTE when looking at cell phone plans, so let’s clear it up. LTE is basically a bridge between 3G and 4G that doesn’t offer quite as much speed and stability as true 4G, but it does fill in the gap. Ultimately, 4G will be a much better choice for faster speeds and more capabilities.

Do I really need 4G?

Do you need 4G? That depends on how often and what type of data you download. If you frequently share photos, videos or use streaming music services like Spotify, then yes, 4G is the way to go. But if you do light web browsing and check emails only occasionally, you may not need it.

What is the difference between 4G and 3G networks?

The main difference between 4G and 3G networks is that the former offers faster download and upload speeds, increased capacity, and quicker response times. 4G networks also provide better coverage and reliability.

What are the key components of 4G technology?

4G technology consists of key components such as MIMO, OFDM, and all-IP networks – essential tools that help us stay connected. With faster speeds and improved data capacity, 4G ensures we can access the information we need quickly and efficiently.

Author: Tibor Moes

Author: Tibor Moes

Founder & Chief Editor at SoftwareLab

Tibor has tested 39 antivirus programs and 30 VPN services, and holds a Cybersecurity Graduate Certificate from Stanford University.

He uses Norton to protect his devices, CyberGhost for his privacy, and Dashlane for his passwords.

You can find him on LinkedIn or contact him here.