What is LTE? Everything You Need to Know

By Tibor Moes / Updated: June 2023

What is LTE? Everything You Need to Know (2023)

What is LTE?

Welcome to the fascinating world of LTE! Have you ever wondered how your mobile device can stream videos and browse the internet with lightning-fast speeds? The answer lies in LTE, a groundbreaking wireless technology that has revolutionized the way we communicate and access the internet.

In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through the evolution of LTE, its varied applications, and its role in shaping the future of mobile networks.

Summary

  • LTE (Long Term Evolution) is a high-speed wireless communication technology. It is the technology behind 4G.
  • LTE enables faster data transmission rates, shorter delays, and improved capacity to handle more users compared to the older 3G.
  • LTE is not used in 5G, which delivers even faster speeds and more capacity than LTE and 4G. 

Don’t become a victim of cybercrime. Protect your devices with the best antivirus software and your privacy with the best VPN service.

Understanding LTE: The Basics

Long-Term Evolution, or LTE as it’s commonly known, is a cellular network that has radically transformed wireless data transmission, offering great spectral efficiency, high data rates, quick round trip time, and the ability to adjust frequency and bandwidth.

Launched as a response to the growing demand for faster wireless data network capacity and speed, the LTE stand is fundamentally different from 2G and 3G networks in terms of its radio interface and core network improvements. In fact, LTE stands as a significant milestone in the evolution of cellular networks.

So, how did this incredible technology come about? The development of LTE can be traced back to 1998, with the International Telecommunication Union setting the standard for 4G, and the first commercial LTE networks launching in 2009.

Now, if you’re on a 4G LTE network, you can stream standard-definition video, high-quality audio, and play basic online games without any hiccups using your mobile data. A 4G LTE hotspot can even serve as an alternative to wired internet, albeit at slightly slower speeds than most home Wi-Fi networks.

As the demand for faster and more efficient networks continues to grow, investments in LTE technology are expected to remain relevant for years to come.

LTE Network Architecture

The architecture of LTE consists of three main components: the Evolved Packet Core (EPC), the Radio Access Network (RAN), and User Equipment (UE). The EPC, which serves as the backbone of the LTE network, is made up of several nodes like the Mobility Management Entity (MME), Serving Gateway (SGW), Packet Data Network Gateway (PGW), and Home Subscriber Server (HSS). These nodes work together to manage and route data traffic, as well as handle user authentication and mobility management.

On the other hand, the RAN, also known as E-UTRAN, is responsible for connecting User Equipment (UEs) such as smartphones and tablets to the core network. In order to provide high-quality LTE service, the RAN employs advanced technologies like MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output) and OFDM (Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing) to enhance the signal-to-noise ratio at the receiver. This ultimately leads to better coverage and data speeds for users on the wireless network.

LTE Speeds and Performance

LTE speeds can vary greatly depending on factors like user equipment category, network congestion, and the amount of spectrum available. Nevertheless, LTE is capable of reaching impressive peak download rates of up to 299.6 Mbit/s and upload rates of up to 75.4 Mbit/s with 4×4 antennas using 20 MHz of spectrum. In the United States, for instance, users can experience download speeds up to 100 Mbps at peak times.

While these numbers may seem astonishing, it’s important to remember that real-world performance often differs from theoretical capabilities. Nevertheless, the undeniable fact is that LTE has ushered in a new era of faster and more reliable wireless data connections, making it a core component of the modern mobile experience.

Evolution of LTE: From 4G to 5G

As mobile networks continue to evolve, so too does LTE technology. One major advancement in this area is LTE Advanced, an improved version of LTE that offers more network capacity, faster speeds, and better performance. With the ability to reach peak data rates of up to 1 Gbps, LTE Advanced has significantly enhanced mobile connectivity for users around the world.

Furthermore, LTE plays a crucial role in the development and deployment of 5G networks, the fifth generation of mobile networks that promise even faster speeds, lower latency, and greater capacity. In fact, LTE is essential for 5G networks as it serves as the fallback option for areas with limited 5G coverage. This symbiotic relationship between LTE and 5G further highlights the importance of LTE technology in shaping the future of mobile networks.

LTE Advanced: Enhancing Mobile Connectivity

LTE Advanced (LTE-A) is an upgrade to the original LTE technology, offering users even faster speeds and better performance. What makes LTE Advanced stand out is its ability to support multiple frequency bands through a technique known as carrier aggregation, which optimizes bandwidth and boosts data rates. Moreover, LTE Advanced is backward compatible with LTE, ensuring seamless connectivity for users across different network generations.

With peak data rates reaching up to 1 Gbps, LTE Advanced has significantly improved wireless broadband communication, including citizens broadband radio service and other broadband radio services, and elevated the mobile experience for millions of users worldwide. As the demand for faster and more reliable mobile data connections continues to grow, LTE Advanced has emerged as a vital component in meeting these ever-increasing needs.

LTE’s Role in 5G Networks

As mentioned earlier, LTE plays a significant role in the development and deployment of 5G networks, providing the core network infrastructure for these next-generation networks. In the early stages of 5G, referred to as non-standalone 5G (NSA 5G), it was necessary to have a 4G LTE network control to enable seamless connectivity between the two generations.

This relationship between LTE and 5G networks highlights the importance of LTE technology in enabling faster speeds and reduced latency for users. As 5G networks continue to expand and mature, it is evident that LTE will remain a critical component of the global mobile network infrastructure, providing a solid foundation for the future of wireless communication.

Applications of LTE Technology

LTE technology has found a wide range of applications beyond just improving mobile data connections for smartphones and tablets. From private LTE networks and IoT connectivity to transport services and Voice over LTE (VoLTE), this versatile technology has left its mark across various domains, showcasing its impressive LTE functionality.

As we delve deeper into these applications, we will discover how LTE technology has not only enhanced the capabilities of mobile devices, but also revolutionized other aspects of our increasingly connected world.

LTE for Mobile Devices

At its core, LTE technology was designed to provide high-speed wireless communication for mobile devices, enabling faster internet speeds and improved network coverage compared to previous generations like 3G. This has allowed users to enjoy seamless streaming of videos, high-quality audio, and lag-free gaming on their devices, greatly enhancing the overall mobile experience.

Moreover, as LTE continues to expand its reach, more and more mobile devices are being designed to support this advanced technology. With new hardware and capabilities, users can now harness the power of LTE to stay connected and enjoy a wide range of services on their smartphones and tablets.

LTE and IoT: Connecting the World

The Internet of Things (IoT) is another area where LTE technology has made a significant impact. With its ability to provide reliable and high-speed wireless data transmission, LTE networks have become a popular choice for connecting machinery and equipment in IoT solutions, allowing them to send and receive data.

Two IoT cellular connectivity options, LTE-M and NB-IoT, have been specifically designed for machine-to-machine (M2M) use, based on the LTE standard but modified to support low-power wide area network (LPWAN) operations. With data speeds reaching up to 1 Mbps for LTE-M and 26 Kbps for NB-IoT, these technologies enable seamless communication between devices, paving the way for a more connected world.

Private LTE Networks: Customized Connectivity

Private LTE networks are another exciting application of LTE technology. These networks are essentially miniature versions of public LTE networks, using the same protocols and technology but operating on licensed, unlicensed, or shared spectrum to provide coverage for specific locations.

These networks are particularly useful in geographically-limited areas like remote oil fields or mining sites, as well as in enclosed areas like large factories or seaports. By utilizing private LTE networks, businesses can ensure reliable and customized connectivity for their operations, further highlighting the versatility and potential of LTE technology.

Voice over LTE (VoLTE): Revolutionizing Phone Calls

Voice over LTE, or VoLTE, is a game-changing technology that enables phone calls to be placed over the LTE network as data packets, rather than as regular voice calls through the circuit-switched network. This innovative approach not only allows for higher quality voice calls and faster call setup times, but also optimizes bandwidth usage, making VoLTE a more efficient and effective solution for voice communication.

As we explore how VoLTE works and the enhanced voice quality it offers, we will see how this technology has revolutionized phone calls and transformed the way we communicate on our mobile devices.

How VoLTE Works

VoLTE operates by sending voice data over the LTE network as data packets instead of using the traditional circuit-switched network. This process allows for higher quality voice calls, faster call setup times, and more efficient use of the network.

To enable VoLTE, both the user’s device and the mobile network need to support the technology. As LTE networks continue to expand and more devices become VoLTE-capable, this innovative approach to voice communication is set to become the new norm for phone calls across the globe.

Enhanced Voice Quality with VoLTE

One of the most significant benefits of VoLTE is the improved voice quality it offers for phone calls. By utilizing a wider range of frequencies and adopting more advanced codecs like Adaptive Multi-Rate Wideband (AMR-WB) for HD Voice and the proposed Full-HD voice with AAC-ELD codec, VoLTE delivers clearer and more natural-sounding voice calls.

This enhanced voice quality not only makes phone calls more enjoyable, but also helps reduce communication barriers and misunderstandings that may arise from poor call quality. As VoLTE continues to gain traction in the mobile industry, users can look forward to an even better voice calling experience.

LTE Around the World: Adoption and Coverage

LTE technology has seen widespread adoption around the world, albeit at varying paces in different regions. In North America and Western Europe, LTE networks are rapidly replacing 3G networks, with the transition to 4G LTE and 5G networks projected to be complete by 2022. Meanwhile, in other regions, LTE adoption may still be in its early stages, but its expansion is expected to accelerate in the near future.

As LTE continues to grow in popularity and coverage, more and more people worldwide are reaping the benefits of this advanced wireless technology. Faster speeds, better performance, and a host of new applications are just some of the many reasons why the future of LTE adoption and coverage looks incredibly promising.

Summary

In conclusion, LTE technology has revolutionized the world of wireless communication, providing faster speeds, better performance, and a plethora of applications across various domains. From mobile devices and IoT connectivity to private LTE networks and VoLTE, LTE has left an indelible mark on our increasingly connected world. As this technology continues to evolve and play a crucial role in the development of 5G networks, it is clear that LTE is here to stay, shaping the future of mobile networks and enhancing our communication experiences.

How to stay safe online:

  • Practice Strong Password Hygiene: Use a unique and complex password for each account. A password manager can help generate and store them. In addition, enable two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever available.
  • Invest in Your Safety: Buying the best antivirus for Windows 11 is key for your online security. A high-quality antivirus like Norton, McAfee, or Bitdefender will safeguard your PC from various online threats, including malware, ransomware, and spyware.
  • Be Wary of Phishing Attempts: Be cautious when receiving suspicious communications that ask for personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask for sensitive details via email or text. Before clicking on any links, ensure the sender's authenticity.
  • Stay Informed. We cover a wide range of cybersecurity topics on our blog. And there are several credible sources offering threat reports and recommendations, such as NIST, CISA, FBI, ENISA, Symantec, Verizon, Cisco, Crowdstrike, and many more.

Happy surfing!

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions.

Is LTE the same as 4G?

To sum it up, LTE is the technology behind 4G, not a competing one. LTE is faster than 3G and provides access to a wide range of online activities.

Is LTE cellular or WiFi?

Yes, LTE is a cellular network that uses radio signals to transmit data. This means that LTE is not a WiFi connection, but rather its own type of cellular connection.

Does LTE mean 4G or 5G?

No, LTE does not mean 5G. While 5G is the fifth generation of mobile network technology, LTE stands for Long-Term Evolution and is associated with the 4G wireless communications standard.

5G promises faster speeds and more capacity than LTE and 4G, but it will take some time before the technology is widely available.

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.