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What is the difference between 3G and 4G?

What is the difference between 3G and 4G?

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Last updated: 10 February 2022

When buying a phone these days a lot of phrases and terms get thrown around that we just take for granted. Among these are 3G and 4G, which refer to different types of mobile data, but what is the difference?

We have put together a few pointers to keep you in the loop.

What is 3G?

3G stands for third generation and therefore is the third step in mobile data technology. When 3G was introduced, it changed the way people browsed the internet on the move. The jump from 2G to 3G is akin to the difference between dialup and broadband.

What is 4G?

4G is the most modern and fastest mobile internet of internet we have, it is the follow-up to 3G. It is essentially the same service as offered by 3G but offers much faster internet speeds than its predecessor.

So, what exactly is the difference between 3G and 4G?

3G came out in 2003 and 4g came out in 2012 so on 4G you can do everything that you could on 3G but a lot more smoothly and quickly. The difference of speed between the two is vast: while with a typical 3G connection you will only be able to reach speeds of up to 21Mbps, a 4G phone can in theory hit speeds of up to 150Mbps. In practise, 4G is generally around 5 times faster than its forerunner. The main differences between the two is the technology used, the reason that 4G is so much faster is because of a re-design of pre-existing networks. 3G brought in technologies such as HSPA and UMTS to bring speed from kilobytes to a few megabits and making browsing on the go a possibility. 4G however brought technologies like LTE and DSP which brings the download speeds into the hundreds of megabits and making much more data heavy services like streaming a reality.

Is 4G always faster?

It’s not a uniform rule that 4G is always going to be faster than its older counterpart, there are some instances where 3G from one carrier might be faster than 4G from another. If you live in a slightly more remote location, the phone company may not have the infrastructure to support 4G so it’s always worth checking availability.

3G vs 4G: Which is better?

Essentially the main difference is speed and connectivity - the vast majority of the time you will get a higher speed connection with 4G. But on the other hand, you are more likely to be an area where there is a 3G connection than a 4G connection. Most modern smartphones these days come equipped with connections for both 3 and 4G, meaning you use the faster connection when possible, but then switch back to more readily available 3G when 4G drops out.

4G still doesn't beat the connection you can get with the best fibre optic broadband deals, some of which can reach speeds of up to 300MBps. Of course, you can't take your broadband router with you everywhere you go, so you will only be able to get these superfast broadband speeds in the comfort of your own home. But if you want the fastest internet speeds available, compare broadband deals with us and choose a fibre optic package today.

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Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.