What does a 4G cellular network do


4G: The high-speed cellular standard

The fourth generation of mobile communications is hidden behind the abbreviation 4G.

  • 4G enables higher download and upload rates than UMTS and HSDPA of the third mobile radio generation 3G.
  • The German LTE cellular network only meets the 4G standards in the extended LTE Advanced version.
  • The general equation of 4G and LTE is therefore incorrect.

What is 4G and how does it work?

The abbreviation 4G refers to the fourth generation of mobile communications. In connection with 4G, there is often talk of IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications-Advanced) or LTE-Advanced (Long Term Evolution-Advanced). 4G is the standard that defines the internationally applicable minimum requirements for fourth-generation cellular networks. The following properties characterize a network of this generation (e.g. LTE-Advanced):

  • a download rate of up to 300 Mbit / s
  • downward compatibility with older standards, for example UMTS or HSDPA
  • a latency of around 10 milliseconds
  • High speed data transfer

These features enable HDTV streaming, real-time audio, video telephony and online games on the smartphone or tablet.

4G is based on the previous third generation of mobile communications, but uses new variable bandwidths so that data transmission is faster and more efficient. The 4G standard uses the frequency bands with 800, 1,600 and 2,600 MHz.

Each of the frequency bands has a different range and speed. The advantage here is that users do not have to fear any losses in terms of the data transfer rate. Due to the different frequency bands, the use of a fast data tariff is possible without any problems even in heavily frequented areas.

4G vs. LTE: what are the differences?

Those who conclude a mobile phone contract quickly get confused with the terms 4G and LTE, because both are often equated in everyday life. But that is not entirely true. Because the guidelines set for 4G do not (yet) fully apply to the LTE network in this country. The decisive factor here is the maximum download speed of 300 Mbit / s anchored in it.

Correctly, the current 4G network in Germany should therefore be called the 3.9G network. From a technical point of view, it is only correct to speak of a 4G network in a few areas in which the extension of the LTE network, the so-called LTE Advanced, is available. A download speed of up to 300 Mbit / s can be achieved there.

Network coverage with 4G

The high flexibility in using the various frequency bands gives users of 4G the advantage that they benefit from good cell phone reception in many areas in Germany. The network coverage with 4G (and also LTE) is well developed even in rural and remote areas. More and more users are therefore opting for LTE / 4G at home instead of taking out a DSL connection.

Thanks to 4G, high-speed internet is no longer reserved for large cities and metropolitan areas. A large number of mobile network providers such as Vodafone, O2 or Deutsche Telekom therefore provide different tariffs in the 4G network. Users should ensure that they have sufficient data volume if they also want to use the mobile Internet to stream videos.

Cellular standards in comparison

The mobile networks in Germany and internationally have undergone a major change in the last few decades. The analog network was replaced by the second generation of mobile communications with GMS (Global System for Mobile Communications) and GPRS (General Packet Radio Service). With 2G it is possible to make phone calls and transmit short messages digitally.

UMTS (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System) and HSDPA (High Speed ​​Downlink Packet Access) are available for the third generation of mobile communications. 3G has twice the data transfer rate compared to the previous generation. While with UMTS 3.6 Mbit / s is possible, HSDPA achieves 7.2 Mbit / s. On some mobile devices, the letter H is displayed instead of the 3G abbreviation. H stands for the Internet standards HSPA, HSPA +, HSDPA or HSDPA +.

This was followed by the fourth generation with LTE. With a maximum data transfer rate of 100 Mbit / s, LTE offers significantly higher speeds when surfing the Internet. This means that the mobile Internet achieves transmission speeds that are comparable to an Internet connection via fiber optic cable. The transmission remains stable - even if many people are dialed into the network. Thanks to the different frequency bands, interference occurs much less frequently than is the case with 3G.

A switch to 5G took place in 2019 and 2020. The fifth generation promises a data rate of 10 to 20 Gbit / s.

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