The difference between 3G and 4G | Mr Nutcase

What’s the difference between 3G and 4G?


As the marketing hype machine for 4G networking builds up momentum, you are likely to be barraged with positive messages about this new form of connectivity. 4G stands for fourth generation and it will eventually go on to replace 3G as the UK's premier type of mobile coverage. Ubiquitous availability is still a long way off and the major network providers are not expected to have completed the rollout until the end of 2014 at the earliest. So is it worth upgrading to a 4G device now, or should you stick with 3G for the time being?

Tech Jargon Clean-up

There are all sorts of technical underpinnings to the 3G vs. 4G battle, but the basic difference between the two standards is that 4G is significantly faster. With a 3G smartphone you can technically achieve maximum download speeds of up to 7.2Mbps, with some devices even claiming to offer 13Mbps connections if you look at the small print. However, the reality is that real-world speeds are significantly slower, with averages hovering between 1Mbps and 3Mbps for most customers in the UK. This is about as fast as the early broadband connections that people were relying on over a decade ago, so if you are willing to wait a few seconds for web pages to load and endure quite a bit of buffering when watching a video, then 3G is still perfectly adequate. 4G, on the other hand, is truly a step forward when it comes to speed, with real-world performance ranging from 10Mbps to 30Mbps, depending on the network provider you pick and the compatibility of your handset. With a good level of 4G coverage you should be able to stream videos with minimal waiting or buffering, browse sites which load quickly and download large files in an instant.

Current Limitations

On the face of it, it should be obvious that 4G is the better choice if you are a regular user of mobile internet services. But there are some things to bear in mind before you commit to brand new 4G devices housed in personalised phone covers. Firstly, it is sensible to remember that as well as being available in a limited but growing number of areas, 4G connectivity will also be affected by all of the variables as 3G. Your geographic location and the number of other people trying to access the internet at the same time as you will impact on your experience. In addition, the cost of 4G tariffs is still currently quite a bit higher than an equivalent 3G alternative. This means you will be paying more for the access you receive, even if the amount of usage you get is exactly the same. The faster connectivity of 4G means that you could also burn through your data allowance in less time, requiring you to have a more generous tariff and spend even more. If you have to upgrade your phone to harness 4G then you will also need a new phone case and other accessories. 3G will eventually give way to 4G, but in 2013 there are still plenty of reasons for you to hold off on your upgrade until a later date. All the newest phone models have 4G built into the device as standard so when you do decide to upgrade, why not treat yourself to a Samsung Galaxy S6 case or iPhone 6 case?

When do we think 5G will be out? For the latest news check out our software and processors page!

Categories: Software and Processors

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