4G internet connectivity is touted as being the natural successor to 3G, exceeding it in terms of speed and connection latency. But how much faster is 4G than 3G and is it really worth upgrading now, or should you wait for further developments to get your high speed data fix?
4G Download Speed
The problem with assessing 4G download speed is that it is difficult to put an exact figure on it without simultaneously being quite inaccurate. 4G is the same as 3G in that the speed you can achieve on your smartphone or tablet will vary based on a variety of influences. This includes whether you are inside or outside, the signal strength in your area and how many other people nearby are attempting to access data services.
Having said that, network provider EE does at least attempt to try and clear up this issue for potential customers.
EE reckons that some users will even be able to get 15Mbps or more via a 4G phone, with 20Mbps or more becoming a possibility in the near future.
Average 4G download speeds range from 8Mbps to 10Mbps, with upload speeds peaking at 6Mbps; considerably quicker than the 1-3Mbps maximum achievable on a 3G-only device.
The raw download speed of a mobile connection is not the only important factor in determining the type of user experience you will receive. Latency is also worth worrying about, because it comes into effect when you are browsing the web or playing online games and basically affects the responsiveness of these services. For 4G customers typical latency will be between 60 and 70 milliseconds, which is better than the 100 to 125ms available over a 3G network.
Feeling the Benefits
The best way to consider 4G speed in comparison to 3G is to actually get to grips with a 4G device and see how much slicker things feel. You will notice the difference most markedly when using video streaming services such as YouTube and Netflix. When trying to access high quality audio and video over a 3G connection, you will often encounter buffering and will have to put up with lower bitrates in order to make things watchable.
Conversely with 4G the video streaming experience will be much more pleasurable, with less thumb-twiddling and sudden drop-outs to deal with over the course of a typical viewing session. Music streaming services like Spotify will also benefit from a 4G connection for the same reasons as video platforms. You will have a whole library of millions of tracks at your disposal when you are out and about and the faster connection will mean that quality is improved and there will be no need to keep favourite tunes on your phone’s internal memory, freeing up space.
Social networking will be improved, because you will not only be able to browse Facebook and Twitter more smoothly thanks to the 4G download speeds, but also upload photos and content quicker when you are out than you would if you were using 3G.
If you have just snapped a priceless pic that needs to be shared in real time, a 4G internet connection will let you achieve this faster.
Web browsing is the final area where 4G connectivity will be an asset, because when sites load faster and lag less, you will be more prepared to access them from a portable device. Whether you are shopping online, checking the weather or looking at sports scores, having a superfast browsing experience available in the palm of your hand will make you glad that you upgraded to 4G.