Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What is 4G

What is 4G

Thats a good question.
In this post, I will explain the differences between 4G mobile data protocols, the differences between 3G protocols, theoretical throughput, actual throughput and whats best for you.



HSPA+ is High Speed Packet Access plus.
It is a GSM 3gpp standard which means you can see this technology in use from certain phones that use a sim card. (T-Mobile, AT&T).

HSPA+ on T-Mobile has been advertised as a 42Mbps throughput (theoretical) while on AT&T has a throughput of 21 Mbps (theoretical)

On AT&T; phones like the iPhone 4s have theoretical throughput speeds of 14.4 Mbps while in real life situations, you will see between 1 and 7 Mbps (also on iPhone 4 but iPhone 4 has 7.2 HSPA).

In tests; T-Mobile has always had a faster connection than AT&T but was always less reliable.

As a part of AT&T's leap from 3G to 4G HSPA+; more protocols were established.
HSDPA (download) and HSUPA (upload). Think of it as a 3G/4G hybrid.


WiMAX (sort of like WI-FI) is a 4G protocol implemented by ClearWire and deployed by Sprint.

When WiMax was first released; it gained throughput speeds of over 10Mbps.
but as the network became saturated, WiMax became a slouch gaining speeds of less than 2Mbps consistently.

Sprint has announced that they will be moving on to 4G LTE by 2012.


4G LTE - Long Term Evolution.

The title says it all. LTE is a hybrid CDMA with GSM 4G protocol. 4G LTE is implemented in the US by Verizon Wireless, MetroPCS, and AT&T (we'll get to that in a bit)

4G LTE has a theoretical throughput of ~100Mbps (depending on the network and phone/device)

while in real life situations you could see 5-14 Mbps (Verizon), 3-7 Mbps (AT&T), and 1-6 Mbps (MetroPCS)

AT&T also implemented LTE (as well as HSPA+) into their network after seeing a large disappointment/need for LTE coverage. AT&T currently has two 4G networks.

LTE proves to be the least latent of all the protocols but while LTE is the fastest and least latent, it is a huge battery hog. Cellular phones with a battery less than 2000 MAh will be dead within ~6 hours on LTE.

Phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note (2500 MAh) and the Motorola Droid RAZR MAXX(3300MAh) have grown in popularity for their outstanding battery life.

so what if you dont want to hop on the 4G bandwagon?

There will certainly be regular old 3g phones well into the next 5 years.


AT&T/T-Mobile. (GSM Standard)

The popular iPhone brand all operate on AT&T's 3G HSPA network.

Speeds usually come in between 800Kbps and 4Mbps (sometimes getting even higher)

Speeds are very similar for T-Mobile.

EVDO Rev.0 Rev.A Rev.B and 1XRTT

Verizon, MetroPCS, Sprint. (CDMA Standard)

EVDO Rev.B is the fastest of the group. With throughput speed at 850kbps up to a whopping 3Mbps on Verizon (who im sure is the only provider with Rev.B service)

EVDO Rev.A (Verizon, Sprint)

Rev.A is what you will see on most CDMA phones.

Speeds range from 500Kbps to about 1Mbps if in good range.

EVDO Rev.0 (MetroPCS)

EVDO Rev.0 is much lower end. with throughput speeds between 150Kbps to a possible 950Kbps

1xRTT (Sprint, Verizon, MetroPCS)

1XRTT is definitely the slowest because it was the first data protocol set by the CDMA2000 standards group.

Throughput speeds range from 30Kbps to around 140Kbps.
at first; 1X was typically used for mobile web sites and picture messaging.


Whats right for you?

Good question.

It all depends. if you want decent speed, coverage and tremendous battery life then HSPA or HSPA+ may be for you. unfortunately HSPA is very inconsistent and isnt always reliable and in some cases, you may need to purchase an expensive phone (iPhone anyone?)

If you want a device that will go 3 days without dying then maybe a 1xrtt phone or EVDO Rev.0 device is for you.

It allows enough throughput to access your email and facebook, phones are fairly cheap, and batteries tend to last longer.

If you want the best coverage, the highest selection of phones and soomewhat decent battery life; maybe EVDO Rev.A/Rev.B is for you.

It allows enough throughput to watch Youtube videos, facebook with your friends and check email, while still being good on battery life.

If you want ever-growing coverage and acceptance, broadband speeds, and are willing to charge more than 3 times per day then

LTE is for you. now there are alternatives to charging multiple times per day such as buying extended batteries, or turning off data access. While still being able to own the best in mobile.

Either way, hopefully this article helped you decide where you want to go with your mobile selections.

Be sure to check me out and follow on twitter at

See you soon.

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