A Definition of 3G
3G is a mobile communication standard that permits portable electronic devices to access the internet wirelessly. It stands for “third generation,” meaning it is the third most widely available access to technology.
“The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) defined the third generation (3G) of mobile telephony standards IMT-2000 to facilitate growth, increase bandwidth, and support more diverse applications,” explains SearchTelecom. “For example, GSM could deliver not only voice, but also circuit-switched data at speeds up to 14.4 Kbps. But to support mobile multimedia applications, 3G had to deliver packet-switched data with better spectral efficiency, at far greater speeds.”
Most modern devices are equipped with 3G, and wireless providers typically offer different 3G access plans with varying rates of access. Tablets are another very common device that users rely on to access the 3G network via data plan, and laptops can also be formatted to utilize 3G with a SIM card. Some tablets offer built-in, automatic access to wireless networks, while others require external devices for network access.
A Definition of 4G
4G is a mobile communication standard that works at a faster and more efficient rate than 3G to permit portable electronic devices to access the Internet wirelessly. It is meant to succeed 3G and is almost entirely available worldwide. You may also see 4G referred to as 4G LTE, which stands for “Long Term Evolution” and represents a specific type of 4G that is up to 10 times faster than 3G.
Most recently, 3G-enabled devices also have the capacity to access the LTE network. That includes smart phones, tablets, and some laptops. As of 2016, LTE was available in the majority of countries.
Benefits of 3G vs. 4G
In general, 4G is supposed to be faster than 3G, but this is not always the case. 3G has a set of standards, guaranteeing a minimum speed, while standards for 4G are still evolving and not yet precisely defined.
3G, therefore, may be considered more reliable in that it can be expected to function according to these standards. 4G can be much faster but also is less reliable, particularly in its first incarnations. While companies may advertise 4G, it may not actually align with the current accepted 4G standards. 3G is also more widely available, particularly in Africa, by comparison.
Benefits of 4G vs. 3G
When a 4G network is up to standard, users have the benefit of increased speed, meaning websites load more quickly, it’s easier to play media such as videos and MP3 files, and so forth. 4G also is consistently faster with data transfers and offers a much faster option when using a mobile hotspot. 4G will also have more steady coverage in areas that may have struggled with 3G. Though it is somewhat less available on an international scale, 4G can still be found in most countries.
Furthermore, 4G is a rapidly expanding service that will eventually achieve the same global saturation as 3G. Investing in 4G now is essentially an investment for the near future. As companies perfect their 4G offerings, 3G will ultimately become obsolete (as all technology does when bigger, better, or faster options become the norm).
3G or 4G: What Do You Need?
3G and 4G are often confused with Wi-Fi, but it’s actually an important distinction to make. Wi-Fi relies on a router that makes broadband service wireless in a certain area – your home, office, etc. But Wi-Fi isn’t readily available everywhere you go, thus mobile devices only equipped with Wi-Fi capabilities will be unable to access the Internet in areas where Wi-Fi is not available. That’s precisely where 3G and 4G networks come in, providing “Internet access via the same radio towers that provide voice service to your mobile phone,” as PCWorld explains.
4G is almost a necessity in 2016. Most companies have full coverage across the nation, and the speed of the network makes daily life easier. With its unbeatable speed of data processing, 4G is a must for people who like to stream videos or use their devices as hotspots. It is important to note that 4G can go through data much more quickly than 3G, a key consideration for mobile customers deciding on a new wireless data plan.
3G is a viable option for those who primarily use their phones for talk and SMS. The speed of 4G has no impact on voice calls and will be of little value for these uses; in fact, 4G can actually drain a device’s battery life and, if you have little need for high speed, could be detrimental if you require a long-lasting battery.
3G is also a necessary alternative for areas that do not yet have 4G coverage. 4G enabled devices will lose battery power quickly in an area that only supports 3G, which can be a downfall if you spend most of your time in an area that supports only 3G.