What is 3G and 4G?

For average consumers, '3G' and '4G' are two of the most mysterious terms in the mobile technology dictionary, but they're used relentlessly to sell phones and tablets.

Here is a brief description of 3G and 4G.

3G and 4G, in fact, are standards for mobile communication. Standards specify how the airwaves must be used for transmitting information (voice and data). 3G (or 3rd Generation) was launched in Japan in 2001. As recently as mid-2010, the networks for most wireless carriers in the U.S. were 3G. 3G networks were a significant improvement over 2G networks, offering higher speeds for data transfer. The first two were analog cell phones (1G) and digital phones (2G)

What is 3G?

3G is shorthand for “3rd generation,” and refers to a networking standard in cell phone technology that is capable of providing high-speed data service to mobile devices. As 3G wireless networks became more widespread, you could finally connect to and use the Internet at practical speeds (with a 3G-enabled smartphone), which far surpassed those of the previous generation of mobile phone technology (called 1X)

What is 4G?

In one word: fast! To be technical, 4G stands for “4th generation” mobile data protocol. But as a growing band of 4G users will tell you, it’s all about the speed.

Now, what is 4G LTE? LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. It’s a term used for the particular 4G protocol that delivers the fastest mobile Internet experience. Some experts even refer to it as “true 4G.” A 4G LTE network is therefore one that operates at the leading edge of speed and reliability.

Comparison chart

Data Throughput Up to 3.1Mbps with an average speed range between 0.5 to 1.5 Mbps Practically speaking, 2 to 12 Mbps (Telstra in Australia claims up to 40 Mbps) but potential estimated at a range of 100 to 300 Mbps.
Peak Upload Rate 5 Mbps 500 Mbps
Switching Technique packet switching packet switching, message switching
Network Architecture Wide Area Cell Based Integration of wireless LAN and Wide area.
Services And Applications CDMA 2000, UMTS, EDGE etc Wimax2 and LTE-Advance
Forward error correction (FEC) 3G uses Turbo codes for error correction. Concatenated codes are used for error corrections in 4G.
Peak Download Rate 100 Mbps 1 Gbps
Frequency Band 1.8 – 2.5 GHz 2 – 8 GHz