What's the point of 4G?

I've had 3.5G on my phone for years now. It has enough bandwidth to stream youtube, download from torrent sources and watch live TV. It's great! Yet 4G is selling and I don't know why.

If you have 4G, what do you get out of it that you can't get from 3/3.5G? Is it worth the money?

Faster speeds would be my first guess. I've seen up to 100mbs/s up 50mb/s down with 4G.

That's some impressive stats. What would be a use case that benefits from such speeds? Data caps stop the obvious case...

Basically it exists because those who put it out there want it to replace the standard broadband connection. They have better control over what they can control which means better profits.

larger Bandwidth, improved underlying networking, improved latency, improved voice and video (because of improved bandwidth and latency)

why? Same reason we went from 110 buad to 28kpbs to 56kpbs to 1mbps to 80mpbs fibre and so on.

Pretty sure the only reason they exist is because current networks haven't been build to handle it yet at full capacity. that said, unlimited data is available on 4G on some networks (three)

As a T mobile customer i get 12-22ish mbits/s on "3.5G" (you mean HSPA+ i guess), while on LTE i get 65-95ish mbits/s. so i can see what you mean but LTE ping is a drastic improvement, with LTE my ping is 15-30 depending on the day while hspa+ is at last 200, usually alot more depending on the day. LTE is amazing

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It is much, much, faster. On Verizon on my GS4 I generally get around 65 Mb/s down and 50 Mb/s up. Compared to 3G which, when I am on it rarely, is around 1-2Mb/s down and up max but generally under 1Mb/s. Also 3G has much higher latency usually. My ping on average with 4G is about 50ms on 3G to a server a similar distance away it is over 200ms.

Occasionally, I am forced to use 3G because I am in a poor service area and it is basically, for me, impossible to use. Checking FB or Instagram, this website, getting directions on Google Maps, buffering videos all takes an age. Not very useful when you need the information right away.

Do you not live in the US? I mean here nearly every carrier offers 4G/LTE only. Data plans are only offered at those speeds. Some may throttle you after you go over your cap to 3G speeds but there aren't 3G plans. So it isn't "more money." Maybe you have an iPhone4/4S, or some other phone, that only does 3G? In that case I'd say it is worth the money to upgrade your device for better speeds and a better device generally.

I mean what I see is people saying "Well Comcast gives me 15 down and 5 up. That is enough for watching movies and streaming. Why would I want Gigabit?" Even with data caps (which some carriers do not have) it is a major improvement from usability standpoint.

No. The US 4G/LTE mobile network could pretty easily handle fully unlimited or very high caps. They just don't because it is a good way to make money.

Ah lower latency. Voip, video calls, some gaming etc will all be improved on 4G. Yes that would be worth paying for.

As for the higher data rate, it sounds good but 3.5G is fast enough for everything I can think of on mobile! (unless you get an unlimited plan and tether to desktop/laptop use but this is technically against every carrier's t&cs).

I don't buy the "Good enough" argument. There is always room for improvement and even saving a few seconds means something. Plus, at least in my area 3.5G isn't a thing. It is just 3G which is very slow.

Btw in the US again, almost every carrier lets you tether or use your device as a hotspot for no additional fee. Mine even came with an app to do it if you didn't wanna use Android's built in hotspot/tethering functionality. Although all the Verizon app does is open up the settings menu to use said built in functionality...

I actually know someone on the board of directors for Verizon and they started data caps just to make huge amounts of money. She left about 2 years ago because of how greedy the other board members were. They were DRASTICALLY cutting back on the number of US employees and outsourcing the jobs, overcharging customers, and doing some shady business deals..... the sad thing is that they are doing the same shit still today......

Of course. Businesses exist purely to make money. So that is what they do. Data caps are silly and are literally only to make money.

I live in GCHQville so we don't have Comcast or Verizon but yes many carriers offer 4G albeit with patchier service compared to 3G. I get 5±3 Mb/s down, 1±0.5 Mb/s up and 150±50ms ping on a galaxy s2 (which is a fantastic phone but was from the 3G days).

Yeah you're right about the "Good enough" argument - there's always a few seconds to save. The questions become how much are you willing to pay for it or is it worth upgrading a handset just for the higher speed? I guess those are the questions I'm trying to answer.

Also, I use many, many gigs of data on mobile so my plans always bar me from tethering.

Well it isn't "extra" because the price of my plan never changed and you can't get a cheaper "3G only" plan.

As for upgrading your handset I'd say yes it is worth it. Not just for the speed and latency improvements but also because most 3G phones are quite old now. I'd want a new one just for better usability generally and better performance there.

I will preface this by saying that I don't have a 4G (or a 3.5G) smartphone and so I can only speak to the technical merits and second-hand experiences. The things that stand out to me that hasn't been mentioned yet are Wi-Fi calling and HD Voice.

The main reason 3.5G existed was that the governing body that decides what the definition of 4G is (The ITU, I think) decided to remove circuit-based switching and only allow packet-based switching. This allows for much more efficient spectrum use, however, it took longer to implement (reliably) than they originally hoped. Circuit switching is what happens with a land-line phones: when you initiate a call you get part of the infrastructure running between the two ends dedicated just to you for the duration of the call with a fixed amount of data passing between the two ends. Packet-switching is what happens with VoIP calls: chunks of data (not necessarily the same size) get sent over shared infrastructure to the destination and reassembled. Also, having voice and data sharing radio hardware simplifies a lot of things, both in the phone and in the cell towers. Packet switched phone calls mean you aren't limited to a fixed call quality; it can be much better (as long as you have a good connection to the cell tower).

There are a number of families that I know from back home that own "cabins" in the mountains near Brian Head. They have decently fast DSL service but no cell coverage. So when you went up there you had to use the landline if you wanted to make a call or else take a 4-wheeler up the hill until you could get a cell signal. With packet-based phone calling, it is now possible to make regular phone calls over the Internet. (not every carrier has it and not every 4G phone has implemented it, but it is possible to do now.)

TL;DR They created 3.5G because technologies like VoLTE (VoIP) weren't reliable enough yet, but radio designs had been greatly improved over what 3G could do and carriers really wanted to start rolling the technology out.


Have you tried 3g on VZW? its laughable.

You got 4G for no extra cost? Nice! I've had this Bacon character doing the hard sell on me since 2013... but yeah you're right maybe it's time to move on. People are always asking me why I'm still rocking an s2. I usually come out with some semi-plausible explanation but maybe I'm just attached :P

Edit: Thanks for bringing this to my attention. I phoned my carrier and it turns out I've already got unlimited 4G data on my plan at no extra cost :D

The move to 4G in newzealand was pretty funny. I was sitting in the office one day and my nexus just randomly switched to the 4G symbol and that was that. I didn't really see any ads or get exposed to any marketing, it just sorta popped up out of no where. I've never used my phone for any serious internet usage but i don't pay anything extra so im fine with it. with that said however if i had to pay extra for it i probably wouldn't use it.

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