If you just got a new iPhone or Android phone, you probably also have a mobile carrier. And when you're looking for the best mobile phone carriers on the market, like AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile, you're likely to hear them talking about LTE connectivity.
It sounds cool, but what exactly is it? Why does it matter, and how does it differ from the standard 4G connectivity you might be used to? Here's everything you need to know.
What Is LTE?
LTE stands for "long term evolution," and it is most commonly used in conjunction with 4G, which stands for the fourth generation of global wireless broadband communication defined in 2008.
LTE can be considered an extension of typical 4G (or even 5G) networks with higher data transfer speeds and lower latency (transfer delay).
You can also think of LTE as the methodology for evolving the 4G generation over multiple releases.
In other words, it allows for improvements and advancements to be made under the umbrella of the fourth generation of wireless data transmission without requiring all mobile devices to be updated following new tech.
How Does LTE Work?
LTE works by transferring data through an internet protocol system. Rather than moving small amounts of data, it carries enormous packets of information through streaming. It's like taking the speed bumps off of a road so your car can move faster.
This is why you can browse the internet even when you're not connected to wi-fi via modems or routers. And while you don't need LTE on your phone to access social media or other web-based apps, LTE makes the process much quicker and more enjoyable, with less lag and less download time.
What Are the Benefits of LTE?
There are a few reasons why almost every cellular network uses LTE as part of their data plans. Here are some of the benefits of LTE technology:
It can be used worldwide by consumers and industries — making it great for businesses.
Long-Term Network Continuity
This means that even as wireless generations come and go, LTE devices will still be able to communicate with one another.
Supports Migration Needs from 2G/3G
As older generations become phased out, LTE technology can help close the gap until newer wireless technology becomes the norm.
Especially when compared to 4G alone, LTE is faster, uses less power, and is lower cost. This makes it accessible for a wide range of uses.
This also makes voice calls and video calls from your mobile devices feel seamless and fast — even when connected to your data plan rather than wi-fi. Messaging, gaming, and other mobile communications are also achievable at high speed.
How Has LTE Technology Changed Over Time?
It's been a long road up until LTE technology has gained the foothold it now has. Here's how it has evolved since its fruition.
3G network technology was introduced all the way back in 1998, and it's often considered the baseline for LTE. This is because LTE refers to performance capabilities that exceed what 3G is capable of. This wireless generation was the first technology with data speeds in the Mbps range, making it a blueprint for many more wireless generations later on.
4G was the next wireless generation that debuted 10 years later, in 2008. Any tablet, phone, or mobile device with 4G speeds needed to hit a peak speed of 100 Mbpsdownload speeds and at least one Gigabit per second for stationary uses.
Funny enough, when those standards were first set, they weren't even possible. So, the International Telecommunication Union Radiocommunication Sector (ITU-R) updated its regulations to allow carriers to list cell phones as compatible with "4G LTE networks" if they substantially improved over 3G.
In 2011, LTE Advanced was introduced as a new variation of 4G technology. While not as fast as true 4G, it achieves faster speeds when compared to traditional LTE by utilizing carrier aggregation for uplink and downlink, speeding mobile data across different frequency bands.
This allows users to download data from multiple sources at one time.
This is the newest wireless generation that debuted in 2019 and 2020. After its complete rollout, 5G technology will be able to offer speeds of up to 10 Gbps — that's 10 times faster than the previous 4G standard.
It also provides lower latency, power requirements, and virtually unlimited data capacity. 5G networks are growing in popularity and are available on most new smartphones.
LTE is usually operated on a public network to which anyone across the globe can have access. However, private LTE or private mobile networks are small, isolated networks that use the same protocols and technology as public LTE.
The only difference is that they are geographically defined in specific locations. Think of it like wireless networkhotspots with LTE speeds, low latency, and extra bandwidth.
These can be beneficial in remote locations like oil rigs, large factories, or seaports. Airports and sports stadiums will sometimes use them as well, allowing users to have better access to data without overcrowding the server.
Why Is LTE Important for IoT (Internet of Things)?
The internet of things (IoT) describes the network of physical objects exchanging data over the internet. This network agriculture includes your tablet, iPhone, smartwatch, computer, and everything connected to the internet.
The internet of things has been around for a long time, but LTE is a relatively new technology. With that said, LTE technology is super important when considering the advancements we can make in the world of technology.
Thanks to LTE, higher speed data transmission and throughputs make it possible for IoT systems to control more extensive and complex systems with fantastic precision.
LTE can mesh with IoT to improve virtually all industries. From transit to agriculture and water management to digital signage, there are virtually endless opportunities for LTE tech to improve how technological devices function and communicate with one another.
LTE stands for long-term evolution and can be thought of as a subset of 4G (fourth generation) wireless data transmission. It allows 4G devices to utilize faster download and upload speeds and lower the latency of data transmission without requiring all mobile devices to update to the newest generation.
LTE has come a long way since the days of its fruition when 3G was first introduced in 1998. Since then, this technology has become integral to the Internet of Things, allowing technological devices to communicate more seamlessly than ever.
Having LTE capabilities on your smart device can let you connect with people from all over the world. And when you use your phone for business, this is extra important.
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What Does '4G' Really Mean, Anyway? | NPR
Internet of Things (IoT) | Internet Society