3G vs 4G vs LTE vs 5G: What’s the Difference(Speed, Security & More)

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There are over 11.2 billion mobile phones around the world.

There is no denying that mobile phones have become an integral part of our lives.

So did mobile internet!

All prepaid or postpaid phone numbers offer mobile Internet of some type. Depending on the phone carrier brand, country laws, and the generation of the mobile device you are using, you should be using either one of these mobile internet technologies – 3G, 4G, LTE, or 5G. 

If you are keen on knowing the difference between these generations of mobile network technologies, here we have some differences and comparisons.

Differences between 3G, 4G, LTE, and 5G

For most people, speed is the first thing that comes to mind when it is a 3G 4G 5G comparison.

Speed: Both for Average and Peak 5G is much faster than 3G and 5G

The table below shows the differences in average and peak speed for each network generation: 

GenerationTechnologyAverage Data SpeedPeak Download Speed
3GUMTS384 kbps2 Mbps
3GHSPA3-5 Mbps14.2 Mbps
3GHSPA+5-8 Mbps42 Mbps
4GLTE15-20 Mbps300 Mbps
4GLTE-Advanced50-80 Mbps1 Gbps
4GLTE-Advanced Pro60-100 Mbps3 Gbps
5GNR150-200 Mbps10 Gbps

It’s important to know the difference between the peak and average data speeds. In mobile communications, the download and upload speeds we talk about are the peak speeds that show what a certain cellular technology can theoretically do the most cases.

In real life, we usually get average speeds, which are much slower than peak speeds.


After speed, bandwidth is the next big thing, phone carrier companies, use it for branding. The bigger the bandwidth, the better. 

Bandwidth is a measure of how much traffic a cell phone network can handle before it starts to slow down. 

To put it in day-to-day experience, back in 3G or 4G days, during peak hours (when more people on a network use phone services simultaneously), there would be a point when the network would slow down.

Considering it as one of the crucial factors that would affect mobile internet users directly, it is only natural, the new-generation technologies have better bandwidth compared to the previous ones. 

For instance, when you compare 3G vs 4G LTE, the latter has definitely improved quite decently. But if you compare 3G and 4G technologies with 5G, the change is massive.

With 3G it was flawless for audio calls even during peak hours.

With 4G LTE, we could do video calls during peak hours.

With 5G bandwidth, you could stream an ultra HD movie during a concert.

According to the 2023 Internet of Things statistics, there will soon be more than 10 billion active Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This means, there will be many more devices that will be connected to mobile Internet at a given point and in a given location. 5G will also be able to handle them. 


Each new generation of wireless networks has built on the infrastructure of the previous generation. Because of this, it is now much easier to use the Internet. Even the most remote parts of the U.S. will soon be able to connect to 4G or 5G.

This is good news for homes and businesses that didn’t have access to reliable cell networks before. Now, these properties can get rid of their old landline security monitoring and switch to a cellular network, which is much safer.


To point out the importance of security for mobile internet technologies, let me point out a stat.

ID theft is big in the US, 1 in 17 have faced it at some point. Switching to 5G would probably help this problem to some extent. When you compare 3G or 4G with 5G in security terms, 5G is a massive improvement. For instance, the 5G network encrypts user identity and location data, whereas the 3G and 4G networks do not.

Also when it comes to the security of calls and messages, all calls and messages are encrypted in both 4G and 5G technology. But the encryption protocol is the difference between both. 

  • 4G uses 128-bit encryption.
  • 5G uses 256-bit encryption.

Also, 5G’s network can make every connection unique to its subscribers, making it harder to spoof authentication codes and allowing carriers to identify data breaches in their core domain.

Now that we compared 3G, 4G, and 5G speed, bandwidth, and security, let’s check how changes in these factors helped mobile network evolution.

Evolution of Mobile Network With Each Generation


3G refers to the 3rd iteration or mobile network generation that improves the legacy framework of 2G. Since its inception in 2001, 3G has improved how data is transmitted and expanded its capabilities to video streaming from the standard voice and text transmissions. With faster speeds and capabilities, 3G pioneered commercial internet connectivity to mobile devices. 


With the growing global demand for internet connection, 4G stands to replace the now legacy framework of 3G. Network consumers can now download high-definition and data-intensive media. Additionally, 4G introduced wireless broadband connection, which offers a faster and better alternative to a fixed ISP (Internet Service Provider) connection.


4G LTE stands for “4th Generation Long-Term Evolution” and combines an earlier generation of 4G with LTE as a separate internet connectivity network that comes close to 4G. 4G LTE caters to a massive expansion of connected devices to the internet, allowing homes to render high-definition videos and online gaming worldwide. However, 4G LTE is still under the 4G system framework, and it is named as such to be recognizable to consumers. 


An advanced version of 4G LTE, its capabilities sit between 4G LTE and 5G. What makes 4G LTE different from 4G LTE is it connects to multiple internet sources and towers instead of a single tower to router connection from older versions of 4G. This means you get increased connectivity and stability over prolonged internet usage. In real life, you may not feel the improvement compared to other 4G connections as they exist in the same framework.


They are known as 5th Generation Evolution. 5GE comes from AT&T and is not a “True” 5G but a marketing term for an advanced version of 4G LTE. To keep it simple, 5GE has the performance of a slightly powerful 4G LTE with new implementations in its smartphone connectivity. 


The latest innovation of mobile networks. 5G opened the possibility of sending massive amounts of information from minutes to seconds. 5G uses experimental technologies and new frequency wavelengths to provide a lightspeed data connection. 5G is limited to newer devices and works best in smaller populations. Fortunately, network carriers have been investing in this technology.


5G+ takes the performance of 5G and increases it for seamless connectivity even for the most demanding and data-intensive software. 5G+ has been pitted against 5G in terms of performance, but its strength comes with a back draw. 5G+ is usually placed in dense, high-traffic areas as its unique signals work best in close proximity and are less widely available when compared to a 4G LTE connection.

Wrapping Up

Mobile networks have gone a long way to improve how we transfer and consume data. The 4G and LTE technology has opened new avenues to your internet quality and can connect to everyone in minutes. 5G takes that and speeds it further for data-intensive needs. 

With each new generation of mobile networks, the internet got faster and better with more features. This changed the way we talk to each other and use technology.

Overall, a person’s choice of mobile network depends on what they need, where they live, and what’s available. Knowing the differences between these networks can help people choose the best plan for them.

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