How Fast Are 4G and 3G Internet Speeds?

A woman holding a smartphone.

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Faster is always better when it comes to internet access. This applies to not only simple browsing but also media streaming, app downloading, gameplay, and video calls. It's hard enough, however, getting super-fast internet access at home, let alone top speeds on our smartphones and tablets over 4G or 3G.

Discover Your Internet Speed

Just how fast should you expect your mobile devices to be? Part of it has to do with the speed of your provider, like Verizon or AT&T, but other factors come into play, too, like your signal strength, what else is running on your device, and any latency, which affects delays, video and audio calling, video streaming, and web browsing.

If you're wondering how fast your connection to the network is, test it with one of the various speed testing apps, like the speed test app available for Android and iOS. If you access the 4G or 3G network with a computer, find your internet speed using any of the free speed testing websites.

5G is the current mobile networking standard that offers vast speed improvements over 4G and 3G, with minimum download speeds of 20 Gbps per 5G base station.

4G and 3G Speeds (in Mbps)

Although theoretical peak speeds are only theoretical and hardly pan out in real-world scenarios (due to things like latency), below are the speed requirements that a provider must abide by in order to have a connection that falls under the 4G or 3G category.

4G vs 3G: Theoretical Maximum Speeds
Network Download Speed Upload Speed
4G LTE-Advanced 300 Mbps 150 Mbps
4G LTE 150 Mbps 50 Mbps
3G HSPA+ 42 Mbps 22 Mbps
3G 7.2 Mbps 2 Mbps

These measurements are expressed in megabits per second (Mbps).

However, as shown in the 2018 report on 4G speeds and the OpenSignal 3G speed report from 2017, the average, real-world download and upload speeds for the four major wireless carriers in the US are a little different:

4G vs 3G: Real-World Maximum Speeds
Carrier 4G Download Speed 3G Download Speed
T-Mobile 27.86 Mbps 4 Mbps
Verizon 26.02 Mbps 0.85 Mbps
AT&T 22.17 Mbps 3.04 Mbps
Sprint 20.38 Mbps 0.97 Mbps

How to Boost Your Internet Connection

Keep in mind that when we say "boost your internet connection," we're not talking about pushing it over the maximum allowed level or creating some sort of new internet connection where there are no limits. Instead, to boost your connection means to scrape away anything that makes it slow so that it can return to a level that's considered normal.

If you find that your connection is slow over either 4G or 3G, there are a number of things to try that will speed up that connection on your side of it.

For example, if you're on a computer, make your internet connection faster at home by changing the DNS servers you're using so that pages load quicker (there are several free DNS servers that will do the job for you). Another method is to close any programs that are using the internet and using up the limited bandwidth you have available.

The same concept applies to bandwidth on mobile devices. Maximum 4G or 3G speeds are only attainable if you're not already running lots of other things at once. For example, if you want to load a YouTube video as fast as possible on your 4G network, close out of Facebook or games that are using the internet.