What Does LTE Mean?

Long Term Evolution - Fastest Wireless 4G Network

Long Term Evolution, or LTE, is a 4G wireless broadband standard that replaces previous technologies like WiMax and 3G. LTE is faster than 4G but not as fast as 5G, the current wireless standard.

LTE is used by mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. This means that it's available when you disconnect from Wi-Fi, like when traveling or when you're out of range from a Wi-Fi router.

Some features that highlight LTE over older standards include higher bandwidth (faster connection speeds) and better underlying technology for voice calls (VoIP) and multimedia streaming.

4G LTE for Mobile Devices
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LTE Benefits

LTE is better than older technologies in several ways:

  • Better upload and download speeds
  • Low data transfer latency
  • Enhanced support for mobile devices
  • More scalable, such that there can be more devices connected to an access point at a time
  • It's refined for voice calls through the use of Voice over LTE (VoLTE)

How to Use LTE

You need two things to take advantage of LTE: a phone and a mobile network that supports it.

This means you need to make sure your device is LTE compatible. Not all devices contain the necessary hardware to connect to an LTE network. You can be confident that new phones do, but not so much for older ones.

LTE phones might be called 4G LTE. If your phone doesn't work on an LTE network, you're stuck with having to change your device or settling for slower-than-LTE speeds.

This acronym has, unfortunately, become a tool for marketing and often misleads. Some manufacturers do not live up to the expectations when supplying LTE hardware. Before buying a smartphone or any other device, read reviews, check testers' verdicts, and pay attention to the actual LTE performance of the device.

Beyond the phone is, of course, a service provider that can deliver the LTE technology to your device. You need to be within an LTE coverage area to use the service. Most companies offer LTE coverage maps so that you can see before you buy whether you can get LTE where you live or travel.

History of LTE

3G was quite a revolution over 2G, but still lacked the punch of the speed. The ITU-R, the body regulating connections and speeds, introduced in 2008 an upgraded set of specifications that would satisfy the modern needs for enhanced modes of communication and mobile data consumption (e.g., VoIP, media streaming, video conferencing, data transfers, real-time collaboration).

This new set of specifications was named 4G, which means the fourth generation. The speed was one of the main specifications.

A 4G network would, according to these specifications, deliver speeds of up to 100 Mbps during motion, like in a car or train, and up to 1 Gbps when stationary. These were high targets, and since the ITU-R had no say in the implementation of such standards, it had to lax the rules a bit, such that new technologies could be considered 4G despite failing to reach these speeds.

The market followed, and we started getting 4G implementations. Although we are not to the point of a gigabit per second, the 4G networks marked a considerable improvement over 3G.

WiMax was an offshoot but didn't survive because it used microwaves and required line of sight for decent speeds. 

LTE is a 4G technology and is still the prevalent highspeed network type around. This is true even despite 5G providing many benefits over 4G; 5G just isn't as widely available as LTE, yet.

LTE's strengths lie in several factors such as its use of radio waves, unlike 3G and WiMAX which use microwaves. This is what allows LTE to work on existing hardware and provide better penetration in remote areas.