What to expect from 4G (LTE) when 3G failed to meet expectations after 7 long years

As much as I’d want to let you know of the technical details of it all, I can only speak in generics.

At the end of this article you should be able to answer the following:

 

 

 

 

 

  1. What’s the difference between 3G and 4G (LTE)?
  2. What happens to 3G devices when the telecom networks upgrade to 4G?
  3. Should we pay the price for the expensive 4G connectivity?
  4. Should we upgrade our devices to 4G/LTE capable ones?

With a little Googling I found out that 4G technically never exists (as of writing). It’s because the standards group (I forgot what they are called, IMT or something) decided that those claiming to be 4G today did not pass their specifications. Regardless, they became lenient on this standard just to differentiate the faster mobile telecommunication system. Under this definition, LTE (Long Term Evolution – yeah what a name) and WiMax2 (not the first wimax generation) fall under the toned-down “4G.”

The difference is that 3G is more inclined to greater voice quality while 4G is keen on delivering faster internet data. 4G offers up to 3 to 10x faster mobile data speed and claims that you’ll experience smoother video streaming even in high-definition (imagine no buffering).

Of course this is not possible without the telecom companies establishing new 4G infrastructures. Billions of pesos (maybe dollars, I have yet to check) have been/are being spent by Smart and Globe for this LTE network alone.

Looking back, 3G has been introduced in the Philippines since 2005. From then until now, those of you who have used broadband sticks for their laptops or browsed the web on their phones (while stationary or mobile) are witnesses on how this technology essentially sucks. Seven years and look at where we are now – areas with dead GSM (let’s call this 1G) signal, barely a good 100 kbps speed while on the road. It’s ugly.

Look, when you buy a 3G phone, or most likely the smartphone you have since 2008, already has built-in 3G antenna that’s capable of speeds from 3mbps to 15 mbps. Did Globe or Smart ever capitalized on that? Did they achieve that speed? NO. I bet your device never even reached 1mbps at most times.

But that’s not actually to be blamed on the telecom companies (both here and abroad). I have read somewhere that the 3G infrastructure posed this limitation no matter how much they upgrade their networks. I know it doesn’t make sense, but that’s what it is.

So as 4G arrives, that limitation is overcome. But not without the high price.

So what happens to your 3G device as both Globe and Smart starts upgrading to 4G? Nothing. Do not fear obsolescence just yet. In fact, 3G is in it for the long term TOO. This is because of the backwards compatibility of the 4G standard. That means if you’re not in an LTE-covered area, but have 3G coverage, your 4G device will switch to 3G (fortunately or unfortunately depends on your circumstance).

Should we pay the price? “We” being the average mid-income consumer, should not. At least not yet. It’s too expensive, and worse, it is capped. Picture this:

The 3G (wimax) plan I used to have offers an unlimited data. That means I can download maybe 30-50 gigabyte (or more) worth of apps, songs, ebooks, movies in a month. But it will also mean my PC is open 24/7 and my torrent client is smartly lined up and organized as downloading will be very very slow. Compare that to 4G (LTE) with a monthly cap of at most 15gigabyte but with 10 times the download speed. You can download 5-6 movies in 3 hours and you’re a goner for the rest of the month. You’ll be stuck to their minimum speed (maybe 200kbps?) until your cap is reset the next month.

That’s a choice between 3 hours of ecstasy or 30 days mediocre connectivity (I like using ‘mediocre’ because depending on how you say it, “joke” can come out of it).

Should we upgrade to 4G/LTE device? This of course is extremely based on your capacity to buy or pay. We all want what’s new out there!! Don’t make me start with the iPhone 5!

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