It’s pretty well understood that 4G LTE is faster than 3G. Millions of Canadians have upgraded from phones that used to operate on 3G, or third-generation wireless networks, to LTE, which is considered the fourth generation.
In addition to faster data speeds, LTE improves upon previous generations in a number of ways, including spectrum efficiency, latency, cost of deployment, and more.In Canada, LTE has rolled out to nearly every carrier operating across the country (with the exception of Wind Mobile, but we’ll come to that). When referring to LTE, we’re referring to the type of signal that connects the phone in your pocket to the tower operated by your cellphone provider. Both of those pieces need to be in play for you to receive ultra-fast LTE speeds; if your smartphone supports LTE but you’re in a part of Canada where the cell towers have not yet been upgraded to LTE, you’ll likely see the symbol change to H+ near the top right of your phone, which denotes that you’ve dropped down to 3G speeds.
Practically every phone sold on the Canadian market today supports LTE in some form. When connecting to your phone provider’s towers, the network provider (Rogers, Telus, Bell) tells your phone that it wants to connect on a particular frequency, or band, which transmits the wireless signal on particular wavelength. You may have heard some people use terms like “AWS” or “700Mhz”, both of which refer to particular frequencies and bands that Canadian smartphones connect to. (While they’re technically different, I’m going to use the term “band” and “frequency” interchangeably in this explainer. A band is merely a combination of frequencies, determined by the 3GPP, a body that standardizes radio frequency combinations throughout the world.)
While it’s not particularly important to know the specifics of each band, most smartphones don’t just connect on one: they use a combination of low (700Mhz) and high (AWS, or 1700/2100Mhz)) to ensure that they can glean the most coverage and speed throughout the day, depending on your location. Generally, the lower the frequency, the longer that signal can travel, but at a slower speed; the higher the frequency, the greater the potential throughput, but at an expense of distance and penetration.