4G has been available to the British public for more than two years, with EE initially leading the charge by launching its 4G network in October 2012, and the rate of take up by consumers has been impressive.
However, there are still plenty of people out there that, for one reason or another, have stuck with 3G contracts and mobile phones. They might not be in an area that makes the best use of 4G services, they might not be in a position to upgrade to a 4G handset or they just don’t realise the benefits a faster data connection might offer.
That’s why we’re looking at the main differences between a 4G connection and 3G one in order to give those sitting on the fence an excuse to come down and settle on one side or another.
The most obvious benefit to a 4G connection over a 3G one is speed. Data transfer speeds are markedly different when using a 4G network. The UK’s average 4G speed, as registered by Ofcom for a report dated November 2014, was 15.1Mbps. That’s a real figure based on all 4G networks and taken within 4G-enabled zones within London, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The current average fixed broadband speed in the UK is not much higher, at 18.7Mbps.
The average speed for 3G, as tested at the same time by Ofcom as 4G, is 6.1Mbps – considerably slower. A web page is takes around 25 per cent longer to load on a 3G connection, it was found. Obviously, the time taken to download apps, video or music is more significantly different.
Perhaps of more importance to some is not the download speed benefit offered by 4G but the upload. If you want to upload a picture to Facebook or Twitter, for example, you could find it taking too long for comfort on a 3G connection.
We have even found in testing (within London) that we’ve achieved upload speeds of over 20Mbps. That is considerably faster than we get on our 100Mbps fixed line broadband at home and means that we will be able to post large pictures to our social media accounts in fractions of a second.
When 4G was first introduced contracts were relatively expensive in comparison to 3G equivalents. Today however, the price difference between a 3G monthly contract and a 4G one is negligible. Indeed, many networks, such as EE, are no longer listing 3G plans as there is little or no difference in cost to the consumer.
In many cases. Your existing 3G contract – if you are on one – will remain until you upgrade. But you should ask your operator as you might find you get 4G and more for your money, such as a larger amount of data.
Just about every new smartphone released in the UK now is LTE-capable, and will work across all UK mobile phone networks. Many of the carriers also have their own models which are offered for free as part of a 4G plan so you can jump on board with the fastest speeds.
All of the latest and new flagship handsets, including the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge, and the HTC One M9, are 4G phones.
One of the issues many associate with 4G right now relates to coverage, but significant strides are being made in that area. Indeed, EE now has a network that covers 80 per cent of the UK and claims that will rise to 99 per cent by 2017.
In addition, it is expanding its 4G+ reach – its double speed service – to be available to 90 per cent of the population by the same year. And new technologies, such as a 400Mbps LTE service, are being tested this year.
While it used to be scary to consider the leap to a 4G mobile phone contract in the past – having to find extra each month for the pricier tariff and to upgrade your handset – you might be surprised to find that you are paying the same to continue with a data service that is inferior in almost every way.
And don’t forget, even if you don’t have 4G coverage in your area, not only is it coming within the next two years, your new 4G phone will be compatible with 3G too, so will still work as well as your current phone.