What is the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G?

What Mobile
February 28, 2019

It seems a long time ago now, but the leap from 3G to 4G was one of the biggest technological innovations in the mobile market. Not only did it make mobile data roaming a more viable option for customers (no more waiting an age for a webpage to load!) it opened the door to fast downloads, which in turn has led to greater connectivity and usability of our smartphones. Nearly all of the functions of modern smartphones that we enjoy today, from instant messaging services to massive multiplayer games, are a result of the 4G network.

So, with 5G on the horizon – another major leap forward in mobile data – many customers and companies are looking forward to how it will benefit them. But what exactly is the difference between 3G and 4G – or 5G for that matter? In this article, we’ll break down each one, going through the relative speeds, and how they have improved smartphone use throughout the last 20 years.


For many, 3G would be their first introduction to wireless mobile communications, despite the fact that it’s proceeded by 1G to 2.5G. Commercially available from 2001, the defining aspect of 3G was increased data transmission at a lower cost. This meant that mobile phones had greater data capacity when compared to older models and could support more applications such as cameras and games. Furthermore, 3G opened the door to high speed, wireless internet access, meaning that mobiles could be used for video calls, internet browsing, and GPS navigation.

By today’s standards the internet speeds would be considered sub-par, but at the time 3G was a revolution in mobile technology. And while it might be seen as ‘outdated’, the majority of phone services (i.e. calls, texts) are handled by 3G networks, as they still have the widest coverage of all network types.


In the majority of metropolitan areas in the UK, 4G will be the most common network available – offering increased bandwidth and speed over 3G. Unlike 3G, which facilitated the use of wireless networks on smartphones, 4G allows for extra technologies to connect with smartphones and each other, such as LTE and WiMax.

Standard 4G networks have speeds of 5 – 12 Mbps, which allows for greater download speeds, making various applications easy to use. As the network has advanced, so have security measures to protect it, making 4G-enabled devices far safer to use than previous versions. However, this has also made smartphones that utilise 4G more expensive, making it more important than before to invest in mobile phone insurance.


The simple interpretation of 5G is that it will be faster than 4G. This is true – 5G will be a lot faster than 4G, with most estimates suggesting that it will be between 1 – 10Gbps. This significant increase in speed will allow customers to interact with technology in a whole new way, connecting people to the Internet of Things (IoT), a seamless integration of devices through all walks of life. This has been one of the biggest selling points of 5G.

Furthermore, 5G could lead to the development of other technological innovations, such as bringing blockchain into the mainstream and enhancing our current AI capabilities.

Of course, a lot of this is still speculation, and any claims about 5G networks are yet to be truly tested in real life. However, its increased speed and adaptability makes it an exciting addition to the tech industry.

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