LTE, 4G, 3G, GSM, VoLTE, what are they?

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Hi, I keep seeing all the talk about 3G, GSM, 4G-LTE, etc. and am wondering what the difference is. Some places are making it seem like 4G is an improvment of GSM, others are saying LTE is separate from 4G (different frequencies) and yet more are saying LTE is just a different protocol that works over 4G.

From what I have been able to piece together, it seems that 3G was the start of IP backed services with data over IP networks and voice still going over the normal PSTN. I am also under the impression that when 4G(or LTE?) is used, that is data only, while voice still goes over 3G unless VoLTE is enabled?

I was just hoping for some clarification of what these terms mean. Thanks!
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RuralCustomer

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Posted 2 years ago

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Dan, Champion

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GSM and 2G are the same thing. That is an older network that provides voice, text and slow speed data service up to 0.2Mbps. GSM/2G travells through building walls and such the best. 3G, 4G, HSPA, HSPA+ are generally the same thing. Of course 4G and HSPA+ offer faster data speeds. HSPA+ and 4G offer up to 21Mbps and able to use voice and data at the same time. LTE is the newest network technology I believe up to 150Mbps but currently only supports data on MTS but on Rogers you can make voice calls on Rogers LTE.
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Graham, RF Engineering

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Good info in this thread, LTE also has the advantage of much lower latency and is more spectrally efficient than HSPA. That means for the same amount of spectrum I can deliver more bits/second, thus improving everyone's experience.

I've taken several courses on the nitty gritty of LTE and it's actually pretty neat how they squeeze that many bits out of that much bandwidth. Google OFDM and 64 QAM is you have trouble sleeping for a decent into
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RuralCustomer

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Hey, thanks Graham! I will be sure to read up on that. You mentioned more bandwidth, that made me think of another question. Are MTS cell towers fed with copper or fiber usually?
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Dan, Champion

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I believe fiber. Some in really remote areas use microwave antennas to feed them I think.
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Dustin, Champion

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I have noticed in a few southeastern communities with weaker HSPA coverage, MTS has deployed LTE only sites in the towns to improve coverage, while still relying on the weaker HSPA signals for voice.  While pushing the data traffic to LTE has helped to improve the HSPA service a bit in these cases, it still doesn't solve the issue of weak/spotty signal strength resulting in dropped calls.  I have relatives in the St. Malo area, and my wife has a Rogers device capable of VoLTE. Since there is an LTE only site in the town, she has full uninterrupted voice service in the areas of town where calls are often dropped/degraded/not possible due to the weaker HSPA signal. 
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Dan, Champion

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Yes that it very true. I hope MTS offers this in the future too. Another great feature Rogers has along with the VoLTE that is available to most iPhones is Wifi calling, if you have a weak signal in your house but a good home wifi network you will also have uninterrupted voice and text service in your home.
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JG, Champion

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I'm sure it's quite complicated, but I think the major differences are speeds and whether the voice portion is delivered over the circuit switched or packet switched network like the data is.


I believe VoLTE is the only one where the voice part is basically converted to VoIP. However, MTS introduced HD voice on some models, and calls between those models will sound much clearer, but they are not using VoLTE from what I've heard.


PS. Did you ever see that SNL skit where they spoofed a Verizon commercial? I was going to link to it, but thought it might be inappropriate. It's very relevant to this conversation
(Edited)
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RuralCustomer

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Awesome, thanks for the reply. I will see if I can track down that commercial anywhere.
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Clifford Lewis, Champion

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Not hard to find, I did a quick Google search last night and its really funny.
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Jason Z, Official Rep

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Yah...it's pretty good...
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rinomasaya

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3G is the Third Generation of Mobile Technology. LTE is the Long Term Evolution, also know as 4G : 4th Generation) of Mobile Technology. When talking about 4G, things can get a little confusing. Basically, there is 4G and 4G LTE. Many people consider LTE to be true 4G technology. Generally, if a cellular provider describes a 4G network without mentioning LTE, they are probably talking about a High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) network. The HSPA network is a faster version of the 3G GSM network. While not as fast as an LTE network, it is still faster than a 3G network. In a 3G or UMTS network Radio Part of Network is also know as UTRAN > Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network, represented in Green Color. In a 4G or LTE network Radio Part of Network is also know as EUTRAN > Evolved Universal Terrestrial Radio Access Network, represented in Red Color. In theory, LTE can be up to ten times faster than 3G.