For consumers, it is often difficult to distinguish the difference between the names of many mobile networks. The best known, EDGE, 3G and 4G, are far from the only ones used by operators, since we currently have no less than 7 networks. We propose to itemize, so to find out more about their technical characteristics.


The differences between the mobile networks

  • The 2G network

This network, also called GSM (GSM) only allows exchange by voice. This digital standard appeared in 1982, so there are more than thirty years.


  • GPRS

Meaning General Packet Radio Service, this system is also called 2.5G because it is between the generation 2G and 3G. It is this time possible with this data exchange (SMS, data, calls …), with a theoretical maximum of 171.2 kb per second.

  • The 2.75G network

More commonly known as EDGE Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution, the flow is here 384 kb per second. This standard is referred to as a “pre-3G”.

  • 3G network

The third generation of mobile phone standards (UMTS) offering to exchange 1.9 MB per second, or about 5 times faster than the previous generation.

  • 3G + network

Called HSDPA, 3G + to mount the theoretical speed data exchange to 14.4 MB per second, still 7.5 times more than the original 3G.


  • From 2G to 3G

3G has been defined in the R99 release under the name UMTS: Universal Mobile Telecommunications System. Some still prefer to call W-CDMA which is the radio access technology that allows multiple users to communicate simultaneously. The goal of the 3G broadband was theoretically 2Mbps (i.e. 6* 384 kbps) with low mobility and close to the antenna, and a flow rate of 384 kbps in motion, which is close to the ADSL offerings the time.

The 3G network has required the development of radio infrastructures in parallel of EDGE and GPRS network. This is the cost of setting up new antennas, called Node B and a node controller named RNC. Node B is equivalent to the BTS used in GSM, but with a different band, and using a modulation technology (HPSK) and an access technology (W-CDMA) different.

  • The H + network

We talk a lot now: it is also called Dual Carrier HSPA + or. In this case, the rate is 42 MB per second. This is a network approaching 4G, though the flow rate remains more than twice lower.

  • The 4G network

With the fourth generation (4G LTE) data exchange can exceed 100 MB per second if not more, and so launch the mobile broadband. In reality, the bandwidth is shared between users. The fewer users using the network and the speed is high.


  • 4G + network

4G +, also known as 4G LTE Advanced offers a much faster rate than the 4G standard. Indeed, while the 4G offers a theoretical throughput of 100 Mbit / s, 4G + offers it 10 times better or 1GB/ s of theoretical bandwidth. For operators, this rate is not as important, but it can go up to 300 Mbit / s depending on the operator and coverage.

What is the difference between 4G and LTE?


What is 4G?

The LTE-Advanced standard, also known as 4G telephony standard 4th Generation. This improves the performance of a mobile radio communication compared to the 3G particularly in terms of:

  • Rates (up and down)
  • Interactivity: latency reduction
  • Better spectral efficiency: The operator can cover a greater population density operator in a frequency band identical to 3G.
  • Automatic network optimization: 4G devices will configure automatically to improve the quality of service offered to the individual.

Confusion to avoid


To simplify, after 2G, there are two fairly similar standards that are developed to offer mobile video services, a standard mainly located in America (3GGP2 or IMT-2000 standard by the American Institute ITU) and a standard implanted Europe and Asia (3GPP or UMTS) specified by the European Institute ETSI. Thus, 3G combines two standards, 3GPP and 3GPP2. Each standard has developed over the years by providing the throughput particular improvements.

Why 4G?

  • While rates and interactivity not interested at first that users (and trade to boast 4G), we see the benefits of 4G for the operator, and the reasons why OEMs and operators in the development of 4G.
  • 3G only arrived in 2004, but in 1992 the 2G mobile telephony has really flooded the market in the late 90s Secondly 2G is still used and 3G is not yet fully utilized.So why switch to 4G?


Currently, we read several experiments on LTE. 4G, or LTE-Advanced builds on LTE. By abuse of language, some speak of LTE considering that it is the 4G. In fact, LTE is a standard called 3.9G because it does not meet the specifications imposed by the 4G standard. From a technical standpoint, there is little difference between LTE and LTE-Advanced.

Many people discover these new packages are wondering what the difference between LTE is and 4G.The answer is simple, there is none. LTE means long term evolution, and operators speak for their 4G, that is the fourth generation of antennas, excessively surpassing previous versions in terms of throughput. We can generally speak of 4G LTE.

Future developments:

  • Advanced 4G

Currently called 4G LTE Advanced and more commonly 4G +, this enhanced 4G could offer much higher rates to 4G, currently still in its infancy. It is thus almost 10 times faster than the currently deployed 4G, and relies on the technology of the smartphone. The consumer phone can thus capture more antennas 4G LTE relay, multiplying in fact the data transfer speed.


  • 5G

The release date would be set around 2020, and would reach 1 GB per second, as fast as the current optical fiber. The European Commission has already planned to invest 50 million euros in research around the fifth generation mobile phone standard. By then, 4G will have many years of development before it, and the transition should be smooth.

Is there a difference between network operators?


From the perspective of the generations of mobile standards, operators are equipped with different companies, but all give the same rates ultimately fixed by ARCEP. From a practical standpoint, however, some operators have deployed more 3G and 4G antennas than others, which nevertheless catching up by installing 3G antennas compatible 4G.