Digitree Digital

Think you have 4G? Think again!

Not too long ago, wireless operators around the world started offering “4G” services in selective geographies. AT&T & Verizon wireless were amongst the leading operators to offer these services which could be used through a “4G compatible handset”. On the side of the phone manufacturers, the android companies were the first to jump on the 4G bandwagon & Apple eventually followed suit.


So if you’re one of the consumers who have been going “wow, 4G…it’s so fast, it’s unbelievable….”, hang on for a moment. It’s unbelievable quite simply because it’s not true! Yes, not true! What the wireless & phone companies have been offering you is in fact 3.9G, an evolution of the existing 3G services which are so ubiquitous around the world.


So, what’s the difference between 3.9G and 4G? Just 0.1G, right? That’s not much! Or is it? Wait…it is! 3.9G or fake 4G is markedly different from true 4G. For starters, there’s a huge difference in the potential speeds. 3.9G can theoretically give you speeds up to 300Mbps, whereas 4G can give you speeds up to 1Gbps. That’s a huge difference in speed.

Also, if we delve into a little bit of technicality, 3.9G is analogue + digital, whereas 4G is completely digital. In 3.9G, the radio connection between your mobile device and the cellular tower is circuit switched or analogue, whereas the rest of the network is packet switched or digital. Also, in case of 3.9G, your operator may configure its network to send mobile data traffic via packet switching and voice calls via circuit switching.


In case of real 4G, there is no room for circuit switching. The entire network, right from your mobile handset to the servers which switch your traffic, is packet switched.


Feeling cheated? You may ask as to why your wireless carrier & your phone manufacturer joined hands to sell you a fake 4G connection & a fake 4G device? One word. Cost! It would be extremely expensive for wireless carriers to upgrade their entire network to be ready for true 4G. Hence, they pressurised the device manufacturers and also the International Telecom Union (ITU) to label 3.9G as 4G. “Relax…”, they said “…no one would know…”. Well, now you do!


Do you have a 4G connection? What has been your experience using it? Do let us know through your questions & comments.