What is 4G?

There's so much talk of 3G 4G and all things in between, it's sometimes difficult to decipher what it all actually means, and how it relates to you. So what is 4G and what does 4G mean?

To answer the question, what is 4G technology, is easy when put in simple terms; it is essentially the fourth generation in mobile communication phone standards (in many cases the internet), and is the most recent generation to date.

It succeeds 3G, probably the generation that is familiar in most smartphones on the market.

4G speeds

If the 4G standard will provide users with the fastest mobile internet service, exactly how fast is 4G? 4G allows users to watch HD TV, conduct video conferences and watch 3D programs on the go, much faster than they could have done before, and in some cases, 4G speeds are even faster than using some wireless connections.

4G speed is considerably faster than 3G; in fact, mobile phone network provider, Everyone Everywhere (EE), claims that using the internet on a 4G phone is seven times faster than on a 3G compatible phone.

However, EE has recently announced that, not happy with the progress that 4G is making, it will make EE 4G speed even faster! At present, 4G speeds can fluctuate between 8Mbps and 12Mbps, though we could see this figure rise to 20Mbps if EE continue in its development to improve the service.

4G network Coverage

When 4G first came to us back in 2012, it was provided by EE. The EE 4G network started off my covering the largest cities in the UK, such as London, Cardiff, Birmingham and Manchester, amongst many more.

Networks currently with 4G UK signal

In the second round of implementing 4G network in the UK, cities like Newcastle, Southampton, Nottingham and Hull, benefitted from 4G coverage.

Finally, in recent months, EE expanded its UK 4G network out to towns and cities including Amersham, Bolton, Chelmsford, Hemel Hempstead, Southend-on-Sea, Stockport, Sunderland, Sutton Coldfield and Wolverhampton.

However, back in April, OfCom auctioned the remaining 4G UK network coverage to other networks in an attempt to offer an alternative 4G network provider. The auction's winning bidders included EE, Vodafone, o2, Hutchinson 3G UK, and Niche Spectrum Ventures.

What many people don't know, however, is that EE now encapsulated Orange and T-Mobile. This means that EE 4G networks become Orange 4G networks when you sign up to a 4G Orange contract.

Take a look at our 4G coverage map below which shows all the 4G network UK:

4G prices

One factor dissuading users from going 4G is often the cost. 4G network, as you'd expect, is somewhat more expensive than 3G network. However, last month, EE, the primary 4G network provider announced that it would cut the cost of its 4G contracts.

EE's introductory price plan for 4G network now starts at £31 per month for 500MB of data, which is a £5 reduction per month!

In fact, EE also offered its 4G networks to data hungry users with its time-limited 200GB data plan, which would literally keep you browsing the internet until the sun goes down! This package had its price cut by a whopping £15 to £46 a month, but was valid for a limited time only.

EE also offers a 4G contract on a 12-month sim only deal, though it's worth mentioning that you will need 4G compatible phones to accompany it. If you want a cheap contract with 4G on EE compare sim only contracts compare sim only contracts.

4G Ready

There's no point signing up to a 4G network, however, if you haven't got a 4G phone to use it on! Because 4G is the next big thing in the world of mobile phones, most of the latest devices are 4G ready phones. These models will usually be sold in either a 3G or a 4G variance, or sometimes what network coverage you receive will simply depend on whether you have signed up to a 4G contract.

With most mobile phone contracts now lasting for 24 months, though, you don't want to get left behind. The most popular 4G phones include the iPhone 5, Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. As the iPhone 5 is a 4G mobile, we are expecting that iPhone 5S handsets will also be 4G mobile phones.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 is the best-selling mobile phone of this year so far. However, it seems that most users aren't making the most of the fact that it is one of the few 4G compatible phones UK.

Take a look at which phones are 4G compatible here.

Other 4G handsets include the BlackBerry Q10, Huawei Ascend P1 LTE, Samsung Galaxy Note 2 LTE and the Nokia Lumia 920.

4G Vs 3G and moving onto 5G

4G technology generally guarantees a faster internet service, so if, like me, you regularly surf the internet, 4G may be for you. The new service is good news for people who do business on their mobile phones, as the 4G technology is capable of installing large amounts of data at a faster rate, compared with a 3G service.

As mentioned above, with the 4G technology only having been released in recent months, one can imagine that its service can only get better. Therefore, if you are looking to purchase a mobile phone that will see you well into the future, it may be wise to consider buying 4G to ensure that you receive the most up-to-date mobile phone standard. Making your phone future-proof is a huge attraction of going 4G Vs 3G.

That said, it doesn't mean that we have given up all hope on the 3G technology. Ultimately, if you live in an area where 4G is currently unavailable, then it simply makes sense to buy 3G. You might be trying to future-proof your phone by switching to 4G, but assuming that EE's plans to extend the availability of their services cannot always be relied upon.

In fact, if your area does not have 4G service, or if the signal strength where you are is weak, your mobile phone is likely to waste battery by constantly searching for reception. Moreover, it has also been suggested that the battery life of 4G operated mobiles is shorter than that of 3G-run devices. Therefore, if you would rather have a phone that has sufficient battery power to run, compared with a super-fast internet connection, 3G may be the contract choice for you.

The cost between buying a 3G contract and a 4G contract could also sway you into buying one way or another. For example, the Nokia Lumia 820 with 3G technology can be found from £33 per month whereas the same handset, with the exact same contract packages, can be found from £41 per month. The same goes for the Samsung Galaxy S3 which contract tariffs differ from £30 per month with a 3G service, to £41 per month for 4G.So if cost is what's most important to you, 3G might win out in a battle of 3G Vs 4G, if you can't wait for 5g - find out when 5g is coming out.

Therefore, there does not seem to be a definitive answer to whether you should make the switch to a 4G contract. It ultimately depends on where in the UK you live, how much you want to spend on a new contract, and what features you value most in your mobile phone.