3G vs. 4G Network Technology – The Difference Between

How 3G and 4G network technologies differ 3G and 4G are the names given to two types of…

How 3G and 4G network technologies differ

3G and 4G are the names given to two types of communication technology, but they each have a different set of standards and benchmarks. These standards have been developed through the collaboration of telecom associations from all countries of the world. 3G has been instrumental in the evolution of several generations of mobile networks. The aim of the collaboration was to develop a set of general 3G standards that would have global applications.

The standards of both 3G and 4G technologies are designed to increase the rate of speed at which voice and data can be transferred. Since each one makes the rate faster, this has implications for the various applications that users want to download and ones that will be developed in the future. These include such things as conferencing, multimedia and streaming. Both 3G and 4G deliver high speed Internet connections and have therefore been called wireless broadband technologies.

About the 3G Wireless Communication Technology

The aim of the 3G technology is to allow a high data rate for various applications that can be used on smart phones. These include such applications as video calling, downloading streaming audio and video, and video conferencing. There are two collaborations in 3G technology – 3GPP and 3GPP2. 3GPP2 is creating the standards based on the technology of CDMA.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) sets out the guidelines that must be in place before any network can be called a 3G network. These are:

  1. The minimum data transfer rate for downlinks has to be at least 144Kbps for handsets being used in cars or on trains and 384Kbps for those who are walking or standing in one spot.
  2. Downlink for indoor conditions must be at least 2Mbps.
  3. The 3GPP specifies on demand bandwidth and broadband Internet access at 2Mbps.

Variations of the CDMA are the main multiple access techniques that 3G networks use. Existing CDMA networks will keep using WCDMA (wide band CDMA), which is a 5MHz channel capable of providing at least 2MBPS. In other parts of the world different CDMA technologies are used such as CDMA 2000 and CDMA2000 1x Ev-Do.

About the 4G Wireless Communication Technology

4G wireless communication technology is still in the development stages and is the next generation of mobile networks. There are two technologies being considered for this fourth generation – WiMAX and LTE. This is because of the high speed data transfer rates that will be possible with 4G, such as 100Mbps when moving and 1Gbps when in one location.

In order for a wireless network to be classified as 4G, there are certain conditions that must be met. These are:

  1. Data transfer rates of 100Mbps when mobile and 1Gbps when stationary.
  2. Network must operate completely on IP
  3. Channel allocation is dynamic with varying channel bandwidth. This bandwidth varies from 5 to 20MHz depending on the requirements of the application.
  4. Capability for soft hand over


  • In 3G the downlink data rate should be at least 2Mbps when not moving and 384Kbps when mobile. In 4G, the downlink data rate should be at least 1Gbps when stationary and 100Mbps when mobile.
  • 3G uses CDMA technology for multiple access. Two technologies are being considered for 4G – LTE and WiMAX.
  • LTE uses Single Carrier FDMA, while WiMax will continue to use OFDMA.


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