The evolution of mobile networking technologies is incremental rather than strictly compartmentalised and defined by giant leaps, so identifying the differences between 3G and 4G technology can be problematic if you do not keep a clear head. Here is a quick look at the kind of tech which is currently in use and that which is going to push the market forward over the coming years, all created in the hope that you will gain a greater understanding of this tricky subject.
3G began life over a decade ago and standards vary depending on the region in which you live but in general a 3G network should provide a minimum download speed of around 200Kbps, vastly improving on the legacy networks used for analogue mobile communications. Nowadays many mobiles have 3G connectivity built in and speeds have increased gradually with the introduction of new technologies such as HSDPA, bringing download speeds up to 3.6Mbps and then 7.2Mbps and onwards. HSPA+ is a pseudo-3G networking standard which can achieve a theoretical 56Mbps connection speed, but like all 3G technologies the real life speeds which most attain will be significantly lower.
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The European Commission has adopted a Decision establishing harmonised technical rules for Member States on the allocation of radio frequencies in the 800 MHz band that contribute to the deployment of high-speed wireless internet services by avoiding harmful interference.
In several Member States the 800 MHz frequencies are being freed up as part of the so-called digital dividend resulting from the switchover from analogue to digital television broadcasting. If Member States decide to change the existing frequency allocation (for broadcasting) they must immediately apply the harmonised technical rules laid down by the Decision to make these frequencies available to wireless broadband applications. Today's decision does not itself require Member States to make available the 790-862 MHz band for electronic communication services. However, the Commission is considering such a proposal in the forthcoming Radio Spectrum Policy Programme.
The Commission strongly supports the use of the 790-862 MHz band (currently used for broadcasting in most Member States) for electronic communication services and wants EU countries to act quickly, as coordinated management of this spectrum could give an economic boost of up to EUR44 billion to the EU's economy and help to achieve the EU 2020 Strategy target of high-speed broadband for all by the end of 2013 (with speeds gradually increasing up to 30 Mbts and above in 2020).
The new Commission Decision stipulates that all Member States which decide to make available the 790-862 MHz spectrum band (the so-called 800 MHz band) for services other than broadcasting should apply the same harmonised technical rules when they do so. These technical rules will ensure that radio communications equipment, like handsets or base stations using the 800 MHz band, can be used efficiently for wireless broadband networks, such as LTE or WiMAX.