How to know whether 3G or 4G is best for my phone?

3G or 4G

When you go to a mobile shop to buy a new phone or a plan you find that there are variety of phones with differences in megapixels to mega bytes, touch screens to quad-core processors and most importantly the network technology being used on phones like the 3G or 4G.

3G and 4G are terms used to describe different groups of wireless internet standards. The “G” stands for generation, where 3G means ‘third generation’ and 4G stands for ‘fourth generation’. The larger number indicates the newer, better version of a particular technology.

Essentially 3G and 4G networks do the same thing. Both are capable of connecting your phone to the internet, just that one is faster than the other but there are few differences whish if known to you will help you decide better which is you want on your mobile.

4G is faster than 3G

4G optus mobile

4G is often up to 10x faster than 3G in real-world use — with speeds commonly between 20Mbps and 50Mbps. New 4G technologies such as “Carrier Aggregation” – where your smartphone connects to multiple cellular frequencies at once offer even faster speeds in certain areas. If your phone supports it, you could get speeds of up to 450Mbps per second in Sydney’s CBD. That’s almost five times as fast as the NBN.

This speed will fluctuate depending on how far you are from a network tower and on the power of the radios inside your phone. Typically you will find the best 4G coverage in metro CBDs and weaker 4G signals as you leave these densely populated areas. Your connection will fall back to 3G in areas connecting major cities.

Though it is not to think on which network you are on as modern phones are designed to switch between available networks and find the best and fastest for your location. You need a newer 4G device to use a 4G network, though: older devices designed solely with 3G radios will only work on 3G networks.

This difference between the speeds of 3G and 4G really start to show as the size of the files increases. This is due, in part, to one of the small detail differences between the two: 3G speeds ramp up over time, while 4G speeds remain consistently fast from the beginning to end of a download.


3G is used for Voice Calls

Vodafone Australia

You might also ask that if 4G is so much faster and capable of more, why do the 3G networks even exist? These older networks are still a really important part of the mobile networks as a whole, offering essential support to the 4G networks and acting as bridges between the major cities. There may come a time in the future when the 4G networks reach all parts of Australia, but for now these networks cover only the parts of the country with the most people.

Voice calls are still made over 3G networks, for now. Even in the cities where 4G is available, all voice calls are connected on the older 3G networks. 4G calling is slowly become a thing – Voice over LTE, or VoLTE – but is only available on some networks and certain phones.

4G networks are still slowly rolling out to regional areas, meaning that 3G still provides the backbone coverage in many less populous areas across the islands.

It depends on your mobile usage or purpose of use to know which is best

If you really want to know whether 3G or 4G is best for you then first you will have to find what is that you use most on your mobile. If you use your mobile only for calling, texting, socialising and use fewer apps you can opt for 3G but if you use your mobile to play pokies games or casino games online with your mobile or casino app you need faster connection and speed thus you need 4G.

Therefore if  you mostly use the internet connection in your phone to browse Facebook, download emails and watch YouTube videos, you won’t really notice the difference between 3G and 4G when you have a strong network connection.

Also generally this isn’t a choice you will need to make. All of the major telco suppliers in Australia offer 4G services, as do the vast majority of smaller providers, and you will use these networks automatically if you own a compatible phone.

4G is faster and therefore the better of the two technologies. In high-reception areas 4G real-world speeds can well exceed 2x the maximum potential speed of the fixed-line ADSL2+ connections.

There is absolutely no down-side to using 4G instead of 3G, other than that it uses a tiny bit more of your phone’s battery. Also you might burn through your data capacity just that little bit faster, especially if you go wild when tethering.

Note that 4G is not expensive. Telecom like VodafoneTelstra and Optus all offer a combination of 3G and 4G services and there is no extra charge for the faster speeds. In fact there is no way to select to use 3G or 4G, it all falls under the category of “data” on a mobile monthly plan.

Where you might spend more money is on the phone you choose, all of the latest and greatest smartphone handsets are 4G-ready and come with a premium price tag.

Many cheaper phones are now also 4G ready, and unless you’re buying a phone for less than $100, you’ll almost certainly end up with a 4G device. Thus if you really want 4G speeds on your budget then always look at the  specifications before you buy a prepaid handset.