3G is currently the world’s best connection method when it comes to mobile phones, and especially mobile Internet. 3G stands for 3rd generation as it is just that in terms of the evolutionary path of the mobile phone industry. 4G means 4th generation. This is a set of standard that is being developed as a future successor of 3G in the very near future.
The biggest difference between the two is in the existence of compliant technologies. There are a bunch of technologies that fall under 3G, including WCDMA, EV-DO, and HSPA among others. Although a lot of mobile phone companies are quick to dub their technologies as 4G, such as LTE, WiMax, and UMB, none of these are actually compliant to the specifications set forth by the 4G standard. These technologies are often referred to as Pre-4G or 3.9G.
4G speeds are meant to exceed that of 3G. Current 3G speeds are topped out at 14Mbps downlink and 5.8Mbps uplink. To be able to qualify as a 4G technology, speeds of up to 100Mbps must be reached for a moving user and 1Gbps for a stationary user. So far, these speeds are only reachable with wired LANs.
Another key change in 4G is the abandonment of circuit switching. 3G technologies use a hybrid of circuit switching and packet switching. Circuit switching is a very old technology that has been used in telephone systems for a very long time. The downside to this technology is that it ties up the resource for as long as the connection is kept up. Packet switching is a technology that is very prevalent in computer networks but has since appeared in mobile phones as well. With packet switching, resources are only used when there is information to be sent across. The efficiency of packet switching allows the mobile phone company to squeeze more conversations into the same bandwidth. 4G technologies would no longer utilize circuit switching even for voice calls and video calls. All information that is passed around would be packet switched to enhance efficiency.
1. 3G stands for 3rd generation while 4G stands for 4th generation
2. 3G technologies are in widespread use while 4G compliant technologies are still in the horizon
3. 4G speeds are much faster compared to 3G
4. 3G is a mix of circuit and packet switching network while 4G is only a packet switching network