What the Heck is a G and How Many Do I Need?

By Andrew Moore-Crispin

At Ting, we’re fans of simplicity. We like to offer simple tools you can use to decide if Ting is right for you. If it is, we give you simple tools to take control of your account.

Mobile standards, that is 3G, 4G et. al., are the latest in a long series of ways major telcos confuse us, whether unintentionally or otherwise. As Doc Searles pointed out in a recent article, major telcos often operate as confusopolies; they provide the illusion of choice but in the end, consumers end up picking the plan and service level that’s … the least crappy, for want of a better description.

People want the fastest mobile data, the highest call quality and the most reliable communications. They understand (at least in general terms) that means 4G.

Now we’re hearing more and more about 4G LTE. An exciting mobile technology but yet another TLA we have to try to wrap our heads around. We’ll delve briefly into LTE in a moment.

Ting is an MVNO reseller of Sprint’s nationwide mobile network. As such, we’re able to offer 4G service wherever Sprint’s 4G network reaches. Basically, that means major city centers around the US. You can see if your city is covered on the Ting coverage map. All speeds that follow use Sprint’s published baselines.

What is 4G?

4G is a newer mobile standard. It offers average download speeds of 3-6 Mbps and peak speeds of 10 Mbps. That means speeds of between about 0.38 MB/s on the low end and up to 1.25 MB/s on the high. In real-world terms, a single 4MB song download should take between three seconds on the high end and about 11 seconds on the low. Extrapolating that, you could grab a 12-song album in around about 2 min 15 sec at the low end or under 40 seconds at the high end.

Not all Ting phones can take advantage of the 4G network. At present, Ting has four 4G phones and two 4G data devices. They are:

What is 3G?

3G is a current mobile standard. It offers much improved data speeds than previous generations (2G and 1G). As it’s been in commercial applications for about a decade, it’s also available just about everywhere in North America.

3G offers average download speeds of between 600 Kbps and 1.4 Mbps and a peak download speed of up to 3.1 Mbps.

To use the same example as we used previously, that means our 4MB song downloads in between and 10 seconds at the high end and about 55 seconds on the low.

Every and data device and smartphone in Ting’s device catalog, including the aforementioned 4G devices, can access the 3G network. Ting feature phones work on the 2G CDMA (CDMA2000 1xRTT) network.

LTE / 4G LTE

The next major leap forward for mobile connections is LTE. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution. While it’s a viable network technology today and offers some pretty impressive near broadband speeds in best case scenarios, it is first and foremost, as the LTE intialism suggests, a plan to ensure that mobile networks can continue to meet our growing mobile demands.

Aside from offering hitherto unseen speeds on wireless networks, LTE can also cram up to 10 times as many users onto a cell and uses its band of the frequency spectrum four times as efficiently as compared with CDMA technology. As existing towers and access points are upgraded to the LTE network, that means a mobile infrastructure that should meet our needs for the next decade. After which… well, who knows what’s next.

Ting doesn’t currently offer any LTE devices, but we’ll definitely keep you posted.

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