The meaning of LTE and its relationship to 4G internet

Discussing things in the internet space, like the meaning of LTE, can be a little confusing. In this blog post, we unpack the meaning of LTE in as short and as simple a way as possible.

When discussing the meaning of LTE, we need to understand that LTE was a term probably created in the marketing departments of cellular network companies so that 4G internet could be released to the market.

The meaning of LTE marketing brainstorm
The meaning of LTE brainstorm

The full meaning of LTE

The full meaning of LTE is ‘long-term evolution’. You see, internet speed has ‘evolved’ over time, generation by generation. Each new generation of internet gets faster and faster. A new generation of internet is released to the market around once every ten years. The first generation was 1G (good place to start) and was released way back in 1980.

Next, and you guessed it, was 2G internet (the second generation). It then went on to 3G then 4G and more recently 5G. Now, 4G internet is the culprit for the rise of LTE.

4G gives rise to the idea of LTE

Allow me to explain. Before each new generation of internet is released to the market there are certain requirements that that generation of internet has to meet. Some of these requirements are latency, frequency, and of course speed. These requirements are set out by the International Telecommunications Union or, ITU.

When 3G internet was due for release to the public in 2001 the ITU set the speed requirements to a minimum speed of 144Kbps and a maximum speed of around 7Mbps. 3G met and operated at those speed requirements and so was released to the market. However, when 4G (fourth generation) wireless internet was released in 2009, and although it was definitely an improvement over 3G internet speeds, it did not meet the minimum and maximum speed requirements.

This is what gave rise to the idea of LTE. 4G is supposed to run at a download speed of 20Mbps and an upload speed of 10Mbps. The thing is, it doesn’t. It runs at speeds of 5Mbps and 10Mbps respectively, therefore, falling short of the minimum speed requirements set out by the ITU.

Marketing uses the meaning of LTE to release 4G internet

In order for the cellular network companies to get 4G into the market, and so as not to communicate any false advertising, they came up with an idea to release 4G as 4GLTE (remember the meaning of LTE is long-term evolution). What they did was they made a promise to the ITU that 4G, although not as fast as it should be now, will get faster as the technology evolves. In other words, they promised that 4G will get faster over time and will eventually meet the minimum speed requirements set by the ITU. So, they asked the ITU, “can we release it to the market now?” and the ITU said, “okay”. 4GLTE is essentially “not there but getting there” internet speed. Maybe it should be called 4GNTBGT (say that ten times fast).

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