20 June 2019

    Megan Ellis

    3G vs 4G: What’s the difference?

    Mobile carriers often mention the 3G or 4G capabilities of their networks. But what exactly are these technologies and how do they differ?

    When people talk about 3G and 4G, they are talking about particular generations of wireless, mobile telecommunications technology. Basically, the technology that allows our mobile devices to connect to the internet and voice networks. The first generation is referred to as 1G, while 3G and 4G are the third- and fourth generations, respectively.

    The differences between 3G and 4G

    While 3G is almost a decade older than 4G, their differences are about more than just their age. Here are the most significant differences.

    4G is faster than 3G

    The most apparent difference between 3G and 4G is data transfer speeds. 4G is significantly faster than 3G. The exact difference in speed depends on the type of 3G or 4G network being used. 

    3G connections are fine for checking emails, watching low-resolution videos and downloading small files. However, the speed of these networks is not suited for watching high-definition (HD) videos. 

    Meanwhile, 4G users can watch HD videos, stream music and download apps with peak speeds of around 60Mps. 4G LTE, an even faster version of 4G, is great for streaming high-quality video such as Netflix series, playing online games and downloading larger files.

    How to switch to Vodacom 4G on Android 

    3G networks have more coverage

    Since the technology has been around for nearly two decades, 3G networks have more coverage than 4G networks. This includes more remote areas and small towns. While 4G still has significant coverage in South Africa (Vodacom reaches more than 80% of the population), it is not as widespread as 3G.

    3G is compatible with older devices

    When it comes to compatibility, 3G networks can work with much older devices such as feature phones (think flip phones and the Nokia 3310) and the first smartphones. Meanwhile, 4G is compatible with smartphones released from 2010/2011 onwards. That said, all 4G phones are backwards compatible. Thus, all 4G phones support 3G, but not all 3G phones support 4G.

    How to switch to Vodacom 4G on iOS

    Want to know more about 4G? Check out Vodacom’s 4G FAQ page.

    Megan Ellis