Defining 4G/LTE

We see the number/letter combination in the corner of our smartphones so often, it has almost become invisible: 4G/LTE. Not only that, ‘4G’ is also touted so repeatedly (and loudly) in Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T commercials, most of us hit the mute button without even realizing it anymore. We know 4G/LTE has something to do with cellular networks and speeds, but what is 4G/LTE really? And, what does it mean for our daily lives in which smartphones and connectivity have become such a necessity for work, life, and play? Let’s start by defining 4G/LTE:


4G/LTE is really two terms in one. 4G is a collection of fourth-generation mobile data technology. Not surprisingly, it succeeds 3G and is also called IMT-Advanced (International Mobile Telecommunications Advanced). All 4G standards must conform to a set of specifications created by the International Telecommunications Union. LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, which is not really a technology, but a standard for wireless communication. (Source: TechTerms).

How fast is 4G? 4G technologies are required to provide peak data transfer rates of at least 100 Mbps (megabytes per/second). This includes the connection rate for mobile phones, smart phone tablets, etc. However, keep in mind that actual download speeds vary based on location, signal strength, and interference. As an example, just because a device has the capacity to reach 4G, it doesn’t mean you’ll automatically hit those connection speeds (for instance, you’ll have the best chance if you’re in a city, as opposed to a remote location, assuming wireless interference isn’t too severe).

Are you really getting 4G speeds? The short answer is: no, not really. When the governing body set the minimum speeds for 4G mobile devices, around 2008, they decided that because 4G was not actually attainable in the practical sense for network providers, they would introduce the term LTE. LTE basically means the authentic pursuit of the 4G standard, and it offers a considerable improvement over 3G technology.

As a result, most network providers today offer 4G LTE network speeds which they brand as next-generation connectivity performance, even though they are actually hitting pure 4G speeds.

Does 4G matter anyway? The answer to this really lies in how these connection speeds impact the user experience. How fast can your devices load pages, download music or video conference in real life situations? As a rule, while 4G/LTE seems to be a considerable improvement over 3G speeds when comparing 4G/LTE and “true 4G” networks of today, most upload and download speeds are almost identical.

4G and the enterprise  If your company is considering 4G/LTE wireless internet to provide remote access to enterprise applications like CRM and collaboration tools, consider how connection speeds impact performance. For instance, simplified and fast access to applications like, Cisco WebEx Social, and other business apps, will ensure the applications are used. Many believe the improved speed of access to applications, and the ability to work from anywhere and at any time, are real business benefits. When comparing 4G/LTE mobile data plans for the business, also consider factors like bandwidth requirements and data overage charges.

What’s next? You won’t be surprised to hear that several carriers are already looking ahead to 5G mobile broadband. Experts predict that 2017 will see more trials of 5G technology as the wireless industry continues to define what the 5G technology looks like. AT&T has already announced they are conducting 5G trials with Intel this year. The new 5G wireless modem will work at both super-high radio frequencies and lower-band airwaves. Many believe that early 5G network adoption will come from the enterprise side, in the form of from drones, self-driving cars, industrial applications, and some broadband service to homes and businesses. (Source: Investor’s Business Daily).

Advantages to SD-WAN

When companies are looking for advanced connectivity, reliability and fast network speeds, Software-Defined WAN (SD-WAN) options should not be overlooked. SD-WAN is an ideal alternative to traditional WAN deployments because traffic is intelligently routed across the network based on policies and load levels. Traffic shaping is done at the controller level through a software interface which automatically identifies the best possible route based on various factors such as defined use-case, requirements for cloud-based business apps. In an SD-WAN architecture, this routing is done over multiple WAN connections in parallel to ensure greater connection reliability. For those considering a move to SD-WAN, let’s dive deeper into three primary advantages of this model, including: advanced provisioning and configuration capabilities, improved network performance and responsiveness, and tighter security options.

  1. Advanced provisioning- SDN delivers better insight into network bandwidth and overall computing resources as well as greater configuration and provisioning options. Streamlined provisioning capabilities means that it’s simple to add new services or devices to the network because it can be done from a centralized software-based administration interface, instead of manually provisioning new hardware, including routers and servers, which can take weeks. Network management and configuration is also streamlined because with SD-WAN, bandwidth can easily be added as the business grows. Administrators can quickly deploy new security or WAN optimization services to remote sites, without physically traveling to that location.
  2. Greater network responsiveness- Today’s enterprises often include a distributed workforce with multiple branch offices and remote workers. Organizations are also relying more on Software as a Service (SaaS) and other cloud-based services, data analytics tools and storage and data backup solutions that run over the internet. This has made dependable, high-speed internet a necessity not a luxury. Those organizations leveraging SD-WAN can meet these challenges and guarantee access to cloud-based applications because SD-WAN responds proactively to real-time network conditions. Software-defined WAN treats the wide-area network as a unified fabric, relying on multiple WAN connections to pass data packets through the network. This includes support for multiprotocol label switching (MPLS) and cellular or fixed-line connections. This might include IP Virtual Private Networks (IP VPNs) and support for cable broadband, 4G and Wi-Fi connectivity. Route redundancy over the internet, ensures a high-quality user experience for those users accessing cloud-based applications and other  mission critical business applications.
  3. Granular security- SD-WAN offers greater network security by encrypting WAN traffic as it moves from one location to another. Through the controller, IT administrators can define a policy that describes the underlying network as it would appear to the application. That may include breaking the WAN down into groups, for example, guest Wi-Fi, real-time applications, mission-critical applications, internet browsing, etc. Those policies are then distributed across the nodes in the SD-WAN, which links the offices defined in that policy. This pointed level of security helps to segment traffic so administrators have a better overall view of the network and the ability to see individual use cases. If something unusual is identified, they can shut down traffic in a specific area.

When network performance and reliability are a top priority, software-defined WAN models can help keep WAN costs down while helping IT administrators build a better, faster and more productive network.