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LTE vs. 5G (Part 1): Speeds and frequencies

As owners of a modern smartphone, we all regularly encounter abbreviations such as LTE, 4G and 5G. Within the context of a series, we would like to clarify the meanings, characteristics and differences of these mobile communications standards on this blog. In this first part of our series, you can discover everything about the transfer speeds and frequencies of 4G/LTE and 5G.

Each owner of a modern cell phone or smartphone model inevitably encounters the abbreviations 4G, LTE and more recently 5G. What do these mean and how are they different?

LTE, 4G and 5G: what do these terms stand for?

The mobile communications technology uses electromagnetic fields to transmit voice and data. This information exchange occurs between the end devices and the base stations. Each individual mobile communications standard is assigned predefined frequency ranges, which consist of two bands. While the data transfer to a sender is handled via the lower frequency band, the data transfer to the cell phone is handled via the upper band.

The denominations LTE, 4G and 5G refer to the newest generations of mobile communications standards. Over time, these will replace the tried-and-tested and weaker 2G and 3G.

Each of the three denominations refers to the respective generation of a data transfer standard. 4G and 5G refer to the fourth, respectively fifth generation of mobile communications standards. Long Term Evolution, other LTE in short, basically belongs to the third generation. In contrast, the extension LTE Advanced already belongs to the fourth generation.

While for 4G there are international provisions and directives, LTE does not support all the features of 4G. At the same time, it does not comply with all the international provisions.

The speeds of 4G, LTE Advanced and 5G

The maximum speed of 4G is specified as 100 Mbit/s in the current mobile communications contracts. Theoretically, LTE Advanced allows for a maximum speed of 1 Gbit/s. 5G should achieve even speeds between 10 and 20 Gbit/s.

However, the situation is still different, as these speeds must also be available nationwide for all. In addition, the smartphone, as well as the concluded mobile phone contract must support the desired mobile communications standards, respectively allow these to be used.

Which frequencies are used by these common mobile communications standards?

LTE is the current mobile communications standards, which will continue to play an important role in the future of mobile data transmission. This is because, as the present situation confirms, 5G requires at least one LTE carrier to function.

In 2019, several additional frequencies, such as 3,4 GHz and 3,8 GHz, were added to the existing mobile communications frequencies, within the context of an auction for 5G frequencies. Each individual frequency has a specific spectrum, which also determines the respective area of application. As opposed to LTE, 5G also requires significantly more base stations and antennas.

The LTE network tester of ENQT GmbH already performs measurements in all 2G, 3G and 4G frequencies. Are you interested in mobile communications measurements? Feel free to visit our shop, write us an e-mail or call us at +49 40 35 73 20 65! We are at your disposal.

Overview table of the relevant mobile communications frequencies in Germany:

Frequency rangeBandLTE providerLTE5G
800 MHz 20 Telekom LTE  
900 MHz 8 Telekom LTE  
1500 MHz 32 Telekom LTE  
1800 MHz 3 Telekom LTE 5G
2600 MHz 7 Telekom LTE  
3400-3700 N78 Telekom  5G
700 MHz 28 Vodafone LTE 5G
800 MHz 20 Vodafone LTE  
900 MHz 8 Vodafone LTE  
1800 MHz 3 Vodafone LTE 5G
2100 MHz 1 Vodafone LTE 5G
2600 MHz 7 Vodafone LTE  
3400-3700 N78 Vodafone  5G
700 MHz 28 O2/Telefónica LTE 5G
800 MHz 20 O2/Telefónica LTE  
1800 MHz 3 O2/Telefónica LTE 5G
2100 MHz 1 O2/Telefónica LTE 5G
2600 MHz 7 O2/Telefónica LTE  
3400-3700 N78 1&1  5G
3700-3800 N78 Industry companies