What is 4G? How is it different to 3G?

Standard answer: 4G is the fourth generation of broadband mobile phone licences. Download/upload speeds are much faster.

Alternative answer: The Parable of the Mobile Phone Bandwidth

In the beginning there was a thing called the telephone. You used it to call someone from somewhere - your house, if you were rich enough.

Then Mr Cooper invented a portable phone.
Martin Cooper inventor of first mobile phone
People thought ‘what if I could carry a phone with me? Then I could talk to my friends inside my house and outside, too. Cool!

How to do this? First of all you needed a new telephone network with new numbers. And so was born the first generation of mobile telephony.

The first mobiles were gigantic but they soon got smaller and smaller (see Moore's Law). You could write messages on them, too! Even cooler!


Then the pointy heads (step forward Mr Jobs) had another idea. Why not use your phone to look up maps or that funny cat on YouTube?

Well at first that it didn’t work very well. Everything was s-o-o-o slow. Come on telephone networks, sort it out!

So the networks in the UK came forward with  a plan. Give us more bandwidth please, Mr Government. Then everyone can watch funny cats all day long! For a small charge, of course*

Fine said the Government. We’ll let you have it for a ridiculous price - you can pass it on to your customers. And so was born the third generation of bandwidth: 3G.


We were all more or less happy with 3G most of the time. But hey, these smart phones can download films. We want to watch them right now on our tiny screens - 3G is so slow!

Come on telephone networks, sort it out! Use your money to buy some shiny 4G from the Government.

And so was born 4G ...

*see the terms & conditions of our very expensive contract.