What Does LTE Mean on My Phone: Best Easy Guide

What Does LTE Mean on My Phone
Photo by Tirachard Kumtano

LTE, which stands for Long Term Evolution, is a standard for cellular networking that offers faster data speeds than previous generations of cellular networks, such as 3G. LTE is often called 4G LTE, but it is technically not true 4G. However, LTE is still significantly faster than 3G, and it is the most widely available 4G network in the world.

When you see the LTE icon on your phone, it means that you are connected to an LTE network and can enjoy faster data speeds. This means that you can download web pages, stream videos, and play online games much faster than you could on a 3G network.

LTE is also important for new technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality. These technologies require high-speed data connections to work properly.

In this article, we will discuss everything you need to know about LTE, from what it means to how it works and other important details.

What Does “LTE” on My Phone Mean?

“LTE” stands for Long Term Evolution, but the full form of the abbreviation tells us little about what it is or what it does.

LTE is a cellular networking technology standard that exists between 3G and 4G. It offers faster speeds than 3G but does not fully realize the potential of true 4G. LTE is frequently used interchangeably with 4G, even though it is a step below 4G.

Carriers in the United States used various branding to distinguish between LTE and true 4G. To refer to true 4G, Verizon uses LTE+, T-Mobile uses LTE-A, and AT&T uses 5GE.

When you see an LTE icon on your phone, it means it is linked to your carrier’s LTE network. When you see the LTE icon, you can expect download speeds of up to 100 Mbps and upload speeds of up to 50 Mbps.

In comparison, if you see an LTE+, LTE-A, or 5GE icon, you can expect 10x of these speeds, with downloads reaching 1000Mbps and uploads reaching 500Mbps, though keep in mind that other factors such as your phone, available bandwidth, and so on affect network speed. Because most users only see a fraction of these intended gains, LTE is frequently used interchangeably with 4G in common parlance.

What Is the Difference Between LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro?

LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro are enhanced versions of the LTE standard that can deliver even faster internet speeds. LTE Advanced can theoretically deliver a peak data download rate of 1 Gbps, while Advanced Pro can reach up to 3 Gbps. As a result, LTE Advanced and Advanced Pro meet the technical specifications for true 4G.

LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro, fortunately, are backward compatible, and regular LTE devices can connect to these networks. However, you will not receive the enhanced benefits.

Many LTE networks have already been upgraded to LTE Advanced around the world. And it’s represented on your phone by LTE+, 4G+, or LTE-A symbols rather than the standard LTE or 4G.

How Does LTE Work?

To provide voice and data services to their customers, cellular standards have traditionally used both circuit-switching and packet-switching networks. A circuit-switching network establishes and maintains a dedicated connection to the person on the other end of the call, whereas a packet-switching network uses data packets to transmit information from one device to another over a digital network. These data packets can take the path of least resistance to their destination and do not require a dedicated line.

LTE, unlike 2G and 3G technologies, operates entirely on a packet-switching network. As a result, no circuit-switching is available for placing voice calls. To handle voice calls, VoLTE, or voice-over LTE, is used instead. However, when a phone does not support VoLTE or LTE and is unavailable, LTE supports the circuit-switched fallback (CSFB) option, which allows voice calls to be made over existing 3G and 2G networks. In fact, carriers frequently used CSFB during the early LTE implementations. However, VoLTE is now quite common.

LTE uses existing network bandwidth efficiently to provide faster internet speeds and low latency. MIMO (Multiple Input Multiple Output), Carrier Aggregation, multi-carrier modulation, and other technologies make this possible.

What is the Difference between 4G LTE and 5G?

The difference between 4G LTE and 5G is startling. On a fundamental level, the distinction is between radio frequencies, bandwidth block sizes, and other factors. Higher up, practical improvements such as faster data speeds and lower latency for 5G can be seen when compared to 4G LTE.

For example, average data speeds for 4G LTE customers would be around 30 Mbps, while minimum data speeds for 5G customers would be in the 50 Mbps range. 4G customers are accustomed to latency of 50 ms and higher, whereas 5G users can expect latency of less than 10 ms. In our 5G explainer, you can learn more about the differences between 4G and 5G.

Why Is My 5G Phone Displaying LTE?

When you subscribe to a 5G plan from your carrier, you may be surprised to see the LTE symbol appear on your 5G phone. There are several possible explanations for this.

The first and most common reason is that you may be in an area with no 5G coverage. 5G has significant network gaps, and your phone will fall back to 4G or LTE if it cannot connect to a reliable 5G tower.

The second reason could be that you do not have a 5G plan with your carrier. While your carrier may offer 5G as a service, it may not be available to you because you did not specifically subscribe to it. You must pay an additional fee to use 5G services. If you have a 5G subscription, we recommend double-checking with your carrier.

The third possibility is that your phone’s 5G modem is turned off. 5G consumes a lot of battery power and can quickly deplete your data limits if you’re not careful. When the battery runs low, some phones turn off 5G and enter battery-saving modes. As a result, ensure that 5G is enabled in your phone’s settings and that you are not in any power-saving mode that restricts 5G.

How to change your preferred network type to 5G on Android

Here’s how to change your Android phone’s preferred network type to 5G.

On Samsung Galaxy Phones

  • Navigate to Settings, Connections, Mobile Networks, and Network Mode.
  • Choose from 5G/LTE/WCDMA/GSM (auto-connect). This option will connect to 5G, but will fall back to LTE if 5G is not available. Other options on the list will not try to connect to 5G.

On Google Pixel Phones

  • Navigate to Settings > Network and Internet> SIMs > Preferred network type.
  • Select 5G here.
  • Choose the other options if you want to disable 5G. In case you need more assistance, we also have a dedicated guide on how to turn off 5G on your Android phone.

How to Change Your iPhone’s Preferred Network Type to 5G

Here’s how to change your iPhone’s preferred network type to 5G.

Navigate to Settings > Cellular Data Options > Voice & Data. Cellular may be renamed Mobile in some regions, but the navigation path remains the same.

You have the option of using 5G Auto or 5G On. We recommend 5G Auto because it supports Smart Data Mode. When 5G speeds aren’t required, the iPhone will switch to LTE to conserve battery life. 5G On always uses 5G, which reduces battery life.

There is also a 5G standalone option. When this option is enabled, your iPhone will use 5G for all cellular activity, consuming more battery power. Some carriers may require this setting to be enabled for 5G to function properly, so don’t hesitate to get in touch with your carrier for the best setting.

How to Disable (or Enable) LTE on an iPhone

  • Open the iPhone Settings app and select “Cellular” at the top of the list.
  • Tap “Cellular Data Options” (the submenu is only available in the most recent versions of iOS; older versions do not have it).
  • Tap “Enable LTE” and select “OFF” (alternatively, set ‘Data Only’ to stabilize some voice calls, or “Voice & Data” as the default).*
  • Wait for the iPhone’s cellular connection to cycle on and off again, and 3G / 4G should now be on as the default, with LTE turned off, as visible in the iPhone’s status bar. Exit Settings and enjoy your slower cell connection.
  • Keep in mind that some carriers display “Voice & Data” here instead if you can manually change and set the data speed to 3G, LTE, or 2G. That is not the case with all cell providers or plans, and when that manual control is unavailable, disabling LTE causes the iPhone to use either a 3G or 2G connection, depending on which is available.

Should I Turn On or off LTE?

Your phone should support LTE. LTE has matured sufficiently in recent years to avoid excessive battery drain. When using 5G, it is recommended that you use LTE as your primary connection or as a fallback.

Is LTE an indication that I have service?

Yes. If an LTE icon appears in your phone’s status bar, it indicates that you have cell service.

Is LTE an indication that you are using data?

Yes, having an LTE icon in your phone’s status bar indicates that data services are enabled on your phone. It does not, however, imply that data is being actively consumed at that time, nor that you have subscribed to a data plan with your carrier. It simply means that data services are enabled on the device and that you are in an LTE-serviced area, where you will experience high speeds.

Is it beneficial to have LTE on your phone?

Yes, having LTE on your phone is beneficial.


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