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Difference between HSPA+ and LTE

So over on Plurk I was trying to explain the difference between HSPA+ and LTE. There is a lot of confusion. Without naming who carries what, here’s a simple way of looking at it:

HSPA+ is built on existing 3G technology. LTE is built on an entirely new network. Your iPhone 4 will work on an HSPA+ network because it is 3G compatible. It won’t be able to access the higher speed LTE network. You will need LTE compatible devices to run on the LTE network. These are phones like the Motorola Atrix and the HTC Thunderbolt.

Here’s an example. The BlackBerry 8520, one of the more recent devices being sold today cannot access 3G because it is limited to the 2G EDGE network. A lot of people don’t know this. Did they notice? Actually, no. This is because you don’t need really fast speeds to access email on a BlackBerry — which is what it is for.

Short chart:


3G –> 3.5G (that’s HSPA which is a combination of HSDPA and HSUPA. “D” and “U” stand for “Upload” and “Download”) –> HSPA+

The HSPA technology is a combination of HSDPA and HSUPA which. D and U stand for Downlink and Uplink which you can just translate to mean “download” and “upload.” SO HSUPA = uploading photos faster and sending email with bigger attachments faster.

When telcos here and abroad say that they have “4G” they are not referring to speeds. They are referring to “next gen” hardware. Based on the ITU standards, the real 4G is considered to be a technology called LTE Advanced, a small step above LTE (it’s like how 3G moves to 3.5G). LTE Advanced isn’t available yet anywhere around the world but rumors say by 2012.

LTE is the closest thing to what we call “4G speeds.” The truth is, the nomenclature doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t.