Is HSPA+ the same as 4G?

For someone who works in the mobile communications industry, this may seem like a silly question, however, it still feels necessary to address any confusion surrounding the relationship between 4G and HSPA+. We have seen this question popping up sometimes and it can very easily be a result of some Marketing campaigns that may have caused the confusion.

HSPA+ and 4G are two completely different things and they have absolutely nothing in common other than the fact that they are both mobile technologies. 4G is the fourth generation of mobile communications, and HSPA+ belongs to the third generation (3G) of mobile communications.

What is HSPA+?

HSPA+ is an enhancement to HSPA (High-Speed Packet Access), which is part of the third-generation (3G) of mobile networks that used Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) for achieving 3G. These networks used WCDMA (Wideband Code Division Multiple Access) for the air interface and could offer higher capacity as compared to the earlier GSM/GPRS/EDGE networks. However, the data speeds were not as high which led to the introduction of High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) and High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) collectively referred to as HSPA. HSPA+ stands for Evolved High-Speed Packet Access and it is a technology upgrade to HSPA which maximises the potential of 3G UMTS networks. It makes enhancements to the spectral efficiency, peak data rates and latency. The resulting data rates (or data speed) can reach up to 42 Mbps in the downlink for downloads and 11.5 Mbps in the uplink for uploads.

What is 4G?

4G uses LTE technology (Long Term Evolution) to achieve its goals. With LTE, a user can get peak speeds of up to 300 Mbps in the downlink for downloads, and up to 75 Mbps in the uplink for uploads. With LTE Advanced and LTE Advanced Pro, the downlink speeds can move up to 1Gbps and 3Gbps respectively. These results represent the maximum achievable rates in ideal network conditions.

In real life, factors like distance between the user and the base station, the number of users being served by the same base station and obstacles like buildings etc. impact the achievable data rates. As a result, the data rates (Mbps) that you get in real-life may be considerably lower. LTE SIM cards can be used in smartphones as well as mobile broadband dongles and hotspot devices. If you have decent 4G coverage at home, it can provide you with an alternative to fixed-line broadband.

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