Home Tech Trends What Does LTE Coverage Really Mean?

What Does LTE Coverage Really Mean?


If you’re shopping for phones, you want to understand what type of coverage you’ll be able to get before you make a purchase. In many cases, smartphones will be equipped for LTE coverage. While that term may sound high tech and impressive, the meaning has a direct impact on how satisfied you’ll be with a certain phone. Learn more about what LTE means and how to figure out whether you’ll have sufficient coverage.

LTE Defined

Image via Flickr by Chilanga Cement

LTE stands for Long Term Evolution, a type of 4G technology that delivers some of the fastest speeds for streaming media, downloading data, and browsing the web.

You can think of LTE as the latest advancement in mobile network technology. While 4G was developed to replace 3G, LTE is considered an improvement on 4G. In fact, some phones will list this technology as 4G LTE rather than LTE only. LTE gets closer to reaching the theoretical speeds that 4G is supposed to — but rarely — achieves.

Compared to older forms of technology, LTE definitely makes a big difference. For example, compared to 3G, LTE is about 10 times faster. You spend less time waiting for a video clip to buffer, and you’ll get faster webpage loading times and quicker updates to your social media.

Signal Strength

Although LTE may be incredibly fast, it can’t work at lightning speeds if you don’t have sufficient coverage. The speed you experience on your phone will depend on whether you have a strong signal in your area. You’ll find that while most areas of the United States now have 4G coverage, LTE coverage isn’t consistent across the board. Some outlying areas still don’t have access to these faster speeds.

Network load can also be a factor that affects your speed. If too many people are using the network at once, even if you are covered in an LTE area, that usage can slow down your phone’s overall speed.

Comparing LTE Coverage

Before you buy an LTE phone, check the LTE coverage in your area. For example, you can see how T-Mobile’s LTE coverage map compares to coverage of other wireless carriers — including AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon — to determine which wireless carrier is the right fit for you. With its extensive coverage nationwide, T-Mobile’s network can offer superior speeds in more areas compared to other providers.

When looking at coverage maps, remember to consider more than your home address alone. You’ll also likely be using your phone at work, on your commute, and while you’re traveling for business or leisure. If you don’t have LTE coverage in the areas where you spend the most time, you may want a 3G or 4G phone instead. However, with LTE coverage expanding nationwide, it’s fairly rare for individuals to live and work in areas where none of the major carriers provide LTE coverage.

Phone Models

Some phone models are not built to support LTE coverage. If you’re hoping to get these faster speeds, you’ll want to choose the right phone. For example, the iPhone 5 was the first iPhone model to support LTE coverage. While all iPhone models released since that time support LTE coverage, the ones that came before the iPhone 5 do not.

Look at a smartphone’s specs carefully before you make a purchase if you want LTE speeds. This point is especially true if you’re buying a used phone or one that doesn’t represent one of the latest models.

What About 5G?

The next generation of mobile broadband connectivity is 5G, but tech experts are still working out bugs and figuring out how to achieve even faster speeds. Most likely, 5G won’t be available until at least 2020. For now, LTE continues to be the fastest option for smartphone users.

Use the details about LTE presented above to make an informed decision about your next phone purchase. If you spend time in areas with LTE coverage and you want to upgrade your phone, choosing a model that supports LTE speeds is a great way that you can improve your smartphone experience.