New Apple iPhone 5 to offer 4G LTE - so what is it?

Mobile downloads as fast as a computer

CLEVELAND - There was a lot of anticipation leading up to Wednesday, when Apple announced a new iPhone.

One new feature with many new phones is the LTE network. This stands for Long Term Evolution.

What does that really mean? Kent State Information Technology Manager Christopher Bues said 4G LTE offers phone speeds as fast as your home computer.

The networks are crowded as more and more users use more and more data.

"The carriers want to get to LTE as fast as they can because it allows them to get to more subscribers on their network and to offer better data speeds and services," Bues said.

Verizon and AT&T are leading the pack on this service. RootMetrics and PC Magazine recently ran nationwide speed tests.

"Verizon is the speed champ right now. I mean, they really have the biggest coverage area by far. AT&T is probably second, but in some areas first," Bues said.

Many users we spoke with were skeptical about the speed of LTE because they haven't seen much difference between 3G and 4G other than their battery dying more quickly. However, Bues said 3G to 4G was an evolutionary change, and 4G LTE is revolutionary.

Patrice Blakemore loves her iPhone, but admits it struggles to keep up with her fast pace.

"I don't find it's quick enough for everything, for all the applications I'm using, so I'm looking for something to have a little more pop to it and to be faster," Blakemore said.

Many new phones offer you faster speeds with their ability to connect to the 4G LTE network. Apple's new iPhone is expected to offer this capability. You currently need a new phone because this technology is so  different compared to the changes with 4G service.

"It's new hardware for all the cellular providers. It's new chips in the phone. It's a lot of new plumbing behind the scenes to really give you those fast data speeds," Bues said.

So how fast is LTE? We ran a consumer test with demo phones from AT&T to find out. There is some margin of error because we had to use two different phones due to the advanced technology. We used the Apples iPhone 4S and the Samsung Galaxy SIII. 

Overall, the download speeds were at least 2 to 3 seconds faster on the LTE network. We also noticed it in a speed test we ran through an app called Ookla, which measures the download speeds. The LTE phone registered speeds significantly higher.

"I think it's amazing," Blakemore said. "I have an iPhone and I wish I had this new network on it."

Brandon Gubacz wasn't as eager to make the switch after seeing the difference between the two phones.

"It's faster no doubt, but I think I'm not that incredibly impressed that I have to have it," Gubacz said.

Experts say all phones will have this technology in the next few years. Deciding whether to buy one now depends on how much you want to spend, and what you do with your phone.

"If you are looking at basic email, basic web browsing, no, you're not going to see much of a difference," Bues explained.

LTE is marketed for heavy data users -- which typically are iPhone users.

The big catch – LTE is not available on the Sprint network in the Cleveland-Akron area. The carrier announced plans to add it to 100 cities in the coming months. Several cities were mentioned, but Cleveland was not named. This does not mean we will not be included as all 100 cities were not mentioned.

If you are in a 4G LTE area and drive to an area where it is not available, your phone will roll back to 4G or 3G service. Also, this new technology is supposed to diminish the battery drain that so many users experienced with 4G service upgrades.

"I haven't noticed much difference between the 3G and 4G. I noticed a big difference with this new one," Blakemore said.

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