4G vs 3G: A Speed Test

There are many questions surrounding 4G, the main one being just how much quicker is it compared to 3G?

With 4G now active in 11 cities across the country, subscribers to EE can now reap the benefits of the fastest-ever connection speeds experienced in the UK.

As its name suggests, 4G is an evolution of 3G, bringing faster data connection, streaming, web browsing and downloads, building on 3G speeds which currently average around 2.1Mbps.

Using the 4G-enabled Samsung Galaxy S III LTE and a standard 3G Galaxy S III we decided to conduct a series of connection speed tests and headed to central Manchester to find out exactly how much quicker 4G is (if at all).

Speed Test

Firstly, we downloaded and installed Ookla’s Speed Test app to monitor connection speeds on both devices.  From the off 4G produced figures reaching over 14Mbps and occasionally hitting 20Mbps; a significant improvement considering the UK average broadband speed is 9Mbps. Meanwhile 3G speeds were about average, reaching speeds of around 1.2Mbps. It took 4G just 17 seconds to complete the test while 3G took more than double the time.

App Downloads

The second aspect we decided to look at was download times for apps. Visiting the Google Play store and selecting to download the official Twitter application, which is around 3Mb in size, the 4G device managed to complete the download in just 2 seconds.In comparison, the 3G handset was some way behind taking almost a minute. However, this may have been slightly quicker had we not been in a busy city centre with many mobile users within the same cell.

Video Streaming

The next test focussed on video streaming, using YouTube to monitor the times taken for each device to successfully stream a video clip to the handset. The Samsung Galaxy S III LTE started the process almost instantly, displaying the highest-quality video with no lag or stutters. As in the previous test, the 3G handset was a lot slower, taking 20 seconds to begin playing. YouTube even detected the slower connection and reduced the video quality accordingly.

Web Browsing

To finish we looked at browser speeds by using each device to navigate from Google to a specific website. The Samsung Galaxy S III LTE 4G fully loaded the website in four seconds, more than 11 times faster than the 3G device.


The results of our tests go some way towards highlighting just how much faster 4G data transfer speeds are compared to those offered by the existing 3G infrastructure. In each instance, data connections were unbroken and drop-out was conspicuous by its absence.

Of course, there are some variables to be take into account when evaluating our results, including location, signal strength and network load, but as a general guide to how fast 4G is, our results are very useful.

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