In-building mobile connectivity
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What's the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G?

3G, 4G and 5G: have you ever wondered what these terms actually mean, but been too busy to find out? Read our quick and easy guide below.

TLDR: What’s the difference between 3G, 4G and 5G?

They are all standards for evolving mobile telecoms technology. The higher the number, the faster the speed phones can download files over the internet, the lower the latency (particularly between 4G and 5G) and the more devices they are able to support.

What is 3G?

3G is the third generation of mobile telecommunications technology, which runs on signals being passed between phone towers. Your mobile phone sends and receives information from the tower nearest to you via a network being managed by your mobile phone provider (Three, O2, Vodafone or EE in the UK) – that’s how you can make and receive calls and access mobile internet.

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What is 4G?

4G was the next-generation standard for mobile networks. Arriving in the late 2000s, it’s about 3 times faster than 3G and can support a much higher number of users – no surprises that it’s been adopted by every major UK operator in the years since.

4G gives you stronger, more reliable, streamlined data performance than 3G. It allows people to stream movies and songs, make video calls and play online computer games without experiencing lag. It also enabled users to use their mobile phones as a useful personal hotspot for their laptops or other devices while they are out and about.

What is 5G?

5G is the fifth-generation technology standard for mobile networks, and is set to deliver even higher multi-Gbps peak data speeds, ultra-low latency, more reliability and higher bandwidth than 4G.

What are the benefits of 5G?

5G is fast. Really fast. Mobile phone users will be able to stream 4K video in seconds with speeds that some predict will be up to 100 times faster than 4G. It also has potential to offer much lower latency – making it possible to control devices remotely in near real-time – and greater bandwidth so it can support more devices at once.

Business owners are excited about this for many reasons (IoT devices that rely on rapid data transfer being a big one). But for regular mobile phone users, the focus will be rapid downloads and data exchange, even in high-density areas such as a busy factory, hospital or office.

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What happens when mobile phone signal is blocked?

Here’s the problem: A number of things that can block 3G, 4G and 5G mobile phone signal, preventing you from making phone calls or connecting to mobile internet.

Most likely you are in a rural location where phone masts or in short supply, or you are trying to connect inside a building made from materials that block mobile phone signal (e.g. metal, Low-E glass, concrete bricks). But other factors, such as weather conditions, can also have an impact.

How can I tell if my phone supports 5G?

If Android phone users go to Settings > Network & Internet > Mobile Network > Preferred Network Type, you should see all the network technologies supported (i.e. 3G, 4G or 5G). If you have an iPhone, that’s even easier – currently only the iPhone 12 supports 5G connectivity, so if your device is an earlier version, it won’t be enabled.

Bear in mind that mobile phone operators in the UK are still rolling out 5G (at the time of writing, EE says it has 5G live in 160 cities and large towns, for example) so you need to check if your current operator supports 5G yet.

Is my office/workplace 5G ready?

As the 5G rollout continues, it’s even more important that business owners ensure that their staff and visitors can connect quickly and easily to mobile internet and stay connected. That’s why, if you are consistently struggling to make phone calls or connect to mobile internet, now is the time to consider an easy-to-use secure mobile phone signal booster that will extend coverage across your entire facility.

My facility doesn’t seem to get any signal at all – what can I do?

Whether it’s 3G, 4G or even 5G - if you are struggling with bad mobile phone signal, UCtel has a solution for you.

Cel-Fi is an Ofcom-approved mobile phone signal booster that extends coverage across your building. It works in three steps: obtaining signal via a donor antenna wherever it is strongest, amplifying that signal with a network unit, and distributing this signal throughout the building using internal antenna units.

Cel-Fi is easy-to-install, versatile and authorised by 200 carriers globally. It’s suitable for all kinds of buildings – hospitals, warehouses, hotels, offices and retail units and so on. Best of all, it’s fully compatible with 3G, 4G and 5G networks, giving staff and visitors the best possible experience.

Do you constantly struggle with bad mobile phone signal in your building? The friendly team at UCtel can help with that. All we need is a floorplan, and we’ll propose and install a tailor-made solution to boost mobile phone coverage across your entire facility. Contact us today by emailing us at or call us on 03333444417.