3G or 4G for Mobile Phones
In most instances, analyzing mobile network technology is reserved for technology geeks who are looking to squeeze the absolute most performance out of their phones regardless of whether this performance makes a difference in actual usage. However, in the case of mobile service providers in China, it can affect what phone you can use with carrier of choice.
There are three major mobile carriers in China. They are China Unicom, China Mobile and China Telecom. China Telecom and China Unicom use technology that is compatible with most international mobile telecommunications carriers as they use an internationally used standard (W-CDMA for 3G and FDD-LTE for 4G). In other words, phones you bring from your home countries will most likely work on the networks of these two carriers.
China Mobile on the other hand, uses a network standard unique to China and can be somewhat tricky in finding compatible hardware for (TD-SCDMA for 3G, TD-LTE for 4G). Phones you buy overseas will probably not work unless it is specifically built for the “TD” standard that China Mobil uses.
3G vs 4G in Practice
1. Usage patterns
Every user needs to determine if being on a faster network will really make a difference to them or benefit them. Users who use their smart phones on the go for streaming music / videos / lots of picture sharing / frequent web browsing would benefit more from being on a faster mobile network.
Users who browse occasionally, send messages via WeChat or send emails from time to time will likely not benefit much from having a faster network.
2. 4G network coverage
All three carriers claim that they have 100 cities in their 4G coverage area. While there is no real way to reliably test this claim we can infer network coverage from past behavior. China Mobile tended to have a larger network overall, but a slower and older network. China Unicom and Telecom tended to have smaller coverage areas but newer technologies. In all tier 1 cities, and most provincial capitals / tier 2 cities, 4G service is offered.
3. Actual vs. advertised network speeds
Many people or websites have done their own small tests to see which network can offer the best speeds. The results of most of these tests are twofold:
n China Unicom and China Telecom 3G and 4G networks are more reliable and faster than China Mobile 3G and 4G networks.
n 4G is significantly faster than 3G service regardless of service provider.
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