When it comes to mobile networks, there is a technology evolution about every 10 years. Currently the industry is transitioning from 3G to 4G, with the “G” standing for generation. 3G was initially designed for voice, but as more consumers switch to smartphones that can access the Internet and stream video, the ability to transmit data is a bigger deal.
The standards for 4G are a bit murky. In 2008, the International Telecommunications Union-Radio communications sector, a standards organization, set a peak data speed requirements of 4G service to exchange data at 100 megabits per second.
However, most carriers have not adhered to the standards. If you switch from a 3G to a 4G phone from the same carrier data access will typically be faster, but there is no universal standard. Touting 4G service is viewed by many as more of a marketing term than a technical specification.
Also adding to the confusion is that the various carriers are at different points in rolling out their 4G networks, so coverage varies and Apple does not yet have an iPhone equipped with the necessary chipset to run 4G.
While 4G will eventually improve voice service and help reduce dropped calls, that benefit is down the road as calls will continue to be will be made over 3G networks until carriers make the switch over the next few years.