Q&A Friday: Do I really need to support 4G LTE?

The short answer is that you may not need to support 4G LTE yet, but it also may make sense to invest in a system that will work for you in the future when you likely will need 4G LTE.  For the long answer, read on!

For most of the previous decade, cell phone signal boosters were pretty straightforward. A dual-band signal booster that can amplify both 800 (850) MHz and 1900 MHz would boost the 2G and 3G networks of most major carriers. In 2008, T-Mobile launched their 3G network on a new frequency band called AWS which complicated things a little, but only for T-Mobile. Sprint did the same thing with their 4G WiMAX network.

In 2010, Verizon was the first carrier in North America to begin a roll-out of a brand new network technology called LTE or Long Term Evolution. Promising faster speeds and larger capacities, it proved to be the best 4G technology at the time. Since then, every major carrier has started to build a new LTE network and unlike the old 2G and 3G networks that use one of the two standard frequency bands, each new 4G LTE network uses a completely different frequency. So to boost your carrier's 4G LTE signal, you'll either need a carrier-specific LTE booster, or a signal booster that supports multiple LTE frequencies.

LTE is currently used for fast Internet and data access. None of the major carriers currently use their 4G LTE network for phone calls. So when talking to people about which signal booster would work best for them, we only recommend a booster that supports 4G LTE plus the previous 2G and 3G networks and only if they know they already want to support LTE or if they use the cellular networks as their primary source of Internet access. However, this is starting to change.

The carrier's are investing billions of dollars to build these LTE networks and once they're available nationwide, there are new services that can run on top of LTE. The first is called Voice over LTE (VoLTE) and is a way of placing phone calls over and LTE network. This can be used in conjunction with another technology called HD Voice which gives you better sounding phone calls.

Verizon plans to begin initially launching VoLTE by the end of this year. While that alone won't require that you use an LTE network (you'll still be able to use 3G for phone calls), the bigger news is that by the end of 2014, Verizon plans to release their first 4G LTE only phone that will not be compatible with Verizon's 2G and 3G networks. Once this trend starts, it won't take long before all of the best new smartphones are LTE only. And as the other carriers finish their LTE networks, they'll be deploying the same VoLTE services and LTE-only phones.

This change in technologies means that over the next 2 to 3 years, we'll start to see dual-band signal boosters becoming less and less compatible with new phones and services. While the 3G networks will be around for at least the next 6 to 7 years, if you use a smart phone, you'll likely want a signal booster that supports LTE long before the 2G and 3G networks are phased out.

So while a dual-band signal booster will still work for most people for at least the next few years, smart phone users, especially those that like to have the latest and greatest should seriously consider signal boosters that also support 4G LTE. Businesses with employees that use their own cell phones from multiple carriers, or that want to boost the signal for customers who come into the store or office should consider a multi-carrier system like the Quint Selectable.

LTE is an exciting new technology that increases cellular data speeds & network capacity so that more users can enjoy fast Internet access. With the addition of HD Voice and other services, LTE has the potential to completely change how we use your phones and communicate with each other. When deciding on a cell phone signal booster, consider not just what you currently use today, but what you'll likely be using in the near future as well.