What do 4G and LTE mean to smartphone shoppers?

Smartphone 2

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Carriers are spending billions of dollars on improving their networks touting 4G and/or LTE. From the carrier perspective they are hoping to transition customers to these newer technology networks as they are less expensive to maintain. From the consumer perspective (at least those with smartphones) this is great news as 4G / LTE networks offer faster data speeds making for a better experience.

At Compete we know that network coverage and data speeds are significant factors in consumers’ wireless purchase decisions. So, we thought we’d find out if consumers were excited by this new technology.

In a Compete survey we asked wireless customers about their awareness of 4G and LTE technologies. We found that 86% of wireless customers are aware of 4G technology, while only 43% are aware of LTE technology. This increases by another 6-7% for Smartphone owners. Despite wireless customers being two times more likely to understand 4G than LTE, they still do not have a clear understanding of what they will get when a carrier touts one of these networks.

Q. Which statements are true about 3G, 4G and LTE

Clearly the above chart shows that there is a lot of confusion among wireless customers (and remember these are customers that identified themselves as knowing something about 4G and LTE technologies):

  • 70% or more did not know if all 4G phones are LTE phones or vice versa
  • Despite 60% identifying 4G as being significantly faster than 3G, another 14% thought there really was no difference and 40% didn’t know
  • 46% thought that accessing a 4G network requires a special data plan

Adding to this confusion is Apple’s iOS 5.1 changed the AT&T iPhone 4S data indicator from “3G” to “4G” with no difference in data speeds.  Wireless customers do not understand the relationship between 3G, 4G and LTE technologies.  If wireless carriers want to attract their competitor’s customers with their improved networks, they will have to do more to communicate the benefits of these technologies to the average consumer.   We look forward to seeing what they do!