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What Is the Difference between LTE™ and WiMAX™?

By Alex Newth
Updated May 16, 2024
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In the fourth-generation (4G) world of technology, there are two competing 4G standards: wireless interoperability microwave access (WiMAX™) and long-term evolution (LTE™). Both of these standards are so similar that many professionals and experts get them confused. One difference between LTE™ and WiMAX™ is that they function on different frequencies, making their deployment slightly different. WiMAX™ is made to work with new deployments, while LTE™ is made for existing mobile and broadband deployments. Between the two, LTE™ is slightly faster and WiMAX™ is slightly easier to set up. The number of simultaneous users affects any carrier, because more users need more bandwidth; LTE™ is slightly more affected by the number of users than WiMAX™.

Any wave-based technology, such as LTE™ and WiMAX™, needs to run on a certain frequency to be deployed. This frequency does not affect speed, functionality or dependability, but it does change how the systems are set up and deployed. LTE™ is made to work on 700 megahertz (MHz), WiMAX™ is made to work on 2.3 gigahertz (GHz) and 3.5 GHz, and both are able to work on 2.1 GHz and 2.5 GHz.

LTE™ and WiMAX™ are both capable of working with new and existing broadband and mobile deployments. At the same time, LTE™ is meant to work with existing systems and tends to be better at integrating existing networks. WiMAX™ is meant more for new deployments and networks. For common users, this will not mean much but, for business users, this means new businesses will tend to find WiMAX™ more useful, while LTE™ will help existing business upgrade and integrate their systems with the new technology.

Speed and ease of use are two common factors that users look at when choosing any type of technology. While LTE™ and WiMAX™ are similar in both aspects, each shows its strength in a certain facet. Transfer rates are slightly higher with LTE™, especially in the mobile department; the difference is not as pronounced with fixed deployments or routers. Setting up is relatively easy for both standards, but WiMAX™ is slightly easier to set up.

It is rare for only one person in an immediate area to use a 4G device. More commonly there are tens or hundreds of people using similar devices at once. With so many users in the same area, the 4G data stream slows down to meet the demands of every user. While both LTE™ and WiMAX™ are adversely affected by the number of users, LTE™ tends to be slightly more affected. At the same time, LTE™ is faster, which tends to balance out the two.

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Discussion Comments
By anon960058 — On Jul 08, 2014

Melonlity, you're right, "there is still some work to do." Since Verizon and AT&T have succumbed to selling their network capacity to the highest paying commercial interests, their bandwidth continues being reduced to the average customer.

For the points you identify, I no longer trust the carriers to tell the customers the full truth if any at all. This is the more reason to come here to wisegeek (no I don't work there).

By Melonlity — On Mar 05, 2014

More confusion between these terms -- and with 4G in general -- is that companies tend to throw them around as marketing terms that may or may not mean anything.

Case in point -- the iPhone 4S. That started out as a 3G device, but AT&T decided to get cute and claim they ran on a 4G network. But, what made that network any more "4G" than the "3G" one that the phone used? AT&T was somewhat silent on that point as it appears that using the term 4G actually sold phones whether it actually meant anything or not.

There needs to be some clear cut standards when it comes to wireless communications speeds. We may be getting to that point, but there is still some work to do.

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