WiFi. 4G. LTE. We encounter these terms on the daily. They are a staple in our society now. They keep us connected and sometimes even frustrate us! When our smartphones can't pick up that glorious signal, expletives seem to freely flow from our mouths (#$&@!#). But, do you actually know what these terms mean to you? We're here to break it down in a much simpler form, because no one actually needs to know what IEEE 802.11 or SM/UMTS/CDMA2000/HSPA+ mean. (Huh?) We just want to know how it works.

Let's start with WiFi. We know that it connects our devices and gets us online. In reality, we're sure that is all you actually care about, and rightfully so. We just want it to work, right?

First, WiFi doesn't actually stand for anything, as Phil Belanger, a founding member of the Wi-Fi Alliance (an organization that essentially monitors WiFi standards) stated. So despite what others may say, it is purely a made-up word. Keep that in your back pocket in case you're ever on Jeopardy.

WiFi is not necessarily the "internet" either, it only enables you to access the internet. WiFi initiates the connection between your personal devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) and a WiFi device or router by using radio waves. The WiFi device, such as a Karma, will grab a signal, such as a 4G signal, from a cellular tower and create a WiFi network around you. Then, you can connect to that network from your devices and this is how you are able to get online. Simple huh?

How Karma worksHow Karma works

Let's think of it in terms of something we are all familiar with: the radio! 4G/LTE vs. WiFi is like AM Radio vs FM Radio. AM Radio signals (4G/LTE) have a longer range and can penetrate things much easier, but some devices only receive FM Radio signals (WiFi). So, in order for your devices to be able to get online, a router (such as Karma) is needed in order to translate the 4G/LTE signal to WiFi for easier consumption and so all of your devices can use the same signal.

Now, let's get into what 4G and LTE actually mean. We see these two all over advertisements from cellular providers. Many of us consider them two separate technologies, but in reality, LTE is actually a 4G technology in itself. Surprise! There is 4G and then there is 4G LTE.

4G stands for "Fourth Generation" which is the next step up from the previous 3G networks. It is much faster and with a greater capacity.

4G LTE stands for "Fourth Generation, Long Term Evolution" which is the purest form of the 4G technology. 4G LTE increases the network capacity and speed using different radios and other improvements. A redesign and simplification of the network architecture dramatically helped as well.

So, when searching for your favorite connected products, be aware that 4G and LTE are a part of the same family, but LTE is essentially the faster, more efficient, more powerful version.

Great! Now that you are up-to-date on this terminology, you can better understand exactly what happens when your devices connect to the internet and WiFi. Go impress your family and friends, because you know they're probably confused as well!

Speaking of LTE, be on the lookout for the new LTE Karma, coming soon.


About Dave Ford

That guy who knows more about sports than technology