The telecommunications acronym 4G LTE stands for fourth generation Long Term Evolution. Fourth generation and Long Term Evolution are actually two separate terms. Fourth generation refers to a number of broadband mobile-communications technologies designed to supersede third-generation technologies, and Long Term Evolution is one technology included in the 4G set.
Fourth-generation wireless technologies introduce a number of improvements over their predecessors. For example, 4G networks must allow devices to exchange data at 100 megabits per second, improving on 3G networks that can sometimes only handle data at a rate of 3.84 megabits per second. As of 2015, two technologies are competing for 4G dominance: Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access, or WiMAX, and Long Term Evolution.
Developed by the telecommunications industry trade group Third Generation Partnership Project, Long Term Evolution is a wireless broadband technology designed to succeed the Global System for Mobile Communication, or GSM, and Universal Mobile Telecommunications Service, or UMTS, standards. Its name is representative of its role as a successor to GSM and UMTS, which are 2G and 3G technologies, respectively.
LTE allows devices to achieve the 100 megabits per second requirement for 4G networks and may even be able to achieve rates of up to 300 megabits per second with future development. LTE also supports backwards compatibility with GSM and UMTS.