What is an LTE capable phone?

LTE connection indicator

An LTE capable phone has the hardware and operating system software required to connect to a Long Term Evolution (LTE) cellular network. LTE is a “4th Generation” (4G) wireless communications standard designed to provide up to 10 times the speeds of “3rd Generation” (3G) networks for mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets, netbooks, notebooks and wireless hotspots.

LTE capable phones have been available to consumers for some time. For example, the first LTE capable phone introduced by Apple was the iPhone 5 released in 2012, and all iPhone models since are LTE capable phones. LTE capability varies with other manufacturers, but many popular Android brands including Samsung, HTC and Motorola, have been shipping LTE capable phones since 2011. Availability of LTE capable phones varies around the world, but virtually all new phones released in North America in the last 5 years are LTE capable.

Having an LTE capable phone does not mean that you will always be connected to an LTE network, however. LTE works on different physical network hardware than older 3G and EDGE networks. Cellular network operators have had to roll out new equipment to support LTE. In a recent report from Opensignal, Canada’s nationwide operators – Bell, Rogers and Telus – all had LTE availability around 87%, meaning testers were able to connect to an LTE network in nearly nine out of 10 attempts. But according to the CRTC, many Canadians, particularly those in rural and remote areas, do not have adequate access to LTE service. And even in areas with LTE coverage, local interference may prevent your phone from connecting to an LTE network.

So, while nearly any cellphone purchased in recent years is LTE capable, it’s important to know that doesn’t guarantee that you’ll always have LTE service, which is a requirement for receiving wireless public alerts from Canada’s national emergency alert system, Alert Ready. To help ensure you receive emergency alerts, even if your phone is LTE capable, you can download the Alertable app, which works over any cellular or WiFi data connection.

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